Before social media even came into the equation, conversation has always been the defining factor behind how well a brand is perceived. People do share their thoughts and ideas about businesses among their friends, colleagues and sometimes directly to the company. While before you had to rely on somebody contacting you directly for feedback, now you can see what the conversation is through social media. Now you can hear exactly what people think from the ground up instead of the other way around
However, it's not enough to listen just for the sake of it, doing so won't get you very far. Instead, you should be thinking about the types of conversation you want to notice and how it ties in with your overall social media strategy. Devising a strategy shouldn't take too long, but there are a number of things to consider first before you launch into it.
Before You Start
Like all things, you should define what your goals are and what you want to get out of it. If you're monitoring conversations just for the sake of it, you're going to achieve very little. Are you monitoring to gauge feedback, to identify new customers or to keep existing ones happy? This is important as you want to identify keywords and phrases that you will use when searching for conversations.
Another important factor to take into consideration is which sites will you monitor? The obvious answer would be "all of them," but realistically, how many are you going to be able to monitor regularly if you're a small or medium sized business? Besides, there are so many channels that unless you're a major corporation that can dedicate a team to it, it's best to narrow it down.
To do this, you would need to identify the areas where your audience (or potential audience) are based, but if you're unsure, Twitter would be a good place to start as the conversations there are short and snappy, but have a look at other sites like Facebook and LinkedIn to see where the most relevant conversations for your business are taking place. You need to prioritise which channels you're going to pay attention to and why they're important.
Perhaps one of the most important reasons for listening is to help identify influencers, those who are sharing links and either talk about you directly or mention topics relating to your brand. These people can represent the general mood so finding them and understanding their needs can take a lot of work, but is well worth it in the end.
What You Should Listen Out For?
It doesn't matter how many people are talking about your brand. Instead, what you should focus on is what they're saying, understanding what they need and responding to it. Listening is vital here, don't just react with a 'thanks' or 'sorry' message, take into consideration what they're saying before you react.
The obvious reason to listen to these conversation is to determine the general mood towards your brand. Is there a particular part of your company they like? Is there something that you could improve upon? In most cases, people won't say these things to you directly, (especially if it's negative) so you will have to take the initiative and reach out to them instead.
Seeing what people think and the conversations they're having will give you a decent idea of how you're doing. Also, it will show you what type of content generates a large response, which is useful when you're developing a community around your brand.
However, that isn't the only reason you should keep an eye on things. For one, you want to be aware of any moments that your brand is being criticised. Sometimes the criticism mightn't seem like much, but there's always the possibility that if you let it slide, it will develop into something much more harmful, which is especially damaging if it's false. Therefore, you will need to react promptly and respond in a positive manner before it develops further.
Ways To Monitor The Conversation
Perhaps the most important question you can ask yourself (next to what I want to gain from this?) is how you're going to monitor these sites. There are a lot of options out there and one that will suit your marketing budget, no matter who you are. Here are some options that you can avail of.
Use A Social Media Dashboard
If you know what keywords to search, then the numerous social media dashboards that are available will come in useful. As always, the obvious ones that come to mind when discussing this is Tweetdeck and Hootsuite. Both will allow you to search for keywords or phrases and present a news stream that will be updated in real-time, useful for keeping tabs on mentions or seeing when people link to your site.
Use A Social Search Engine
If you want more detailed information and results, there are a number of social media search engines that will help you out. One that you should keep in mind is Topsy
, a search engine that will provide you with insight into online conversations in real-time. Allowing both basic and advanced search options, Topsy allows you to see tweets linking back to you that you mightn't have noticed first time round, like shortened URLs linking back to you. The basic service is free, but the advanced version has a free 14 day trial should you want to delve further.
Use Google Alerts
Another tool that marketers abide by, Google Alerts
will email you alerts relating to keywords daily, or as soon as they come in. This is very useful if you want a summary of the day's events, or if you get so many updates, you prefer to summarise content into one simple email.
Invest In Analytics Tools
We've covered a number of analytics tools
in the past and some of them allow you to monitor conversations on top of providing you with statistics as well as help you identify key influencers around your brand. There are many paid tools out there that can monitor any mentions your brand gets, keywords or phrases, but the best would be Wildfire, Radian6 and Social Mention.
Use The Search Function On Social Media Sites
This one can be useful for certain things, but only if you've exhausted other avenues. For one, Facebook's search is pretty poor and the type of results you get from it can be incredibly limited. Twitter's, on the other hand, allows for more detailed searches provided you're ok with it going just a week back (or less in some cases). The search pages for other sites like Google+ and LinkedIn tend to vary so while it can be useful to check, the success you're going to have will be varied at best.
As always, there are a number of guides and resources out there which tackle the same topic. To further develop your knowledge, you should check out these guides and articles.
- SocialBrite provides its guide to monitoring social media conversations in four sections, the first shows the reasons why it's important to be doing this, while the latter focus on tools you can use and how you can build and manage a monitoring dashboard.
- Mashable provides ten steps you should take when developing your social media strategy.
- Social Media Examiner shows you how you can simplify your social media monitoring in quick and easy steps.
- SocialMedia.Biz provides a comprehensive summary twenty social media monitoring vendors for businesses.
- And on the flip side, Small Business Trends presents 20 free social media monitoring tools that you can use to get ahead.
Main Image - Dialogue by Reed Enger & User By Luis Prado Via The Noun Project
Image 2 - Checklist by Michael Young Via The Noun Project
Image 3 - Social Media by Joris Hoogendoom & Conversation by Dmitry Baranovskiy Via The Noun Project