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Message to Brands: Be Quiet and Listen Already

listen_smYou wouldn’t walk into a dinner party and start yelling about topics that only you want to discuss … or would you? I’m guessing (hoping) the answer is “no.” If you are smart, you listen first to get a sense of the dialogue before you engage. Much the same with social media, listening to your consumers – and actually using their feedback – is a critical first step for any social media strategy.

Too often brands use social media as a one-way communication channel, i.e. another vehicle to deliver the company message…often in “corporate speak.”  If you do this, you will fail. Remember, being successful in social media boils down to one thing – trust …and you have to earn it.

So, where do you begin with your listening strategy? There are numerous tools for social media monitoring. I’ve had clients who have received proposals for expensive social media monitoring tools and decided monitoring is cost-prohibitive. The fact of the matter is, there are solutions to meet every budget, and while paid services provide much greater and valuable analysis (such as detailed reporting, aggregation services, sentiment reading, demographic information, engagement profiles, topic trends, etc.), free or low-cost tools can provide valuable information.  A few of my favorite free tools include:

  • Google Alerts – Easy to set up, Google Alerts are a must for any company. The service will e-mail updates on the latest Google results (Web, news, etc.) for the search topic.
  • Google Blog Search – Searches only blogs for mentions on your topic in an easy-to-read/navigate list.
  • Keotag – This couldn’t be any easier to use. Enter a tag, and it will search all major social media tools and display results.
  • Technorati Search & Technorati Advanced – Both tools give details about the blogs, including authority and background information. The advance tool allows you to further define your search, including searching specific tags and URLs.
  • Addictomatic – Searches the best live sites on the Web for the latest news, blog posts, videos and images.
  • Twitter Search – Love, love, love it! So simple, and it provides real-time data from the Twitterverse.

These are just a few of the tools. See “20 Free Buzz Monitoring Tools” listed from Econsultancy for a more expanded list. And, don’t forget the value of doing a simple search on any site in which you are interested. You could be surprised with the results.  Some questions to consider as you ramp up your listening efforts:

  1. What are consumers saying about my brand/product/issue? Are there common themes?
  2. Where/on what sites are they saying it?
  3. Who is saying it, i.e. can you identify influential people relevant to your topic?
  4. What kind of online users are they? (Hint: Use Forrester’s Free Consumer Profile Tool)
  5. How can I apply what I have learned to my business?

If you are considering a social media strategy, remember the dinner party analogy, and please, don’t be “that guy.” And don’t forget the importance of strategy.

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