This is a guest blog post from Amber Naslund, a social media and marketing professional, and the Director of Community for Radian6, where she’s responsible for client engagement, community building, and helping companies tap the potential of online reputation management and social media monitoring. She’s spent the last decade or so raising funds, building brands for companies of all sizes, and messing with all things online. The post was inspired, in-part, by Radian6 CEO Marcel LeBrun’s appearance on The A-List podcast.
When most companies hear “you have to be listening” in social media, they immediately jump to the notion that listening should be brand-focused. They’re quick to type in their company name or the names of their products to see what the web is saying.
Smart strategy, sure. But that’s not all there is to listening, and companies would do themselves well to consider listening at a different level, above and beyond their brand, to learn some important things about how their business fits into the big picture.
The value of competitive intelligence is undeniable, and there is rich information out there on the web about what your competitors are doing.
Searches can uncover not just published company information and activity, but the reactions and discussion around that information from their customers, audiences, and community.
Commentary can be positive, giving you insights into what customers love about working with the competition. Commentary can be negative, keying you into potential unmet needs that prospects might have, or opportunities to be first to market with something useful and helpful. And with careful filters on, the rumor mill can churn up interesting information about upcoming business deals, staffing changes, or product launches that might not be announced in the mainstream media.
Prospects and Leads
Often times, the people who need the products or services you offer aren’t looking for them by name. Instead, they’re announcing or expressing a problem they’re trying to solve, and looking for solutions within certain categories, independent of brand names.
For example, if I’m in the market for a lawnmower, I may ask my friends online if they have recommendations. I read reviews that others have posted about specific models. And if Toro is smart enough to be present and responsive with helpful information when I’m asking for it, they’re going to get my attention without being pushy.
We call this “listening at the point of need”, and it’s a powerful and effective way to listen broader than your brand, but find valuable business opportunities in the conversations that result.
Industry Trends and Insights
If you develop software for the hotel and restaurant industry, you need to know what they need. If you’re an architect building sustainable projects, you probably could benefit from knowing the latest buzz around LEED and green building practices.
Listening to the chatter within your industry or area of focus can turn up a gold mine of information. You can see whether the way you’re positioning your company is lining up with the needs and expectations of the community at large. You can identify issues that haven’t yet been solved well, creating opportunities for you. And you might even find new uses for products or emerging needs for existing services you can capitalize on.
By identifying the trends through raw, unfiltered and unsolicited feedback and conversation on the web, you’re getting a real-time and very human view of what matters to the people you hope to work with.
So, Get Started!
Listening for your brand is a cornerstone to any strategy. But whether you’re a new or emerging business without a lot of online chatter yet, or one that’s new to social media as a whole, listening more broadly can provide insights, business intelligence, and opportunities to build your pipeline.
It’s about more than you, it’s about the big wide world out there that is the social web. Go forth, and harness some of it.