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listen upWhile many companies are now seeing the social light and jumping on board with Twitter, Facebook et al, there’s still a temptation to set up your account and start pumping out updates straight away.

While there is a need for some of this as you grow an initial audience, the thing that will really make a social media presence successful is your ability to listen and take on board what people are saying about your brand.

In order to do this properly you’ll need to set aside time for detailed monitoring. Unfortunately one of social media’s biggest bonuses is immediacy, something which can make knowing how and what to monitor confusing.

There’s an awful lot of electronic chatter out there so how do you listen?

In social media your core tasks are building lasting relationships with your customer base and creating positive sentiment around your brand.

In order to accomplish this you need to seek out opportunities for non-intrusive engagement. There are several ways to do this, but the most important is to set up a listening process and note down any mentions of your product or brand.

You’ll also want to take notes about main competitors and some general industry news that you feel you can help with. While this may seem obvious, finding the right conversations can be a challenge, not least because the information you need will be vastly different from business to business.

Each industry and brand has a separate networked community so the most obvious thing is to listen to everything. Unfortunately it’s also hugely impractical. Instead, you need to focus in on core types of conversation.

Check across different social networks, blogs and forums in order to locate your existing and potential customers, and run regular Twitter searches and set up a dedicated column for mentions in Tweetdeck or Hootsuite (if you don’t have either of these go sign up now!).

What should you listen for?

Remember, we’re listening for the opportunity to engage, which means checking negative sentiment as well as positive. If someone has a problem with you or your product, then here’s your chance to help them out, if they like you then take time to thank them.

With this in mind you can divide your listening into two general funnels:

A: Your business and competition.

This funnel should include but not be limited to:

  • Questions. Answer them whenever possible.
  • Positive comments. Take time to say thank you. 
  • Problems. Ask them to tell you more, and be publically seen to be working to solve customers' queries. 
  • Recommendations and retweets. Check your analytics regularly and note which networks are providing a lot of traffic to your site. Make sure you’re active on all of them regularly.
  • Related chatter. Regularly search for things like abbreviations, products, as well as key members of staff.

B: Your Industry

Listening to the industry buzz as a whole is a slightly different enterprise, you may actually find it easier to keep up with if you use a combination of formal and informal processes on this one.

Follow industry leaders, major companies and trusted sources of information; the Financial Times or BBC News for example. Their updates are invaluable if you want to keep up to date on industry news so it’s important to run mention searches for these but for immediacy I’d suggest using a service like Twitter organically.

Leave your tweet stream open and dip in periodically throughout the day. This will allow you instant acces to information, and allow you to engage in real time with the industry as a whole.

It’s always worth retweeting an interesting news story you think would interest your customers. Again, set up funnel searches.

For broader industry monitoring you should look out for:

  • Open Keywords. All-encompassing industry terms. If you are in business management you might want to look for MBA or HR for example.
  • Closed keywords. These should be service/product specific. ‘plumber’ or ‘iPad’.
  • Industry leaders. Always useful to know what Steve Jobs or Richard Branson thinks, so follow them and their newsdesks.
  • Generic terms. What does the man in the street call your product? If you’re a tool manufacturer search for ‘Screwdriver’ as well as ‘AXC44200 Protwist Phillips’.

If you aren’t listening properly then you’re missing out on the full potential of social media.

When initiating your campaign, set up listening stations and searches first and spend at least a week assimilating all the chatter. When you launch fully you’ll be far better equipped to engage with your customers and provide industry value.

Finally, remember that every conversation has value and the possibility of lead generation, so be proactive and friendly in engagement

Matt Owen

Published 20 July, 2010 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

Jonathan Moody

Jonathan Moody, Freelance at Language4Communications

Another interesting post, Matt, especially your advice to track questions, positive comments, problems etc. If a brand/product/service has considerable online traction, then a constant feed of unfiltered references from Twitter and/or other social media is going to turn the community manager's job in "herding cats". Identifying the labels you mentioned is key to effectively managing and responding to comments. In fact, you can take it a step further and look at alternative uses, misinformation (inaccurate rumours), emerging pressure groups, adverse effects, suggestions, wish lists. In that way, the appropriate people in the organisation can respond to the problems, clarify positions and even assimilate potential improvements. Another key element is to consider who is expressing the opinion in terms of: current, former, potential, competitor customer, opinion leader ("influencer" and/or journalist), employee etc. Again, each of these opinion holders have their particular concerns that need to be addressed. Fundamental to this is setting up the resources, processes and mind sets for engaging with stakeholder voices. In many cases, this unfortunately appears to be a secondary consideration to the shiny tools and dashboards (free or otherwise).

over 6 years ago


Rex Harris

Excellet content and advice... I'll get sharing this with my followers.

about 6 years ago


Bangalow Accommodation

Good post - it's important to engage and to listen

about 6 years ago

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