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How to Setup a Listening Post Using Social Media

Social Listening | Social Media Blog

By Corina Mackay

If you read a lot about social media, you will have heard that listening is important. You’ve probably heard it over and over and over. So, let’s cut to the chase and agree that listening is an important part of your social media strategy. Now let’s look at how you can do this.

1. Search
This one may be a tad obvious, but bear with me. When we talk about using social media to listen, we’re referring to listening in on conversations online. You can do this a multitude of ways using search. For example, using Google Alerts to set up regular email updates with new results based on your chosen search terms.

But what should you search for?

Try these ideas to really start getting in on the conversation with potential customers:

  • Search for industry keywords, specific product names and mentions of your brand
  • If you’re engaging with customers worldwide, do your research – the same product may have a different name depending on the location
  • Search for keywords related to places or activities where your product or service might be used
  • Search for professionals in the field you are targeting, and related occupations that might have some cross-over

And where should you look?

Look for forums and chat rooms related to the industry you’re targeting, blogs about related topics, blog or Twitter directories that have categories related to your field, Facebook and LinkedIn groups, regular Twitter hashtag chats and specific online communities developed for your industry.

2. Competitors
Ah, those crummy no-good weasels who want to steal your fortune! Well, perhaps they’re not all that bad, but they are going after your customers, right? Which means they have information you need – namely, where to find these customers, and what they are saying!

Using the search methods listed above, try searching for your competitors’ brand names, products and services. Look for the places where their loyal customers are gathering online and see what is being said about them. Not only can this lead you to potential customers for your own business, but spying on the enemy is a great way of getting new ideas for your own strategy.

3. Ask
Finally, that old adage that can’t be beaten. If you want to know what you customers think, ask them. Notice I didn’t say what they want, as they often don’t know. They can tell you their opinion though, and are generally all to happy to do so.

Asking customers requires finding them first, of course, which is why this strategy is last on the list. Using social media is a great way to develop relationships with your customers, and asking for their opinion can strengthen this kind of relationship. Twitter, Facebook, forums and blog posts are all great platforms for asking questions and generating conversations.

If you don’t get the answers you need using social media, or you want more information, you can always try talking to your customers – gasp! – offline. I know, I know, what am I thinking, right? But there is a whole world of customers out there who aren’t online 24/7, and by chatting to them in their natural environment, you can find out the best way to reach them when they are online.

Which listening tactics work best for your business? Are there any I missed that you use regularly? I’d love to hear how listening works for you. Leave a comment below and join the conversation.

Photo credit: Melvin Gaal

Corina is a freelance social media manager and writer.
Follow her on Twitter 
@corinamackay or
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4 Responses to this post.

  1. Adam's Gravatar

    Posted by Adam on 24.10.11 at 8:12 am

    Was actually thinking about a post for my blog (ttp://515crackofdawn.blogspot.com/)today about listening. Only, I was thinking more about person to person listening skills and how important that are. Had a boss once that didn’t listen. I don’t think he heard a word I said in 3 years.

    Had never thought of the type of listening you refer to hear. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Anonymous's Gravatar

    Posted by Anonymous on 24.10.11 at 8:12 am

     Thanks for commenting! So glad you found the post useful! Bosses that don’t listen to their employees = bad business folk.

    Best wishes!

  3. Anonymous's Gravatar

    Posted by Anonymous on 24.10.11 at 8:12 am

    Great post, Corina.
    At Garious, we ask, ask and then ask! We have taken to heart Anthony Robbins
    timeless tip “questions are the answers” which means that if you ask
    quality questions, you will receive quality answers. It’s that simple! (Just
    make sure you are asking the right people the right questions)
    We are very active at Q&A sites and we use Facebook questions a lot. But
    the most important step that we make is that we assimilate the answers we get,
    analyze them and make business decisions accordingly.
    So, if there is one thing I would add to your great article, it will be acting
    upon the information you collect. What do you think?

  4. Anonymous's Gravatar

    Posted by Anonymous on 24.10.11 at 8:12 am

    Hey there,
    Thanks for your comment! I definitely agree that the quality of your questions leads to the quality of answers/information you get. It takes practice to get really good at that.

    And I have to say you’re right about assimilating the information you get – using feedback well and continuing to improve is the only reason to ask for it in the first place!

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