Social networking has changed the way consumers engage with brands. The likes of Facebook and Twitter mean people can more easily question things like quality, service levels, and product reliability. This forces brands to respond or risk facing reputational damage.

But is there a difference between hearing what consumers are saying and actively listening?

Author Stephen Covey once said that most people do not listen with the intent to understand, but rather with the intent to reply. Unfortunately, social networking has exacerbated this. As easy as it is for a consumer to post a negative comment without thinking it through, so too is it for a company to respond without considering the potential impact of its ‘official comment’.