Social Media Listening Don’t Be Just A Fly On The Wall

First Listen. . . . and Never Stop Listening

Have you noticed an increase in Customer Service over the past few years?  If so, Social Media might be the number 1 reason.  Have you ever received bad service or an unresolved issue with a company and ranted about it on Facebook or another outlet of Social Media?  I bet if you ranted and tag that company in a post, you would get back an almost immediate response.  Companies can no longer afford to ignore their customers’ specific needs or complaints when the conversation can so easily be made public.  Instead. . . they must listen, understand the issue and respond appropriately.

Everybody loves to feel heard

Communication is 50% listening and 50% talking.  Yet over the years, companies large and small have done more than their share of talking. . . shouting even.  (You know what I’m talking about.)  For the first time in our history, now, through social media, companies can listen at scale to conversations about them and their competitors.

With social media, you have a front seat to spontaneous chatter of interest to your business. The amount of data you can gather and the number of conversations you can tap into though social media is nothing short of mind-boggling.

Not only is it great to LISTEN, it is important to let you customer know you are listening.

The benefits of Listening: why does it really matter?

When a customer or prospects acknowledge that you are listening, you immediately strengthen your relationship with them. Taking the time to listen to the chatter about your company or product could uncover ideas you have never considered and will help you improve your company.

Knowing what is important to your customers can help you better plan offers, promotions, and contests to further drive buzz and sales.  Instead of expensive product launches, you can test new ideas carefully and receive feedback quickly, keeping your finger on the pulse of your customers.  Instead of spending unnecessarily on product or advertising that you THINK your customer will want, instead, you can focus on what they ACTUALLY want!  Before you spend a dime. . . Consider social media . . . the ultimate surveying and focus-group too – practically free and running 24/7/365 for you.

How to Listen:

There are a lot of free ways to listen to what customers and prospects are saying online and many paid enterprise systems available as well, with costs ranging from a few dollars to thousands of dollars per month.

Here are some free ways to listen:

  • Google Alerts
  • Technorati blog search
  • Twitter search
  • Facebook search
  • YouTube search
  • TweetBeep

If you go into any social network. . . and type a phrase or keyword into its search function, you

will see what people are saying using that keyword in real time.  It quite possibly be how you found this blog.  Were you looking for social media?  Ways to build your business? Trying to understand trending technology?  The more key phrases you use, the more of a chance of being noticed . . . from basic to obscure.

Ok, now that you are listening, now what?

Act!  If you are hearing a lot of negative chatter, it is important to respond and actively work to fix the problem.  Also, if you hear praise. . . it is also important to respond so your customers know you are listening.

The cost of not listening

For one, you are at the disadvantage of your competitors.  There are no missed opportunities. . . if you pass it up. . . there will be someone else ready to seize.  Don’t “miss the boat”, so to speak.  If you are not listening, you could quite possibly miss the next best idea for your company.

Never stop listening

Remember, communication is 50% talking and 50% listening. However, sometimes the best daters, friends, businesspeople, and companies are the ones who do even more listening than talking, hearing what everyone has to say, and only speaking when they have something really worthwhile to express.  Remember to actively listen . . . don’t be “that guy” on a date who thinks he knows how to listen, by asking “Tell me about yourself” . . . only to talk for the remainder of your date when asked “how about you?”  In order to be a likeable organization that effectively listens to its customers and prospects, you’ve got to fully integrate listening into your job or agency’s functions.

Listening for leads:

This is what I’m most excited about.  No matter what your business. . . you can find leads by listening to social media.  It is time to listen. . . time to act..

Here are some Action Items:

  1. Write down a list of five phrases people might use that would identify themselves as potential customers of yours.  Conduct Twitter and Facebook searches for each of these phrases.
  2. Conduct Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube searches for your brand, competitors, products, and services.  Take inventory of what people are saying.
  3. Develop a plan and system to formally or informally listen on a regular basis throughout the social Web, and determine ways your organization can benefit from the insight and knowledge gained by listening.

Remember, never stop listening.  As with dating, be “that guy” who is raved about for honestly listening and who talks with a purpose. . . to be heard, not just to hear himself speak.  It won’t be long until your company is the “coolest person” at the social media cocktail party (and more important, the most successful!)

stern is a nationwide social media marketing agency.