The majority of brand-driven social media mimic soapbox media (TV, radio, print) by being in constant blast mode: talking at audiences rather than with them, asking potential customers to buy their products, read their blog posts, and take their surveys. But social media affords us the opportunity to be human by receiving information in equal measure to dishing it out. Embracing this human quality means you must master one thing: listening.
Active listening creates value for our businesses by helping us identify customer insights, deliver personalized customer service, solidify brand voice, develop product and service improvements, and establish a direct line to our customers innermost thoughts and desires. How’s that for ROI?
Listening is THE secret weapon the social web affords us. Period. Unfortunately, too many businesses are wielding it incorrectly. You shouldn’t mine conversations haphazardly or “just because” you think you have to. Listening must (absolutely must) strategically align with your business goals and have predetermined outcomes. Try these examples on for size:
- A life coach drives awareness and inbound traffic by identifying key interest areas around personal development on Twitter and builds that into her blog topics.
- A branding strategist improves satisfaction and retention by addressing and solving the identity problems of her customers early on in their buying cycle.
- A graphic designer doubles business leads by incorporating the design interests of his client base (obtained through Pinterest boards) into his opt-in weekly newsletter.
Aligning your goals with listening is only half the battle. Knowing how to listen in and what to listen in for makes all the difference. Consider these questions to focus your new social business ears:
- What annoyances, grievances, and frustrations are your customers vocalizing?
- How do those paint points relate to your products and services?
- What types of information are people actively seeking? Where and how often are they requesting it?
- Is there a visible gap in the marketplace that audiences are noticing?
- Are there certain keywords or phrases that people are using to describe your product or service?
Though each social media platform has different modes of listening, my personal favorite is Twitter. Due to its unprecedented public access and unrivaled search capabilities the opportunities and methods for listening in are enormous. One incredibly powerful, underused, and underappreciated tool is the Twitter list. (Side note: Underappreciated is good. Underappreciated means opportunity for you.)
Here are some steps you can take to start listening using Twitter lists:
1. Identify some influencers in your field.
2. Head on over to their list section.
Click on “More” and then on the clandestine “Lists” button. There are two types of public lists that can be associated with any given Twitter account: lists you can subscribe to and lists you’re a member of (i.e., lists other people have created, curated, and placed you in).
3. Identify and subscribe to 3-5 relevant lists.
Make sure the lists you choose contain your ideal target audience. Remember—you’re doing this to find juicy conversation as it relates to your business. Make sure to pick a list that includes more than 50 members, but no more than 500. Any less and the conversation can be a bit dry; any more and you might feel the sting of information overload.
4. Monitor those lists for 15-20 minutes, 3 days a week.
Practice your conversational listening. It’s entirely acceptable to jump in and answer any questions that crop up, but your primary objective here is to tune in and actively listen to your tribe.
5. Write down your insights and actionable next steps.
It’s quite easy to get caught up in the din of social media and forget why you’re participating in the first place. Make sure to write down your findings, list out how it helps you improve the lives of your customers, and make concrete plans that define what you will do next.
Let’s be real for a minute—in this digital world, freelancers are a dime-a-dozen. Our best shot at success is our ability to establish a competitive advantage by differentiating ourselves. The conversational listening process ultimately helps us with this.
People love to be listened to. Impressions stick when people feel they are being heard, recognized, and understood. Listening, caring, and delivering? There’s a USP for ya.