One of the most common arguments I hear to support the “every business should be on social media” discussion is that people are talking about your brand whether you know it or not.
But is it true? Well, there’s really only one way to find out. And that is to listen.
Introduction to Social Media Listening
Social media listening tools are online services that search social media sites for keywords that you input into their system. If your keywords are mentioned on Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook (in some cases) or other social media sites, the listening tool with capture the message and display it in a stream for you to view.
Listening tools come in many forms, ranging from free lightweight versions to very expensive enterprise editions.
Why Should I Use a Social Media Listening Tool?
Here are three reasons every business should use a social media listening tool:
1. To Interact with Customers
You can’t be a part of a conversation if you don’t know it’s happening. With listening tools, you don’t need to be informed about when or where a discussion will take place. The tool will let you know, in real-time, who is talking about your brand and exactly what they are saying. Don’t you want to know what is being said about your brand? Wouldn’t you like to interject when there is misinformation or a negative conversation happening? By participating in these conversations, you may be able to take a negative situation and turn it into positive word of mouth.
2. To Find New Customers
I recently tweeted, “If any local restaurants are listening, I will eat lunch at your place in Nashville today.” It was an open invitation for a business to invite me in as a new or repeat customer. I didn’t place any budget or genre restrictions in my tweet. I included keywords such as restaurant, lunch and Nashville in my message, hoping that a savvy local business would be listening and respond. Unfortunately, they did not.
Ask yourself, “What would my potential customers say online about the product or service I offer?” Add all of your answers to a listening tool. Keep the phrases short and to the point. “Need a mechanic” or “car broke down” would be great options for a local auto shop to use with a tool that offers filtering by location.
Think like your potential customers. If you can find them, you may be able to convert them.
3. To Diffuse Crisis Situations
If someone walks into your office and says, “Did you see the negative blog post about our company this morning?” then it’s too late. Your colleagues heard about it before you, which means it is likely spreading across the internet rapidly. And you had no idea.
If you had a listening tool and were paying close attention to it, you could have seen the blog post immediately after it was posted, asked the author to speak with you, and corrected or resolved the situation before it spread too far.
You don’t want to be the last to know that a crisis is coming. A listening tool can prevent this from happening.
If you’re brand new to social media listening, I reccommend using Social Mention. It works like Google. You can do a search for what is currently being said about the keyword you enter or you can set up alerts to be notified periodically. You can also limit the search to specific social networks if you want to tackle one source at a time to prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed.