It's noisy and getting noisier.
If you looked at web activity, you could rightfully assume that the web consists largely of porn, gossip, Britney Spears searches, trolls, trivia, anger, complaints, flirting and self-absorption.
If you look at the logs of who is calling your toll free number, you could rightfully come to the conclusion that 92% of your customers are mad at you and the other 8% are merely stupid.
If you look at the ads in the magazines you get, you could understandably come to the conclusion that all people buy is cars, pills and shoes.
The thing is, not all data is equal, and measuring the truth based on volume is almost certain to get you in trouble.
Most voters don't have a blog. Most of your customers don't picket your offices. Most people who take Motrin have no idea what Twitter is.
I'm not encouraging you to ignore the noisy edges. Far from it. The noise makes it far easier than it has ever been before to hear the thunder in the distance, to get early indications of what the fringes of the market are about to spread to the rest.
It's easier than ever to amplify the noise of the edges, to bring it close, make it vivid and immerse yourself in it. You could spend all day watching your name or your brand morph among the loud people online. Just because it's easy, though, doesn't mean you have to do it at full blast.
What I'm encouraging you to do is to constantly readjust your balance. Figure out the difference between early warnings and selfish noise. Figure out what's loud merely because it's angry and personal, and what's loud because it's important.
And most of all, get straight on who you are trying to please, and why.