It’s with good reason one of the biggest buzzphrases of 2015 is “content strategy.” But recently I had an experience that reminded me just how important listening is to a brand’s digital strategy, and I think the lesson bears repeating.
My family and I concluded that, of the 400 or so channels we pay for via our cable TV company, we really watch about 20 of them. We called our cable company to ask about reducing our channels and cutting our bill, but were told by the phone rep that we couldn’t cut channels or reduce our price.
In frustration, I reached out to the cable company on Twitter, explaining the situation, asking why I wasn’t allowed to cut service, and why I would have to pay the same amount for 25 channels as I was paying for 400 channels. Then, I added the kicker: I was considering looking at Sling TV, a cable competitor, if I couldn’t get resolution from the cable company. Please, I asked, could someone get in touch with me to discuss my account?
Within one minute, someone from @slingcares, the customer service account for SlingTV, had responded to me, offering to answer any questions I had regarding their service. Over the course of the next hour, the folks at Sling and I had an extensive exchange, with their reps politely explaining their service and informing me of all their options. They even offered to request a specific channel for my package that wasn’t available in their standard packages (hey, when you have a three year old, you kind of need Sprout!).
Meanwhile, more than 12 hours later, I hadn’t even heard from the cable company, even though I’d also reached out to them on their customer service handle. Needless to say, my family and I have decided on Sling as our alternative to cable television.
The point of this post, however, is not to detail for you my choices in delivering televised entertainment. Rather, it’s to highlight the smart work done by the Sling Twitter team.
They obviously were monitoring social media and Twitter in particular for mentions of their brand. I hadn’t addressed my original tweet to them, only mentioned them – but in very short order they saw their name mentioned and responded to me in a very helpful manner. They never compared themselves to cable or tried to disparage their competition, they just answered all my questions as directly as they could. And in the end, they won a new customer.
What did Sling do right?
 They were actively monitoring social media for mentions of their brand, and saw my tweet within a minute of it going out. Their digital strategy obviously includes more than just generating their own content and pushing it out as widely as possible; they included listening and engagement in their overall digital plan.
 They had empowered their Twitter team to respond to mentions, rather than just flagging them for some higher-up who would take time to approve an engagement with me. Their Twitter team was obviously trained for engagement, not just publishing.
 The training was obviously professional, in that at no time did Sling take a shot at the cable company or the cable industry in general. They were smart enough to keep it positive and make me feel good about our interaction rather than just stoking my frustration at the cable company.
 The Twitter team is obviously empowered to take action for customers in order to try to make them happy. By offering to put in a request for Sprout when I asked about it, the Twitter team showed that they were at least tentatively able to take additional steps beyond just answering questions. I wasn’t just talking to powerless sales reps, I was actually talking to the people who could take steps on my behalf.
There is a lot of attention paid – and rightly so – to content strategy and to the importance of your own content in digital social networks. You have to have good and relevant content in order to matter within a social network, and it is your content that will convey brand messages, attributes and values to an audience. But it just may be the quality of your interaction with consumers – and the feeling you give them when you engage them – that wins you new customers or keeps your existing ones.