Do you know what is being said about your business online?

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Online listening

The Basics of Online Listening

Knowing what people are saying about your business online and on social media can be incredibly powerful. Why? Because monitoring your online mentions, or as it is often called ‘online listening’, can help you understand what your customers like and dislike about your brand, can help you keep track of your competitors and also provide access to an always-on, free focus group.

So how do you do it? Below I have broken down the practice into three sections:

  • Tools for listening
  • What to listen for
  • Managing the data


Tools for listening:

Google Alerts – Setting up Google alerts is the easiest way to track what is being said about you online. The service is free, and you can adjust whether you get updates weekly, daily, or the moment it is detected. The results can be sent to your email, or you can set up an RSS feed so you can read it through a reader like Google Reader. As Gavin Heaton highlights in his excellent overview of social media listening, include common misspellings of brand names.

Twilert – This is a nifty little service created by some clever chaps in the UK to track conversations on Twitter. With Twilert you can create a daily email with mentions of your search term, limit your results to your country or city and even receive information around the sentiment of relevant Twitter conversations. It is worth noting that any automated sentiment tracking is 50% accurate at the very best, so take the automated results with a grain of salt.

Radian6 – If your business is larger you may want to consider a paid online monitoring tool like Radian6. Whilst Radian 6 doesn’t provide any additional tracking to the free tools, it does centralise all your tracking and enable you to create graphs and reports on your search results. Other paid options include Meltwater Buzz, Buzz Numbers and Brandtology.

What to listen for:

Your brand/product names – Create keyword search terms around your brand, product names and other terms you use to describe your product and services. Remember to include common misspellings.

Your competitors – As Sun Tzu said, keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Understanding what is being said about your competitors’ brands online can be as valuable as knowing what is said about your own brands and products.

Your industry – Beyond product names, identify things that may represent new business opportunities for you. If you’re a builder perhaps you might want to set up an alert for conversations in your vicinity that mention DAs or mentions of the words ‘home extensions’. A timely tweet that congratulates the individual on their DA approval and informs them of your services may open up new opportunities.

What to do with the data:

Change something – All the listening data in the world means nothing if you aren’t going to take notice of it and change something about your business offering. As I mention above, consider your listening service like a free focus group.

Create value for your audience – If you notice that a lot of the conversations about your industry revolve around the same topics, why not create valuable content that either solves, enhances or encourages those conversations. This video from Vodafone (disclosure – Vodafone is a client of my employer) in response to conversations complaining about the cost of mobile roaming is a good example of creating value for the audience.

Get involved – Listening should be the first step of any businesses social media program. Once you understand what is being said about you, your competitors and your industry, why not get involved in the conversation? If you have listened carefully enough you may just find that what you have to say is valuable to a group of customers out there that you never knew existed.

Let me know in the comment box below if these tips are helpful. I would love to hear firsthand about your experiences. Perhaps you have your own tips or additions? I would love to hear those as well.


Matthew Gain | Director, Brand and Digital Marketing – Edelman