"Consumers are in the midst of a conversation that isn't ours. The race is on to grow ears to learn what they are saying."
~ John Hayes, CMO of American Express.
Companies, both large and small, are beginning to understand and appreciate the value of social media. Many have begun to reap the rewards of cultivating relationships with prospects and customers and engaging them in sustained conversation. But, many more companies have yet to make sense of the new social media landscape and are confused and overwhelmed by all the new options available to them.
Here, then is a very simple but useful strategy businesses can use to build their social media initiatives on. The strategy is simple: just listen. Listen to the conversations - the comments, the complaints, the praises, the opinions, the questions, the criticisms, and everything else - that are taking place about your company, your business partners, your competitors, your markets and your entire industry.
If you do nothing else in social media but this, then you will have in your hands valuable information that you can transform into competitive advantages for your business. Listening to the conversations in social media channels is easy. Here are the steps you can follow.
- List the keywords that are relevant to your company and brand. Your list should include corporate and brand names, stock symbols, and names of key personnel, especially management and those that are highly visible to customers and external stakeholders. Also include your competitors, their brand names, stock symbols, and key personnel. Add in the broad industry terms relevant to you and your business. This exercise will help you develop a comprehensive "roadmap" to guide you as you traverse the social media landscape. This list, which will mutate, should be constantly monitored and updated to make sure that it remains current and relevant.
- Choose your weapon; identify which monitoring tool you will use to "listen in" on the conversations within your target markets. There are hundreds of tools in the market that can help you with this. Some are free, while some require payment. Isis Toolbox is one such tool that is completely free. But regardless of which one or which combination you choose to use, you must be able to monitor all the major social media platforms and their content forms, including blogs, microblogs, bookmarks, questions, comments, events, images, news, video and audio.
- Set up an automated system that alerts you whenever a keyword from your list is mentioned in a conversation. This is the data from where you will derive your insights about your business and your markets. What we've just presented here is a simple and straightforward process any individual or company can put together to get started with listening in to social media conversations. It's nowhere near comprehensive, but it will get you started immediately. The kind of information you expect to get from this kind of setup will consist of broad and sweeping conversations that give you a general idea of where you are, but that don't really provide indicators of sentiment or influence. We'll discuss a more advanced process for listening to social media in a future post.
At Isis Toolbox we offer social media tools that allow you to search Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter (Google + coming soon) and you can get useful information about each prospect before you request a connection.