Relationships and the Importance of Listening – Why Social Media is So Powerful

By Michelle Doty | Jul 16, 2013
More Articles by Michelle

Social media is all about cultivating relationships—with fans, clients/customers, prospective clients/customers, employees, anyone you deem relationship-worthy.  Just as with any new relationship, there’s something to be said about the courting process… to be successful, you really have to listen; actually listen. Not just go through the motions, really put your whole self into understanding what’s being said, explicitly and implicitly. You have to pay attention to tone and body language just as much as, if not more than, what’s actually being said; and on social media, the same holds true.

This has been said so many times on so many blogs over the years as social media has been a part of the cultural zeitgeist; but it bears meme why you should listen on social mediarepeating, because too many brands are still not leveraging it the way they should be and engaging in the conversations that are taking place. There’s much more to pay attention to than the obvious @mentions of your brand. Instead, start empathizing and put yourself in your customers’ and potential customers’ shoes to determine the mentions (or keywords) you should be listening for. It’s easy to talk; it’s not as easy to listen, which is why the brands that do truly stand out.

Conversations are happening all over the web, with or without your involvement, and they can’t be stopped. To ensure that you’re a step ahead of potential crises, or more benignly, poised to jump in when an opportunity presents itself, you need to be engaging in social conversations. For example, let’s say you do energy audits of homes and businesses. Wouldn’t it make sense to have alerts set up for mentions of high electricity bills to be ready to offer quick tips for lowering costs when an opportunity arises? Think about the foundation this would create for a potential new customer relationship… you showed you cared, offered to help at no cost, thus beginning the courting process.

It’s not enough to do social media, or be on social media; you need to participate, to engage, and to be part of the right conversations, which all starts with listening to your audience, or your competitors’ audiences. Listening, observing, learning and applying what your customers are saying to your subsequent conversations matters more than ever.

You should be paying attention to pain points; digging into your current and potential customers’ psyches to understand what motivates them. After you start listening and observing, and really start to grasp the conversation, you should join in—answer questions, ask questions, share quick tips that address the pain points you’ve heard your audience mention, write blog posts or create longer-form content that addresses these issues in more detail. Once you start listening, opportunities for stronger, quality relationships (that translate to new, quality customers) abound.

How to get started:

I’ll cover how and where to listen in more detail in subsequent posts (tools to use, how to figure out where you’re customers are, etc.), as well as tips for engaging once you start listening, but for now, I’m urging you to simply start the listening process.

Start with the free tools. Twitter Advanced Search is my absolute favorite. I have queries set up in TweetDeck for mentions of Search Mojo, clients, competitors, keywords relevant to Search Mojo, clients, or competitors, keywords with sentiment analysis (sad face, happy face, question mark to denote a user question around that particular topic), keywords around topics I care about—sustainability, certain political issues, my locations (#Cville or #RVA), and so much more.

Twitter is full of user-generated information, and since most of the accounts are public, there’s so much information to glean, to discover. You just have to be willing to search for it and listen—really take the time to understand what’s being said. Look at the profiles of the people mentioning your brand or your competitors. Take a look at their past tweets. See what makes them tick. Use this to cultivate lasting relationships. Be there to answer questions; be there when they have a problem; be there to say thank you, to say you’re welcome; be there to retweet and @mention; just be present.

If you have some time, devote a couple hours over the next few days to listen to the conversation happening around your brand, your industry or your interests. In my next posts, I’ll follow up with some tools for listening (besides the ones built into each of the social networks) as well as some tips for leveraging what you’ve learned from listening to start cultivating a quality social community through engagement. And feel free to start the conversation with me on Twitter @mdough_tea. Look forward to talking!

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