With or without you

Although I’m a fan, this post isn’t about U2’s seminal hit from 1987. No, this post is about social media and how people and communities may be talking about you, your company or your brand – whether you’re listening or not!

As the web becomes increasingly social, people and communities are being given more opportunity to express their feelings about the brands they encounter. Chatter is occurring, whether it’s in 140-character comments on Twitter, conversations on Facebook or random mumblings on blogs, people are talking all the time.

Don’t hide away

The social landscape is a daunting place and it doesn’t take many prisoners. The democratisation of the web has allowed anyone and everyone to become a publisher and speak their mind. But we shouldn’t hide away and shirk our responsibility to get out there and respond. We must embrace the opportunity this presents to get in touch with the people talking about us or the brands we represent and start a dialogue.

As with any form of customer service, whether it be online or offline, every negative interaction with a customer is an opportunity to learn and take in a positive direction. With social media, discussions are often taking place publicly so the pressure to respond in one form or another is much greater. There’s no hiding place online, so why not jump in and join the conversation?

How can we listen in?

There are many different tools and techniques that we can use to monitor and take note of what’s being said about us online:

• Twitter Search is a great tool for finding out who’s talking about you – right now! Simply type in the key words you’re looking for and Twitter Search will relay what’s being said on Twitter in order of time and popularity (if a particular tweet has been retweeted a lot it will be shown at the top of the search listings)

Google Alerts offers automatic email notifications when Google finds new results for content from web, news, blogs or forum discussions that match specific user-selected search terms. Here’s a great article on how to use Google Alerts effectively

• Google Blogsearch lets you to put your name or company name into the search bar and see what people are saying about you on blogs around the world

• Technorati will let you do exactly the same thing as Google Blogsearch, and although there may be some overlap it’s important to capture both. You can also click on the orange RSS subscription button, copy the link and put it into Google Reader or another RSS reader as a listings search to get automatic notifications going forward

• Social Mention is a social media search engine that aggregates content from across the web into a single stream of information. You can choose to see information from specific places (blogs, images, video) or from the entire web. On the left-hand side next to a list of search results will be a group of very handy statistics and a breakdown of the data collected.

 

These are just a few listening tools to consider – there are many more here and here.

From one-to-many to many-to-many

With so many different people and communities out there talking about you it’s essential that you look at the various segments related to your brand and listen accordingly. Social media is about speaking with, not at people and about joining or starting a conversation to engage with others. It means that instead of producing one advertisement to target a whole group of people all at once, you can can interact with them directly – by answering their questions, making suggestions or simply wishing them a good day when they mention you.

“The conversations that don’t kill you will only make you stronger” – Brian Solis

Although not everything being said about you is negative, some of it might be, and just because you’re not there doesn’t mean that the conversations aren’t taking place. And if you or your executive team are worried about losing control by embracing social media, then don’t worry – you never had control in the first place!

It’s much better to be apart of the conversation than not. So get out there, join in and engage!

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This post was inspired by a section from ‘Engage‘, a fantastic book on social media by Brian Solis.

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