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?

19 Comments

Filed under brand marketing, marketing, SEM, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve, Twitter, Uncategorized

19 responses to “Social Media Conversation: I Know You’re Talking, But Are You Listening?

  1. Great post! Indeed, there are so many new tracking services that seem to be popping up–glad to learn about Collecta–a new one for me! I’ve been test driving Viralheat.com this week. We’ll see how it goes!

  2. Elena

    Very useful ! Difficult to make a choice…

  3. mitternight

    I hear you, I hear you…good post! Wish some corporations would stop marketing at me long enough to hear me.

  4. Thanks for sharing a few new monitoring and listening tools. I look forward to giving them a test drive to see how they perform. Keep up the good work.

    PP

  5. Frank Lodato

    Great post! I am going to add monitor, collecta and socialmention.com to my list of sites to check as I continue my career search!

    PS – Looks like Deana’s site has some great info as well!

    Thanks!

  6. Steve, I completely agree that listening with social networking tools is often overlooked. Thanks for posting suggested tools. I’m looking for new tools now that Technorati appears to have killed the RSS feeds for their search functionality.

  7. Hard-hitting article, Steve. Throughly enjoyed it. Certainly worth retweeting, so I’ll get started right away.

  8. As a newbie at social media, I’ve been doing a lot of listening (i.e., reading) but this is the first time I’m talking (i.e., writing).

    Eventually, I’ll start talking more. When I do, I hope that I’ll have been a good listener. The biggest problem for me is deciding where and when to jump in.

    I’ve even started blogging – not quite often enough. Yet, I’d have to consider even negative comments as good news.

    I’ll keep in mind your recommendations. It’s possible, even at the slow rate I’m moving forward, they’ll have meaning down the line for me.

  9. Sven Arild Bransdal

    Thank you for this very useful article. In my experience getting companies to listen is far more difficult then getting them to talk, and your 1-2-3 list of reasons why listening is important is a easy and understandable for both small and large companies!

  10. Hi Steve,
    I agree with your comments – the dynamic of customer interaction has changed and it is challenging brand marketers to throw off the shackles and engage in dialogue instead of traditional push techniques. The rules of engagement have changed and consumers have greater influence than ever – so many example of the social backchannel effecting change e.g. United Airline customer service, Habitat and Twitter.
    For me the challenge is how do you integrate social media with other communication channels to create genuine customer engagement. The danger is jumping on the social bandwagon without clear structure and goals.
    Thanks
    james

  11. Great tips!!! I am new to really understanding the use of social media and this article not only gave me great tips but tools as well to help me monitor me and my business as well as future clients. Thank you so much for your tips.

  12. Great post!

    Listening is essential before jumping into social media. But there are different ways to listen. It brings to mind a favorite saying: “Are you listening or just waiting to talk?”

  13. Well said, Steve. That’s the biggest problem these days with social media – the most useful application of social media is as a listening tool — NOT a talking tool.

    If you spend your time talking and not listening, you will absolutely fail.

  14. Steve, your words are Gold. Thank you for the links-
    It really is all about listening. I wonder, do we read all the twitters, or facebook postings of our friends? Are we even listening to the people we are following, or do we want our own message to go out. Conversation as you point out are a crossroads.
    And I recently came across a great quote while doing research for my show, http://www.the1stquestion.com/
    “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. “A. J. Liebling
    And it reminded me why we have so eagerly embraced Social Media. It gives us the power of the press, every time we hit submit, allowing us to speak and also to read at our own pace, where and who and what interests us.
    What is critical is to remember that the conversation is between people, and we have in truth become very savvy about marketing and advertising. We have been trained over the years – I recently came across a history of advertising book, and marveled at how an entire page of text was devoted to selling soap for example – Why? Because people tended to make their own soap in the days of farming communities. From that, we have grown to digest adverts at an alarming speed, indeed a short time from an entire page to three words “Just Do It” or even just a logo.
    Social Media allows us to not be oversold, I have even been thinking we have reached a point of diminishing marginal impressions. The point where one more, is contributing to “one less.” Perhaps we have become numb to ads.
    And so what will bring us in is a level of engagement and respect that we can only find in the social media sphere. We are running it, it is “our press.”
    This is also why I am creating original content people engage with on a weekly basis on Second Life. Why I use it as a media platform. The programs I do are “Lean forward and engage,” as “Sit back & relax” speaks to a time of passivity our new found power no longer allows.

    • Pooky,

      Thanks for your input to the conversation. You make some very good points. Summarizing or extrapolating your thoughts into my words, I would say a key point is that as social media looks to have a breakout year in 2010, advertisers and brands need to acknowledge a shift – the consumer has heighten degree of control. That is, advertisers and brands need to recognize that the client or consumer accepts or rejects the brand’s marketing programs on the consumers’ terms.

      Best,
      Social Steve

  15. PS – In my current position at Hachette Filipacchi Media, I selected Sysomos as the vendor for social media monitoring. I am very happy with this selection and even more encouraged by their roadmap and continued innovation.

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