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Social Media Conversation: I Know You’re Talking, But Are You Listening?

“Social intercourse” – that is actually the second definition for conversation in “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.” Okay, so the first definition for conversation is “an informal spoken exchange of thoughts and feelings; a familiar talk.” Can you really blame me for liking the second one more? Furthermore, conversations are no longer just spoken. The digital age has changed that, but the fundamentals are still the same.

Are you having social media conversations or are you just marketing and promoting? Are you just talking without listening? Have you ever had a good relationship with someone that just talks and doesn’t listen? Then why should you expect your target audience to have a relationship with you or your brand if you are not listening?

Readers of my articles are probably familiar with my recommended LCR (Listen-Conversations-Relationships) Mentality for successful social media implementation. The LCR Mentality talks about one aspect of listening. Specifically it states …

    “Know your target audience and find the existing places and communities where they are talking, tweeting, blogging, commenting, etc. Spend some time there and just LISTEN to what they value and need. Understand the way they talk and their vernacular. If you want to be a valued member of the club, you got to talk their talk, not yours.”

There is no doubt – this is extremely important. But there is another listening aspect that is equally important. In a conversation, listening is a continuous process and it should be in social media as well. You must actively and continuously monitor (or listen) to what is being said about you. Yes, this takes time, but it can not be an ignored process.

Why is active and continuous listening important:

    1) You should know if the content you are producing is generating “word of mouth” results. In addition to measuring “hits”, you also want to know if “the baton is being passed on” and the message continues down the line. Referrals/advocacy are much more compelling than your communication. If your content is good, of value, and/or compelling, your audience will help it travel. Retweets and referrals are a good barometer of “goodness” and value of your communication.
    2) Positive sentiments related to you or your brand should be captured. Reference the positive mentions. One of the key objectives of social media optimization is “helping your content travel.” I follow a number of twitter accounts who reference every mention they find. Find positive things stated – get it out for the crowd to hear.
    3) When someone says something negative about you or your brand, you must nip it in the butt – immediately. Bad news travels fast and it is best to catch and squash it. If you find negative occurrences, you should take one of two paths. If the comment is actually reflective of the truth – fess up, apologize, and state the corrective action taken. We all make mistakes and I have found that good will comes from this approach. If the comment is hogwash, just state the facts – objectively. Do not get lured into a subjective debate. Recently, I read of a comment from a disenchanted customer that blogged about a retail store where they felt they purchased something they did not want and were stuck with it. The customer bad mouthed the store beyond the issue. The store owner replied in the blog and stated that they were in business for 20 years and had always had a no return policy that was always communicated. This was the factual objective issue. They then offered to speak with the customer directly as opposed to continue to debate in a public forum.

Let me give you a couple of useful tools to help you “listen.” There are no shortages of free and paid services for this. I’ll suggest a few free ones I use …

Monitter.com – searches twitter by geography. You enter search words, distance, and a zip code and it returns the tweets for the search criteria within the distance set relative to the zip code. This is extremely useful for localized businesses.

Collecta.com – searches Twitter, blogs and blog comments … pretty comprehensive.

Socialmention.com – similar to Google alerts … it is an email automated search, but picks up tweets and search results in blogs as well.

There are numerous others and you can drive yourself silly trying to keep up, but these are the latest I have been using. (Until I read the next review tomorrow and find the next hot one … feel free to add your suggestions in a comment below :) ). A good list is provided at “A Wiki of Social Media Monitoring Solutions”. It includes paid solutions as well as free ones.

But please, “listen” to me and do me one favor – be a better listener! I guarantee you it will pay dividends. Do you hear what I am saying?

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