Last week we introduced a new series of blog posts: L-I-S-T-E-N: The Social Media Process Simplified; a 6-step process that simplifies successful social media marketing by using LISTEN as an acronym for the process.  This week we detail the first " and most important " step to ensuring success: Listening & Learning, where methods and techniques to listen in and collect the feedback of clients and potential clients are established.

This means utilizing tools such as Radian6, Google Alerts, TweetScan, and many more to monitor what is being said on an ongoing basis in news sites, on social sites, in review sites, on blogs, and elsewhere. As an example, we continuously monitor the terms for our business name search engine people, for some of our people eg. jennifer osborne, and for the names of many competitors so that were aware of any mentions of those terms and can respond in near real-time when we see opportunities or threats. On many occasions, merely listening has resulted in new product ideas, which constitutes a great deal of revenue for our company. Listening has also resulted in our being able to capitalize on issues competitors are experiencing, given us great insight into many of their weaknesses.

Another significant benefit is this; if you uncover a client issue and resolve it quickly and efficiently, the client will be more loyal than they ever would have been had the problem not occurred in the first place. Since clients arent always forthcoming about issues or satisfaction, monitoring review sites, blogs, and social media sites gives companies a distinct edge when identifying such issues, and resolving them. Proper application of this technique will become much more critical over time for businesses, as the world becomes even more connected.  See Jeff Quipps great To You / For You post on this published earlier this week.

Yourdictionary.com defines a Listening Post as an advanced, concealed position near the enemy's lines, for detecting the enemy's movements by listening: That seems about right.  So to get you started, here are 7 Ways You Can Set-up Your Own Listening Posts.

1. Keywords

This borders on stating the obvious but dont forget to make keyword analysis your first step.  You want your social media program to use language that people understand and search engines find.  So using free tools like Googles Keyword Tool and Insights for Search help you tap into a massive database of consumer intent.  Lets say youre a marketer of healthy dog food for instance.  These two tools might help you uncover the rising interest in homemade dog food recipes (who knew?) by studying the long tail keyword searches; great potential for a post or even a reconfiguration of your product.

Google Keyword Tool Google Insights for Search

2. Keyword Search on Social Sites

Now take your top 4-5 keywords " including the new ones you uncovered " and plop them into the top social sites including bookmarking sites like Digg & StumbleUpon and youll soon find out whats hot " and whats not – when it comes to news, groups, apps and even whats working for your competition.

Digg Stumble

Facebook

3. Social Mention

Social Mention is an example of the free services that have popped up that provide you with a very quick read of your category, your brand or your competition in the world of social media including blogs, microblogs, videos, comments etc.  Its great to see what sort of ground youre starting from.

SocialMention

4. Q&A Sites

If you want to create content that gets clicked on and shared, you need to first understand what information needs people have.  And theres no better spot to do that than the question & answer sites like Ask.com, Yahoo Answers and Answers.com.  Just think of it; thousands of people entering in what they want to know in the form of questions.  What a goldmine!  Using your full keyword list and any interesting topics youre uncovering you can easily find out the top questions people are asking about your product.  Ask.coms Popular Questions or even Googles Discussions search option are great sources for understanding the volume of the need as well.

Questions

5. Alerts via Google Reader

Now that youve got the lay of the land, youll want to keep your ear to the ground on an ongoing basis.  You can use Google Alerts (cost: $0) to monitor all your brands, your sub-brands, your competition, and all the subjects and questions for most of what youve already found in the above.  Simply do your search for the keywords on the social media sites, look for the RSS function and feed those results into a Google Alert.  Specify that you want the Alert to feed into Google Reader and then set up an iGoogle page for the Google Reader and Voila!  Each morning when you boot up youve got a snapshot of what people are talking about and whats getting hotter in your space that looks something like this.

GoogleAlerts

6. HootSuite & TweetDeck

The beauty of services like HootSuite & Tweetdeck is that not only are you watching the conversation live but also you can easily see how powerful the person is that made the tweet.  With either service you simply search using your top keywords or brands and then save them as a column so that in one glance you can see whats going on on various fronts.  Based on what youre seeing over time you can refine your columns to listen more accurately.  Heres an example on one subject using HootSuite:

HootSuite

7. Radian6, Sysomos & Friends

Small businesses might not have the budget for it but paid social media monitoring services like Radian6 and Sysomos can pay for themselves pretty quickly.  Not only do they provide an interface that presents well in the boardroom they are terrific for finding influencers, tracking the results of your efforts and making it super-easy to take action either by you or someone in your customer service team.

image

Dell has achieved its own fame in the social media world by directly attributing over $6 million to social media but, if you listen closely to what their top executives say, they say the greatest value of social media is its ability to help companies listen & learn.  Theres dozens more listening tools out there but hopefully this will help you get started on the right footor, in this case, ear.

Bob Nunn

Bob Nunn is an Internet Marketing Consultant in Toronto and the founder of BrandMechanics. Bob has a successful track record of helping companies fine-tune their online marketing and getting their brands revved up. He has won over 40 marketing awards for his work in advertising, new media, email and more for clients such as Yellow Pages Group ‘The Find Engine’, Blockbuster ‘Guaranteed To Be There’, FutureShop ‘You’ll like what the future has in store.’ and 3M ‘Innovation’ among others.

Brand Mechanics

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