It Pays to Listen: Social Media Can Be One of Your Most Effective Research Tools
Companies love to talk about themselves, and social media provides a crazy-huge vista for shouting their messages to the far reaches of the Internet. But, as the old adage says, you were born with two ears and one mouth, and should use them in that proportion.
If you haven’t yet developed a practice for using social media to listen to your market, I urge you to follow these five steps and plan to spend at least 6–12 months learning to listen. Listen to your customers, find out what issues they’re trying to solve, refine your marketing strategy appropriately and then respond with clear and helpful communications, and soon you’ll be the one everyone else is listening to!
1. Find Out Who Your Customers Are Listening to
Your first social listening skill is finding the right channels to listen to. Where are your customers hanging out, and who are the influencers they’re following? Search for Twitter chats relevant to your customers to see if any current or potential customers are participating. Do the same with LinkedIn Groups or Google+ Hangouts. An easy way to find out your customers’ platform of choice would be to utilize Google Alters and notice the trends. Listen to what’s being discussed, the issues, and the victories.
2. Listen to Your Customers’ Customers
If you’re involved in B2B, find out what’s keeping your customers’ customers awake at night. Only when you know what problems your customers are trying to solve will you truly understand how you can serve them. For example, in the healthcare IT vertical, it’s important to know the specific problems a COO of a hospital is trying to solve, or what tactics he or she may be contemplating in order to achieve a goal that positively affects the bottom line either through cost savings or efficiencies in workflow.
3. Listen to Your Competition
While it never pays to use your competitors as a measuring stick, you can learn an awful lot by listening to the way they frame their offering, and how they’re addressing your common customers’ problems.
4. Track Topics Worth Following
Sometimes one of the best pieces of feedback you can receive is when you think you’ve hit upon a solution to a problem, and then find out that no one really considers that problem to be worth hashing over. If you’re spending time listening to a topic and finding it isn’t drawing interest, it could be a clue that the problem isn’t worth your time.
5. Listen to What Others Are Saying About You
Chances are if you’ve had any success in your market, there will be people online who will praise your good efforts, and others who will try to trash you over some perceived or real issue with your performance. Using social media to keep tabs on what others are saying about you can help you recognize and appreciate what you’re doing well, and realize and respond to any perceived weaknesses.
Have you ever been surprised to find your customers having conversations on a social platform that you least suspected? Have you ever found yourself in a one-upping match with a competitor in an online forum? What online listening experiences would you like to share? We’d love to hear your story—we are listening!
Deb Bouchegnies defines and executes social media strategies by interacting directly with a client’s customers through relevant social platforms. She cultivates and manages online communities, and monitors and engages audiences in online conversations.
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