In a previous post we explored one of the values of social media as being the opportunity to listen to relevant conversations in the marketplace. These conversations are valuable because they provide you with insights and discoveries that let you respond appropriately, increasing your chances of success. We also discussed how easy it is, using any of the numerous tools currently available, to monitor these conversations in social media.
A more strategic approach to listening makes use of more sophisticated tools that help reveal underlying opportunities for your business. This level of strategic listening happens only after you have formulated a sound plan and are well on your way to attaining your business objectives through executing your social media playbook.
This act of listening to the deeper levels of market activity, opinion and influence helps you determine where such market sentiments and behavior most affect your business. Below I've listed some of the steps that I use for listening to target markets at a deeper and more intimate level. My approach will vary slightly depending on my client, their target audience and the goals they are trying to achieve, but I wanted to share my basic protocol for what I call "listening to social media".
- Identify which areas of your business will be affected by any changes that occur within the short term. Do you need to quickly increase sales? Do you need to get the word out about your products and services? Do you need to correct a negative impression or meet customer expectations?
Identifying these points will allow you to formulate the proper strategy for marketing your business via social media channels. As you identify these areas, the mental object begins to form and communicating the right message to your audience becomes easier.
- Determine what it is you need to know from all social media conversations that could have an impact on the business objectives you had listed from step number 1. Don't worry about keywords at this point; your focus should be on the general topics that are relevant to your business.
For example, if your business objective is to keep ahead of the product development curve, you will want to know who the current thought leaders are in this specific area of your industry. You want to know who else is involved and participating in this conversation - competitors, suppliers, etc. You will want to know their thoughts and expectations.
Armed with this information you can create a great content plan for your social media marketing campaign.
- Determine who you will be conversing with; in other words, identify the stakeholders for each business objective around which you will be initiating conversations. For example, if one of your objectives is to cut down on the time it takes your company to resolve issues, you'll want to look for individuals who are very vocal on the social networks about how your competition is treating them. Understanding who these stakeholders are makes it easier to identify the types of conversations that will take place.
- Find out where the stakeholders congregate and carry out their conversations. Is there a Facebook group that covers a topic related to a specific business objective you have? Is there someone on Twitter who tweets about that topic, and does that person have a sizable following and significant influence? Is there an online forum where your stakeholders get together to discuss issues related to what concerns you? Gaining access to these conversations will provide you with valuable insights.
I personally love using groups and the Q&A section of LinkedIn because the people I want to reach (B2B) seem to get together there more so than on Facebook or Twitter.
- Determine who in your company is the best person to gain actionable insights by listening to these targeted conversations. For example, if you want clues on how to make your products better, then the product manager and product designers should listen in and participate.
- Finally, determine which tool or tools are best to help you find, listen in and collect information about these on-going conversations. There are numerous tools out there you can use; some are free and most require some kind of payment.
Isis Toolbox is a totally free utility that can help you listen in on targeted conversations by using our keyword profile search tool. You can also retrieve valuable information (like Klout score, TwitterCounter info and more) about each user to make sure you are targeting the right people.
By refining the process of listening to relevant social media conversations, you can zero in on subtle market sentiments that can make a big difference in how you pursue your business objectives.