There are 14 key conversations you should be listening to in 2014. Whether you use a free tool like Hootsuite or an enterprise level tool like Radian 6, listening is the first strategy to tackle in your social media marketing plan.
1. Identify key influencers that talk about your brand. These may change from time to time depending on what is going on with your brand. It’s important to remember that influencers are different that advocates (we’ll get to advocates in a moment). They may be key experts in your industry or sector. They may be consumers or customers. Know who they are, watch their conversations, and know how to get hold of them.
2. Identify your brand advocates. If you looked at the infographic in the link above, you now know the difference between advocates and influencers. Advocates are defined by how likely they are to recommend your brand where influencers are defined by the size of their audience. Your advocates are more likely to come to your aid in a negative issue or crisis and to overlook minor missteps on your part. Know who they are, reward their loyalty, and know how to get hold of them.
3. Identify your detractors. Whether they are watchdogs, trolls, haters, angry customers, or self-appointed citizen journalists, you need to know who they are. Don’t ignore this group. There are many benefits to listening to the negative chatter around your brand, even though it can be mentally taxing. We can’t shy away from people who talk badly about us. These conversations can give us insights into blind spots, warn us of possible negative issues or crises, and give us constructive criticism about what we’re doing wrong. Know who they are, learn how to judge the importance of their message, and learn if, when, and how to respond.
4. Identify negative issues. Even though this is similar to number three, this conversation is topical rather than related to specific people. They may overlap here, but you need to know the hot button issues with your customers, your sector, and keep track of real-time news changes in your industry.
5. Identify real-time news items related to your brand. I want to add a disclaimer here that I am not a fan of willy-nilly newsjacking. We’ve seen way too many brands get in trouble trying to ride the wave of current events to promote their brands. You can’t be tasteless and careless here. I’d give you a list of examples, but I think you get the picture. However, there are times when using current news is appropriate. What if there is a significant product breakthrough in your sector? Maybe a prominent celebrity or politician is using your product or singing its praises in the press. Even if you don’t use the news to promote your goods and services, you should be aware of current news and trends.
6. Listen to your competition. This is a key conversation. Commerce, whether goods or service, is highly competitive. You need to know what they’re up to and see if they are talking about you.
7. Monitor mentions of your brand name. Set up some Google Alerts or searches on your social media dashboard with your brand name, your CEO’s name, and your product names. I use Mention for this. This is an elementary conversation. If you only start with a few of these conversations, make sure this is one of them.
8. Identify your blind spots. I know I mentioned this in number three, but in my years in crisis communications, I’ve found that this is the most likely conversation to be ignored, and the most dangerous to ignore. This conversation has to do with examining your ethical behavior. This micro conversation begins with our detractors, but could also be brought to light by angry customers or competitors. Don’t be afraid to sit around the table and talk about these issues internally. It may avert a major reputation-killing event. If you’re not sure what a blind spot is, here is a great reference.
9. Identify potential customers. This is a no-brainer but I’m surprised at how many people don’t do it. Since social media is a place where people ask for recommendations and advice, these conversations can produce leads. Sometimes this means monitoring competition blogs or Facebook pages. A warning here: busting into a private conversation trying to sell something is intrusive. Learn how to do this with savvy and respect for privacy. With increased geo location data available in search today, we are able to pinpoint people in our own areas that need our products.
10. Identify customer needs for product development. What are people asking you for? It might not be you directly, but it can be embedded in conversations they are having with others. I do this a lot as a large portion of my business is training. Listening to what people want to know about social media responsible use or crisis communications helps me respond with helpful content and services.
11. Listen for opportunities to establish your expertise. Keeping track of industry blogs, conferences, and events in your sector can alert you of potential opportunities to share your knowledge. This conversation can produces opportunities to speak; maybe write a guest blog, or operate as a media resource.
12. Be alert for emergencies in real-time. If you are a large company with multiple sites spread out geographically, listening for emergencies can give you a warning shot in a crisis.With smartphones everywhere, sometimes an emergency presents itself before anyone in your organization knows about it. It’s critical to be listening in real-time.
13. Listen for customer problems in real-time. Just so we’re clear, this doesn’t mean responding to every complaint about your product or service. You need to know the difference between a customer’s relevant question or concern and a general complaint. Make sure your social media team has a triage system set up to deal with customer chatter and a plan laid out for if, when, and how you will respond. Push people with a relevant real-time need up to the top of the list. Doing this in real-time is critical as customers, especially on Twitter, have quick response time expectations. Know what needs immediate attention and what does not.
14. Listen for audience migration to new social media platforms. Even though we concentrate all our time these days on the major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube, we need to be aware of where people are migrating to. Jason Falls said it best in a recent piece he wrote titled, “The Secret To Not Caring What Is Next.”
“What does this mean for the social marketer? Mobility. You’re going to need to migrate to Snapchat and Path and Instagram and Vine and any other network that connects people but doesn’t have an established business model. But you’ll only be there for a year or two before the ads emerge and the consumers migrate again.”