This week’s guest post by Kyle Flaherty who writes a blog using insight, lessons learned and horror stories from his nearly 12 years in high-tech public relations, communications and marketing. He is currently Director of Marketing and Social Media at BreakingPoint Systems and of course you can find him on Twitter.
What’s the first rule of social marketing? Listen!
What’s the second rule of social marketing? Listen!
I first started thinking deeply about the concept of listening when I came across the term “lurker” at an event featuring Jackie Huba of “Church of the Customer Blog” and Society for Word of Mouth. The conversation came up in relation to stats that say 90% of folks involved in your social media activity are lurkers and 10% are active participants. Immediately the idea of lurkers turned into ‘listeners’ for me; people who are reading a blog, quietly joining a LinkedIn Group, reading Twitter and much more. Listeners are often your most dedicated readers and for your company they often become the most educated about your product and service and when they are ready to participate it is most likely as a qualified business lead.The best comparison is the person who walks into the auto dealership with a ream of printed materials from automotive websites, collected over a few weeks of ‘listening’, versus the person who walks in and just wants to talk with someone about their cars. The former is already in negotiating mode, the latter needs to go through the research stage in real-time, with a sales person who just wants to close. Which situation would you rather have, not only for selling, but for the customer experience? Well, what if the auto company was listening at the same time and had the new features and financing options that people had said they wanted on all of those sites. We just may have a match!
Listening is important and will set you up for success in your social marketing, if you are in any type of marketing role you must become a good listener because:
1. Listening is inspiring. Listening to your prospective community base will be the inspiration for the social media tools you use. Listening to our community on their blogs and microblogs led us to learn Ning and Facebook was of no value, for them, but rather LinkedIn was the key and we know spend a lot of time in that social network.
2. Listen before you jump. You must always listen to people first, for an extended period of time, before you jump into the conversation. For example; I have hundreds of searches within Twitter sent to me through RSS every morning, based on the pain points of our potential customers. I end up listening to these people on a daily basis, but often time take no action immediately.
3. Often silence makes the loudest noise. A great personal example is a person I listen to through his blog and his LinkedIn updates. Over the past two months I’ve learned about his pain points at work, his background, his skill set and more. He recently joined our LinkedIn group for network engineers and I could now easily reach out to him, set up a time to connect and listen some more.
4. Listening makes you a better communicator. I learned this one when I was actually in PR when my manager would tell me first to listen to how a reporter answered the phone. Was the reporter’s greeting a “hello” vs “yeah” or was the tone “speedy” vs “thought out”? I would then adjust my introduction accordingly.
The more you listen, in terms of quality of listening and quantity, the more you learn about your potential community and the better you will communicate with them in your efforts. However the question becomes how can you sort through all of the noise that is currently online. It is simply staggering to even sort through the noise on one medium like Twitter, however it is this medium that can provide you with some of the most important and impactful insights. I’m not going to write about ‘what’ you should be listening to, that obviously depends on your overall goals for Twitter, whether personal or business. Instead I’m going to go through three ways to better listen to Twitter conversations in order to get more out of your experience, consider it your Twitter Miracle Ear.
1) It’s All About the App: One of the great aspects of Twitter is the open API and the ability to use different applications when Tweeting (yes, the API restrictions are also horribly annoying, but that is another post). Originally I was on Snitter, moved to Tweetr, switched to Twhirl and now am devoted to TweetDeck…for now. I didn’t make changes for the sake of changes, in each case I need features and functionality that made listening to conversations on Twitter easier. The reason I’m now on TweetDeck is very simple; the ability to create personalized lists of conversations based on people or search terms. Using an app like Tweetdeck you can create a list of local people, sports-chat, social marketers or colleagues. All of a sudden you have created a filter on top of the firehose that is Twitter and can really catch up quickly on conversations. I’m hoping that TweetDeck, or someone, adds some features to allow for easier reading of conversation threads, but the point is to use a variety of applications and find the one that can help open up your Twitter ears.
2) RSS Is Your Friend: Each morning part of my routine, as a social marketer, is reviewing thousands of RSS feeds, most based on Twitter search terms. It all starts over at Twitter Search, where you can put in any term that you want and generate an RSS feed to track in your reader. For any business this is a critical tool in tracking the conversation about your own company, your competitors, partners and more. One recommendation when setting up these searches is to use the same keywords you have gathered for SEO purposes or the terms people are using to find your website. You will end up refining this over time for sure, but getting these set up now will help you get in on the conversation as soon as possible.
3) Routine is Your Friend: Like working out or parenting, listening on Twitter is all about setting up a routine. You’ve set up your application properly and your RSS feeds are feeding, now you have to schedule time each day in order to catch up on all of this data. Some folks might argue that “Twitter is too organic, man…you have to let it wash over you like a moonlight swim”, I’m not exactly sure who those people are, but trust me they are all over the web, avoid. But you need to set up a routine for yourself that will allow you to keep up with the often insurmountable amount of data that will be coming your way. I’ve found that my best listening is done in the morning, so I make sure to review all my RSS feeds during the first hour in the office. Then I use my Twitter application about once an hour for five minutes to review the conversations. All in all it helps me find the right conversations and listen to what folks are saying.
Each morning and throughout the day you are going to find people that are important to your business in some way or another, now it is up to you to engage. And that of course will be in my second column!