A common error organisations make is assuming social media is where people go purely to share photos of their breakfast and organise parties with friends; forgetting that it is also the place where consumers are sharing their buying experiences and discussing real-life business issues with the online community.
A listening post is critical to gaining an understanding of the who, what, when, where and why of your social media strategy.
WHY: By establishing a Facebook page, Twitter account, blog or forum, you are creating an online space for people to discuss you brand, products and industry not only among themselves, but actually with you. This is a truly powerful thing to have. It enables you to learn from your customers what you could be doing better, how their needs have changed, and exactly why they are a fan of your organisation.
WHERE: Your listening post will provide an insight into where conversations are happening online which are relevant to you. Whether people are using your Facebook page to link to YouTube, Twitter to refer to your blog, or your forum to refer to other people’s blogs, you will be able to determine which platforms you could be using most effectively to communicate with your customers.
WHEN: As well as listening to your online community, it is also important to take note of their online habits. How often do they comment or ‘Like’ your post, at what time of the day/week do they use social media, do they work during office hours or are they late night computer geeks? Know when your community wants to talk to you so that when you do start a conversation, it isn’t a one-sided monologue.
WHAT: This covers what is actually being said about you, your business, your competitors, the industry and anything else relevant to your customers. What do your customers like and dislike about your products? What do they prefer in competitors’ products? What do they need? And, just as importantly, what do they like to do for fun?
Many businesses hesitate to create a listening post in fear of finding out useless information or negative feedback. However, no information about your customers should ever be considered useless, and all negative feedback should be viewed as a way to improve and grow your business. Use this information to connect with your customers on a personal level, start a dialogue online, and deliver on their needs where you can.
WHO: A listening post is one of the quickest and easiest ways to find out who are your biggest fans and foes. Be generous with your online community by re-tweeting them, holding the odd online/Twitter/Facebook sale or giveaway, sharing new information on products they’ve been dying to hear about, and providing valuable insight and thought leadership. Whether they are fan or foe, this community will also be a critical means of communication with the masses in times of crisis
If you’ve been paying attention to this blog, you’ll agree that a social media strategy is a key component to any effective communications strategy. Could you imagine developing a social media strategy without having any of the above information? It would be a struggle, to say the least.