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Shhh! You Have to Listen to Learn

Posted by Entrepreneur Staff | November 18, 2010
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/218954

So what is this social media thing?

In normal conversations and relationships, people give tidbits of information to each other to strengthen the bond between them. In the context of social media, the same concept abounds -- online.

Companies adept at social-media marketing make their brands a relevant and valuable part of these trusted conversations. First amassing an audience, then moving them to action. And we're going to teach you how to do the same for your company -- as you watch us unleash the Social Media Challenge for Big Papa's BBQ over the next 30 days.

The first step in any good social-media campaign is to listen. Find the conversations and become a fly on the wall.

The magic of the Internet is that all of these incredibly rich conversations taking place about your brand, industry and specialty are instantly accessible to you at no cost.

Find out what people have said in the past, what they're saying today and where they're gathering online. This will help you understand the overall breadth of contribution, judge sentiment, identify key influencers and uncover any holes that exist in the current landscape that your brand can help fill with its presence. Trust us, you'll learn plenty.

Remember, at this point you're listening and learning and not becoming an active participant in the conversation. Here's how to get started.

Assignment 1: Assess your current web properties.
Are you on Facebook or Twitter? Do you have a blog that allows user comments? Does your company have profiles on other industry-related sites? If so, what have you been saying and how are people responding and interacting with you? Go find out.

Assignment 2: Audit what's been said about you in the past.
You should know everything that's been said about your brand online up to today. So, Assignment No. 2 is to type your brand's name into Google with quotes around it -- and to read everything that comes up in the search. Do that now.

Assignment 3: Set up the following two tools to hear everything being said from today forward.
Google Alerts: To help you easily and effectively monitor current conversations, set up a free Google Alerts account. Track as many search terms related to your specific brand, industry and competitors as you see fit.

Each time any of the keywords you've indicated to the system are encountered online, you'll receive an email. This includes mentions in news, blogs, videos, as well as discussions and comments on this content. It's juicy stuff.

For example, the alerts we set up for Big Papa's BBQ include:



HootSuite: Google Alerts does not track mentions in Twitter. But with its popularity and influence, we highly recommend following Tweets. To track mentions in Twitter, set up a free tool called HootSuite. This also requires that you set up a free Twitter account. Go do that now.

Next, set up columns in HootSuite to track the same keywords you're tracking in Google Alerts. To add new columns:
 

What are you listening for?


Once you've set up the tools, look for hotbeds of social activity related to your brand or industry. Look for comments and conversations about:
 

Okay, you've got your assignments. We want you to report back on what you heard out there. We'll share some of the key findings we uncovered for Big Papa's BBQ when we listened. And we'll teach you how to find the opportunities in what you heard to help inform your social outreach campaign.

In the meantime, if you've got questions about anything we've relayed, drop them in the comments below. We'll be here to respond.