Listen up!

"His Master's Voice" by Beverly & Pack

As the web becomes increasingly social, more people and communities are taking the opportunity to talk about you, your company and brand – whether you like it or not. The questions is: are you listening?

The social web is an incredibly democratising space, allowing anyone and everyone to become a publisher. Blogging, microblogging, social networking and video sharing are just a handful of ways in which people are giving their opinions and sharing their thoughts with their friends and numerous friends of friends spread out across their social graphs.

Don’t be shy!

The social landscape can be daunting and rarely takes prisoners as many small and major brands have found out the hard way. But as unnerving as it may be for some, for those willing to accept and embrace the social media philosophy, the social web can be a considerably liberating environment, allowing brands, business leaders and celebrities to connect with their followers in ways that weren’t possible only a few years ago.

We shouldn’t hide away and shirk our responsibility when encountering comments, jibes and negativity online. Years ago it may have been possible to send out a series of defensive press releases and spin your way out of a problem. But today it’s far better – and easier – to front up and deal with the situation on your constituents’ terms – by using social media. Use new media to your advantage. Enter into a dialogue, discover the problems (and root causes) and make a genuine effort to solve them in a meaningful way. There’s no hiding place online so why not jump in and get involved.

Some simple ways to listen

But how do we know when customers or stakeholders are talking about us? Well, there are a number of different ways to monitor and listen in to the various conversations taking place and here are just a few:

Twitter Search

Twitter’s search engine is a great tool for finding out who’s talking about you and your brand right now in real time. Just type in the key words you’re looking for and Twitter Search will relay what’s being said in order of time and popularity.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts will send you an automatic email notification whenever Google finds new results for content from web, news, blogs or forum discussions that match specific user-selected search terms. Use it to track mentions of your name, company/ brand name, employees and competitors. Check out this article on how to use Google Alerts effectively.

Google Blogsearch

Google’s blogging-specific search engine lets you to put keywords into the search bar and see what people are saying about you on blogs around the world. Use this tool to seek out influencers, taste-makers and opinion leaders and tell them your story. Much better than sending a generic press release to a bunch of uninterested newspapers!

Technorati

Technorati is the home of blogs and tracks what’s happening on the 100+ million blogs in existence. Although Technorati will let you do exactly the same thing as Google Blogsearch, despite 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 of keywords you’re interested in tracking.

These are just a few tools. There are many other ways to listen.

“The conversations that don’t kill you will only make you stronger”*

It’s unlikely that everything being said about you online is negative, but some of it might be, and just because you’re not listening doesn’t mean that the chatter isn’t taking place. And if you or your management team are concerned about losing control by embracing social media, then consider this – you never had control in the first place!

It’s much better to be involved in the conversation than not. So stop worrying and get involved.

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