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Social Media: Start by Listening

Last time, we discussed determining our social media goals.  In the next few posts, we’ll offer suggestions to help you prioritize and accomplish those goals. Race Starter

Any expert worth your attention will tout listening as the first and most important element of social media success. Many businesses jump in on Facebook or Twitter and merely use it as a broadcasting tool. 

As we mentioned last time, the whole point of social media is building relationships. Think about the people with whom you most enjoy having a conversation—they offer up interesting topics and viewpoints without dominating. There’s a give and take. Satisfying conversations mean everyone involved not only contributes, but also listens to, comprehends, and comments thoughtfully on what others have to say.

Before you can foster this type of interaction on social media, you need to know with whom you’re interacting, where you should hang out, and what type of content will ignite interest and inspire a response. 

So, how do you get started? Monitor what others are already saying about you and your industry. There are fancier monitoring tools available, but I suggest starting out with free and simple versions.  Google offers two:

Google alertsGoogle Alerts
This tool allows you to monitor the latest Google results (blogs, news, videos, discussions, books) for any mention of keywords that you select. You should choose keywords based on the name of your business, key employees, new products/initiatives, competitors, and any other relevant topics you’d like to stay on top of. You’ll get daily or instant email notifications when related content is published. 

Google Reader
Google ReaderMonitoring via an RSS feed aggregator (Google Reader is the probably the best known example) lets you subscribe to new content from specific news sources, blogs, etc. without having to check in on their websites. All of your subscriptions are viewable in one place. Subscribing to relevant RSS feeds gives you a feel for hot topics and new developments in your industry, as well as ideas for content (more on that next time).  There are also several apps you can use to keep up with RSS feeds on your mobile devices.

Prioritize 1-2 social media platforms where you can have the most impact. 
How do you decide?  See if there’s any research available on social media use for your specific industry. Ask your customers, colleagues, and co-workers which platforms they use most and how they use them. Don’t spread yourself too thin at first. You don’t have to be on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Pinterest right from the beginning. Start out by setting up just 1-2 platforms (if you’re already using several, refocus on 1-2 for a while). 

Once you’re set up, there’s nothing wrong with following others and listening before you jump in with your own posts. Get a feel for the idiosyncrasies of each platform and pay attention to the strategies of others who seem to be using social media well.

Now that you’ve started by listening, you’re about ready to jump in (or refocus your efforts). Next time, we’ll cover cultivating and creating content, as well as tools to help you monitor and be responsive in your social media management.

In the meantime, how do you stay on top of the online conversations that are relevant to your business?  Are you focused on a few social media platforms or are you giving as many as you can a try?  We’d love to hear your thoughts on how social media fits into your internet marketing strategies.