Portions excerpted from Real-Time Marketing & PR: How to Instantly Engage Your Market, Connect with Customers, and Create Products that Grow Your Business Now by David Meerman Scott. Used with permission. John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010.
By: David Meerman Scott
Every second of every day, people around the world are talking online about the companies they do business with and products that they use. Simple and free social media monitoring tools allow you to listen in on these discussions as ordinary people talk about your company.
Big or small, it doesn’t matter: You need to know what’s being said about you and about the issues critical to your business to help protect your company’s online identity. And in order to react in real time, you need to know quickly.
The first priority in your social media marketing strategy is to listen to bloggers, analysts, journalists, and others who talk frequently about you and your business. To find these voices, start by checking the search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing, and so on) for all the relevant keywords and phrases you can think of: your company, customers, competitors, prospects, product categories, buzzwords -- whatever you can think of.
Tools for Social Media Monitoring
Once you have identified key sources, the next step is to begin monitoring what they say in real time.
As its name suggests, the really simple way to do this is using RSS, “Really Simple Syndication” -- a tool that allows you to harvest content from hundreds of blogs and news feeds without having to visit each one. RSS feeds update each time a site changes, alerting you to relevant information on topics that you specify. I use Google Reader for this, but there are many RSS readers to choose from.
Twitter is another social media platform to stay on top of breaking news. Many bloggers, journalists, and media outlets now use Twitter to drive traffic to fresh content as it appears. If these sources are active on Twitter, you’ll find a Twitter ID on their sites or blogs. Use TweetDeck or another Twitter-monitoring tool to aggregate your important Twitter feeds (that is, sets of tweets important for your business) so you can easily monitor what’s being said by the people who matter to you.
How to Stay on Top of the Millions of Discussions Going on Right Now
- Create a comprehensive list of search terms relevant to your activities. Include the names of your company, senior executives, competitors, customers, prospects, products; plus any relevant buzzwords or phrases -- every term you can think of!
- Use search engines (e.g., Google News or Yahoo! News) to set up a news alert using those search terms. This will automatically inform you in real time when any of your search terms crop up. Set up alerts on blog search engines, too. Note that if you choose Google Alerts, you can set the alert to let you know when a phrase appears in multiple content types, so one set of alerts can help you monitor blogs, newsfeeds, Web sites, and more.
- As monitoring progresses you will likely need to modify your search terms as some yield a flood of “false hits” and others nothing. Some services offer advanced features that allow you to refine your searches. For instance, Boolean operators like “and,” “but,” and “not” can make your searches more specific. If you need help, look for independent consultants with a background in library science. Add new search terms as you go along (watch for tags that authors apply to items that interest you). It’s an ongoing process, so you can’t just “set” your search terms and forget about them.
- Monitor your search terms on Twitter, too. Some tweets will show up in your news alerts if you use a service that indexes Twitter, like Google. Even so, I find it’s more effective to monitor Twitter directly. Use a Twitter monitoring tool like TweetDeck or HootSuite to catch your key phrases. You can also use Twitter’s own search function for one-off searches.
Drive the Social Media Conversation
The goal here is to know what people say immediately, so you can comment in real time, if appropriate. And that is certainly easier when you have already identified people who are likely to talk about you and your company.
It’s like joining a circle of your friends at a cocktail party: You can anticipate that their conversations will interest you. And because you are accepted by the circle, you can easily jump in with your own thoughts.
So as you monitor the people who talk about you, it is good to get a sense of what each person’s interests are. If someone writes about your industry, get to know their specific interests. Comment occasionally on their posts or articles even if they don’t refer to your company or products. If you’re already a known voice, your opinion will be taken more seriously when you jump in to discuss something directly related to your business.
The benefit of reacting quickly and being among the first to comment is huge. You are seen as someone who cares and is on top of what’s going on.
David Meerman Scott's book, The New Rules of Marketing & PR, opened people's eyes to the new realities of marketing and public relations on the Web. Six months on the BusinessWeek bestseller list and published in more than twenty languages, New Rules… is now a modern business classic. Scott's popular blog and hundreds of speaking engagements around the world give him a singular perspective on how businesses are implementing new strategies to reach buyers. Now, in Real-Time Marketing & PR, Scott opens eyes again with his groundbreaking ideas on the opportunities (and threats) inherent in today's always-on, 24x7, instant business environment.