With the Wall Street Journal reporting the questionable practices of some social listening and research providers, here are five questions you can ask your listening provider to ensure that your brand doesn’t get accused of unethical or questionable social listening.

Questions to Ask Your Listening Provider

  1. Validation: Have they been evaluated by independent analysts who verified (a) their track record with clients, and (b) their technical claims? You might consider speaking with Zach Hofer-Shall at Forrester, or Jeff Zabin at Gleanster.
  2. Partnerships: Do they maintain verified partnerships with key platforms, such as Twitter, wherein they are required to abide by the Terms of Service of those partnerships?
  3. Respect: When harvesting conversation data from web sites, to what extent do they follow the sites’ Terms of Service and secure prior approval where necessary?

4. Relationships:

      When harvesting from web sites, do they mask their IP address, or do they allow site owners to see that they are being harvested, and work to maintain positive relationships with site owners?

5. Leadership: To what extent do they participate in or support the development of ethical standard in social media, such as the WOMMA Ethics Committee?

The Risks to Your Brand

Like search engine marketing, social intelligence is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity. Also like search engine marketing, there are White Hats and Black Hats in social intelligence.

Working with unethical or questionable listening vendors can lead to embarrassment for your brand, lock out from key data sources, and private communities refusing to work with you. These simple questions can help your brand to stay on the ethical high road.

You can follow the discussion on this topic from other blogs and media sources on TechMeme.

Converseon is a founding member of the WOMMA Ethics Committee.