It is a critical and oft overlooked aspect of using Social Media. The inclination is that because the tools are so easy to set up and use, we can just get out there and communicate. It was the first mistake we made on the CivicSurf project. We got the Cllrs up and blogging as quickly as we could without stopping and telling them to look around and read what is already going on.
We’ve recently experimented with Netvibes as a way of setting up dashboards, but found them a little limiting. So we’re developing something a little more attuned to our needs. More news soon.
The other aspect of listening is that it does take time. Finding and setting up RSS feeds probably comes naturally to those of you reading this in Google Reader, but converting email alerts and updated static pages into RSS feeds is a little trickier, but the biggest barrier to many is that they don’t have the time. Imagine you’re in Cambridge. A Google Blog search throws up some Cambridge, UK items, but also a fair bit of Cambridge, MA, and even Cambridge, ON. People who aren’t attuned to reading RSS feeds can benefit from some editorialisation and fine-tuning of feeds.
So, Jeremy’s right more listening is needed and we need to make it easier to listen. As the trail-blazing Steph Gray says in comments we do need to accept a noise-to-signal ratio we should try to reduce it. He also points out that listening hasn’t had the best take-up in his department and that is understandable. It isn’t that exciting unless you can actually start shouting about what you are reading.