Why haven't you dug into social media for your small or micro business yet? Lemmie guess:
It's too much work.
You're not sure how to engage.
You're not sure what to say.
You are afraid of doing something wrong.
You're afraid it will take over your life.
Do any of those ring true for you? How about the last one? I've talked to more clients that assume getting their biz on to social networks will turn into a hard core, twenty-four-seven-three-sixty-five work situation where they can't take a break or lunch without tweeting, Facebooking, Instagramming, Pinning, and making a video of what they ate and what they are doing RIGHT THIS MINUTE.
Hold your horses cowboys — this is not the case.
While fear, misinformation, and the unknown could work you up into a head-pounding, omghrd-I-can't-breathe anxiety attack over the implications and responsibilities of getting social, you should be aware of the simple facts that 1. Social is what you make of it, and 2. You don't have to be everywhere and everything to everyone. 3. You don't have to participate right away - you can start out by listening.
And let's face it — those who listen more than they talk tend to make better decisions.
Listening to the conversations that are happening around your industry, your niche, even your business can help in massive ways:
- It can show you where you need to make improvements — You don't know what people think about your business until you ask, or listen to what they're complaining about. And trust me, people don't mind complaining online to their friends about the shortcomings of a business. Knowing the improvements customers, clients, or even strangers desire can help you refine your work before making the leap on to social where they'll have an opportunity to complain to you directly. Which brings me to...
- Gives you time to plan ahead — More people are using social channels like Twitter as a customer service tool instead of the phone. And recent studies show that 42 percent expect a swift, 60 minute response time. How are you going to handle that? Watching how other brands and businesses operate, and listening to how they finesse a sticky situation could help you craft your own customer service response plan. And having a plan before you jump in the deep end is better than not having one at all.
- Spark creative new ideas — Folks love to air their grievances, annoyances, wants, and needs online, and hearing that could light a fire under you to create a whole new product or service around the desires of social media users and/or your target audience.
- You'll get a feel for how a network operates — Before you jump in feet first, listening and observing can help you understand how the community works, how conversations are sparked, and how they're maintained. Give yourself license to be a voyeur for a bit and see if a network is the right fit for you and your business.
So how do you listen on social? Besides visiting the websites directly, we'll cover four tools to get you started and help streamline the process below. Best part? They're all free.
- Social Mention is a keyword-based tool that lets you search for specific words and terms from across the social web, including blogs and comments. It'll even tell you if the general feel is positive or negative. It's a good place to start to get a grip on what is being said about a certain subject.
- Hootsuite — My favorite dashboard and listening system, Hootsuite lets you compile all of your social feeds into one dashboard, but also offers powerful listening tools. Create new streams based on keywords, hashtags, and lists.
- Google Alerts — Monitor the entire web with this tool that sends you email alerts every time a keyword is mentioned. You can also have Google Alerts send you daily digests so you're not completely overwhelming your inbox.
- Twitter Advanced Search — Take a deeper dive into Twitter with the advanced search function. Once you enter in all of your search criteria, like words, exact phrases, hashtags, even locations, you can even save your search to reference later.
Source: Flickr user moriza