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Three keys to better listening

iStock_000000564491XSmall.jpgAre you listening, I mean really listening? Over the past month and a half, I have been running a poll in the sidebar on this blog asking people "How do you listen in social media?". I want to share the results of this poll with you as well as some observations that I have regarding the responses.

First off, 85 total unique visitors took the poll (see final results below). While that's not a huge number it is pretty solid. Far and away Twitter was the top listening tool (75%) followed by Google alerts (48%). After that, Google search and monitoring tools came in with 16%. The "other" category was next followed up by Technorati at around 6%.

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Key takeaways from the reader poll:

  • Twitter is a great tool, but you have to make sure your audience is there. If you're listening in the wrong place, you're missing the point.
  • Google alerts are also great to have and easy to set up. However, they often miss content that needs to be picked up in other ways.
  • Google search is also very easy, but has the same problems as Google alerts (duh). It's also a little too overwhelming unless you do an advanced search and limit the timeframe. (Don't forget you can subscribe to a search's RSS feed to keep updates manageable.)
  • Monitoring tools are very helpful at making sure you see the whole conversation. They do, however, suffer from the same faults as Google alerts. There is just too much data to manage effectively. It takes a human to process it.
  • Technorati, though low on the list, does still serve a valuable roll and can catch blog mentions before other means.

Three keys to better listening:

In order to do this right, follow these keys to better listening online:
  1. Find your customer and spend your time there. While Twitter is great for some brands, you will find that message boards, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Orkut, etc. may hold the majority of your customers. If you're listening in the wrong place you're not doing any good.

  2. Use technology to speed the process. Instead of watching Twitter for 12 hours a day, subscribe to the RSS feed for your keywords on Twitter Search. Do the same with keywords on Google and your Technorati page. Check this a couple of times a day. On top of that, you can overlay that information on top of the monitoring tools.

    Big tip, I've seen monitoring companies sell their services as the end-all of this area and they are not. This requires a human being who knows the industry and company to make it worth while.

  3. Create your active listening plan. Listening is a good first step, but a lifetime of listening without action is not going to move the needles that you need to move for your business. Creating an plan for what to do with the information you learn is key.

    I wrote this post in February of 2007 on active listening and it still holds true today. This quote sums it up:

    "Agile marketing companies are leveraging new technology to create real, one-to-many and many-to-many conversations. They are using the outcome from that interaction to make meaningful, remarkable, relationship-enhancing changes that impact their clients in a positive manner. Are you listening?"

Be sure to answer the new poll question for an upcoming post. Do you have (or advise your clients to create) a social media policy for employees? Let me know your thoughts!

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