He Said What! Using Social Listening Tools

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

It’s a real punch to the gut when some unknown Internet user lambasts your brand for reasons you can’t quite grasp. But as we all know, that unknown user has friends, who have friends, who have friends …

But even worse would have been to have not seen that user’s message at all, which is why social listening tools are indispensable in the world of online marketing. (Online customer experience management firm Tealeaf, offers an example).

Seeking defined keywords, the tools crawl a defined set of social media platforms—social networks, blogs, photo sharing sites—and provide feedback, positive or negative, so that marketers can refine communications, content, frequency of messaging and even the development of new products or the redesign of existing ones.

“Many brands think that opening a Facebook page is a low-cost, appealing entry, but you can make a misstep if you start posting content that no one really cares about, so first and foremost do some listening,” said Mark Evans, vice president of digital for Catapult Action-Biased Marketing, which ranked No. 31 on the 2010 Promo 100 with $33.7 million in U.S. net revenue. “If you don’t know what they’re saying or where they are congregating, how can you know how to engage them properly?”

Here’s a quick snapshot provided by Catapult of what you need to know about social listening.

Four (broad) steps of an effective listening plan:

1. Listening Hearing what your audience is saying and where.
2. Strategy Your plan to deliver the intended end result, including content, distribution model and measurement.
3. Action Pushing your content into the space.
4. Optimization Ongoing listening and tweaking of your strategy/content based on what you’re hearing from your audience.

Available tools—free:

Technorati, NetVibes, Google Reader & Blogsearch, BlogPulse, Twitter tools

“These tools deliver data in a pretty raw manner and provide very little (if any) insight on the data. Using these requires a brand or agency person to have a strong understanding of the social media space to interpret the data,” Evans said. “These tools are a great way for a brand to stick their toe into the pool without a large financial commitment.”

Available tools—paid:
Radian 6, Nielsen BuzzMetrics, Visible Technologies, Cymfony

“These tools require a contract, license fee or subscription and deliver a user-friendly interface/dashboard,” he said. “Typically the costs depend on the level of support you’re looking for. A brand should be more committed to social media before purchasing one of these, or the money paid will go to waste.

“Brands are continually honing themselves based on what their audiences are saying about them and what their needs are,” Evans concluded. “No one goes out of the gate and has it perfectly nailed down. It’s very much about a trial-and-evolve process.”

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