The Dos and Don’ts of social eavesdropping

The Dos and Don’ts of social eavesdropping

The Dos and Don’ts of social eavesdropping

If you think the term ‘social eavesdropping’ is offensive, you’d be absolutely right. It’s offensive, but in a good way. In fact it’s the exact opposite of defensive or reactive. Social eavesdropping is a smart and assertive tactical maneuver.

Just ask Scott Adams, whose Toronto-based company Birchbark Media specializes in creating web copy, videos and social media content for the travel industry.

Says Adams, “Social eavesdropping is competitor and consumer research through observing social media conversations.”

In the days before social media, that type of behaviour would have been done covertly, and if discovered, would have been shunned by the business community at large. Now, eavesdropping is expected – and encouraged.

Travel content marketing expert and founder of Compass Content Marketing, Emily Baillie, explains it this way: “Everyone who posts information on social media needs to do so with the understanding that their content can be viewed by others.”

What does this mean for travel professionals? It’s a golden opportunity to tap into both clients and competitors.

From the client side, Adams says to be on guard for posts and tweets that contain emotion.

“Look for what worries them and what excites them. You can use this information to help shape your response and content strategy,” he explains.

And from the competitor side? Figure out what is working for your competitors and what isn’t. Do this successfully, says Adams, and you’ll save yourself a bunch of money and time. “You can avoid duplicating their mistakes, and you can improve on tactics that they have proved worked.”

Baillie takes it a step further. “Keep an eye on brands in other industries that target the same demographic. For example, some consumer brands are very innovative in their social marketing campaigns. Learn from their creative concepts, social channels used for execution, media coverage, consumer feedback and response.”

Social Eavesdropping Dos & Don’ts

Courtesy of Scott Adams, founder and president, Birchbark Media, and Emily Baillie, founder, Compass Content Marketing,


Social Eavesdropping Dos

  1. Eavesdrop on your own name. Simply set up a Google Alert to see if anyone is talking about you or your company, or the destinations you represent. Go to
  2. Join wisely. Join the conversation only when you have something valuable to add to it, and be human. If you get negative feedback from joining a conversation, respond like you would if that person was physically beside you.
  3. Listen on many channels. Don’t just stick to the big players like Twitter and Facebook. You might find valuable intel in obscure places. For broader topics or less newsy ones check out Quora or Yahoo Answers where people are posting questions for the general public to answer. For travel specific information, check out TripAdvisor.  If you do some keyword searches for relevant terms you could yield a tremendous source of intelligence.
  4. Take action. Use the information that you discover to improve your services and create a better experience for your client. If a client needs more information, take the opportunity to supply it to them. If they post comments that express dissatisfaction with your product or service, reach out and offer them something that will make them happy. If they post content that shows they had a wonderful interaction with your company, find a way to show your appreciation.


Social Eavesdropping Don’ts

  1. Never disguise yourself as someone else. It’s unethical. Be authentic.
  2. Don’t be pushy. Don’t insert yourself into a conversation you’re not a part of because it can be perceived as intrusive. Rather than sell, offer value in the way of expert advice.
  3. Don’t be easily offended. People use social media to voice their opinions, good or bad. Take all feedback as constructive.
  4. Don’t hide. If messages are directly addressed to you, respond to them in a pleasant and prompt manner.
  5. Never fear. While it’s true that being on social media can open you up to negative comments and criticism, it’s important that you continue to grow a presence online. Put your best foot forward and have fun with it!

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