How To Achieve Success Using Social Media – Listen First
As a rule, when someone “mentions” my name online or on a social network I want to know about it so I can comment. However, I actually find “listening” more valuable when observing what my target audience or thought-leaders say about topics that are important to “them”.
For example, by monitoring the term “content marketing”, I gain insight into how people use the term in general. It also introduced me to thought leaders like Joe Pulizzi, who is an advocate of content marketing. This information helps me shape my own content because I’ve been “listening” first.
How To Listen: 9 Tools I Use for Listening & Observation
A number of tools exist ranging in cost from free to very expensive. For example, you can employ a “do-it-yourself” approach using the following tools to track keywords, basic sentiment, and trending topics.
Google Alerts: Alerts are the steady rock in the sometimes white-water world of monitoring. You can easily target keywords that are important to your brand and receive streaming or batched reports. You can receive these alerts as emails or via RSS, which can be dumped into a Reader (see next).
Google Reader: I use Google Reader as my home base for collecting and reading all the various sources of information (i.e. alerts). It’s web-based, fast, and easy to use. It allows me to blaze through content in 5-10 minutes without thinking much about it.
Technorati: Billing itself as “the leading blog search engine”. Go to Technorati, put your company (product, brand, etc.) name into the search bar, and see what people are saying about you. Dump into Google Reader as one of your listening searches. Repeat this for your competitor’s name, brand, individuals, and some industry terms.
Google Blog Search: Go to Google Blogsearch and do the same thing. Sure there will be some overlap, but it’s important to capture both. The subscription to searches link is on the left hand side of the page.
Twitter Search or Professional Twitter Client (i.e. TweetDeck or Hootsuite): If you’re seriously thinking about using social networks and social media, it’s likely that some of your customers are using Twitter. If so, go to Twitter Search and put in your search terms there as well. If you’re a “lifehacker” like me, I’d recommend using a free Twitter Client such as TweetDeck or Hootsuite, which allows you to track multiple accounts, keywords, and groups.
SocialMention: Real-time social media search and analysis. Socialmention is billed as the Google Alerts for social media. Again, there might be some overlap with Google Alerts.
The following tools are more for “observation” and “analytics” to determine what content resonated with my audience as well as to decide on what type of content to create in the future.
Crazy Egg: If you want to see how people are looking at your website when they’re not commenting and talking about you, try out Crazy Egg. The tool is full of visualization data, including heat maps, that show you how people are interacting with your website. Sometimes, people aren’t saying something on your blog posts because they’re being distracted by something else. Here’s your chance to figure that out (Note: this tool will run you $8-$10 per month).
Google Analytics: Like crazy egg, I like to know what content resonates with my audience and what didn’t. In addition, I also look at the number of times a blog post was shared via a social network from my blog.
URL Shortener (bit.ly, owl.ly, etc.): These tools allow you to track your links to determine overall “sentiment” of the content you’re sharing (based on click-throughs and re-tweets) As time goes on, this information will give you insight on how to shape your content to meet the needs of your audience.
Listening to online chatter is both art and science. Much like SEO, listening can require skill and in-depth knowledge of technology and linguistics. If you want something more advanced, you might try Radian6, tmSocialBuzz™ (disclosure: I’m affiliated with tmSocialBuzz™), or Trackur (they’re all listening, so I’m sure others can swarm here and give links in the comments section).
The web provides the ultimate focus group. The data you get from using these tools is authentic because people are expressing themselves without being solicited or fed bad pizza for their opinion. Sure it takes time to set up and use these tools, but people are having online conversations whether you’re listening or not.
Remember, a successful content marketing and social media strategy is dependent on how well you know your customer’s needs and wants. Listening is necessary to achieve this.