Social Media Marketing for Beginners #1: Listening and Brand Monitoring

by Matt Burgess on March 27, 2010

Social Media Marketing for Beginners is a regular column on this site, in which we discuss the fundamentals of marketing in the world of social media for businesses. As the name suggests, this is a column for those looking to get their toes wet for the first time, although even if you’re already experienced in the social marketing world… well – despite what they tell you – you certainly can teach an old dog new tricks. To keep up to date with this series, be sure to subscribe to our free updates.

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Social Media Marketing for Beginners #1: Listening and Brand Monitoring

Before a brand even thinks about entering into the social media marketing world, a lot of questions need to be answered:

  • Are our customers even using this service?
  • Is it relevant to our conversations?
  • What is our end goal here?
  • Should we really even be involved here in the first place?

All of these are vital questions, and we’ll be looking at them in the coming weeks. But there is one thing that I think every business should take advantage of in the social media world – regardless of the answers to those questions – and that is listening.

If there is one thing that any business should be actively doing, it is listening to their customers and the general marketplace. For some, it may be too much to monitor the market place for general terms related to your industry, but at the very bare minimum, you should be monitoring online media for mentions of your brand name, if not more generic terms.
If you’re monitoring the web for mentions of your brand name, you’ll not only be able to identify possible brand evangelists, but also identify issues within your business. It can be both a rewarding and sobering experience to see exactly what customers are saying about your business, but it is undeniably an important one.

So today we’re going to discuss ways for you to monitor your brand’s presence online.

Now, first of all, yes, there are paid solutions for this. And yes, most of them offer great service. If you’ve got budget to burn, check out Radian6, Alterian, Scout Labs or Trackur. To be honest though, most of those solutions – excepting possibly Trackur – are going to require far too much financial investment for those businesses who are just looking to dip their toes into this world. Don’t worry though… the options we’ll discuss today are ones that you can set up today – in just a few minutes – that won’t cost you a cent. We’ll start off with a step-by-step option, and then a “one-step solution” at the end for those people who simply don’t have a spare second.

One thing to bear in mind before starting this exercise: social media monitoring can be a major time sink. If you start off too broad, it’s the classic example of “information overload”. You’ll have too much information coming in, that you’ll find it hard to actually pick out actionable items. Which is why I’d suggest starting off with simply your brand name, and possibly one or two generic terms related to your business to begin with. Once you’re comfortable with sifting through that information, you can expand your net… but make sure you’re not overloading yourself to begin with.

Now that the preamble is out of the way, let’s dive into today’s activity: monitoring the online web for mentions of your business.

Step 1: Set up an RSS Reader
To streamline the process as much as possible, we’re going to be using an RSS reader. Never used an RSS reader? Never even heard of RSS? No problem. Here’s a quick run down: RSS stands for “Really Simple Sydnication”, which basically says it all; RSS is simply a way for readers to subscribe to web-based content, and have updates delivered to you when new content is released. We’ve got a bit more on that on our “What the heck is RSS?” page.
An “RSS reader” provides you with one central location to read all those “RSS feeds” that you subscribe to. There are quite a few services that you can try, but for our example, we’re going to be using Google Reader. If you don’t already have a google account, you’ll be prompted to create one on that page… don’t worry, it’s free and takes about a minute to do. So create the account, and you’ll have your very own brand-spanking new RSS reader!

Step 2: Search Blogs for mentions of your business name
This one’s nice and easy. Head over to our friend Google again, to their handy “blog search page” which is found here. Type in your business name, and hit the “search blogs” button. You’ll be taken to a results page, that lists results for your business name… and, would you believe it, offers an RSS option for those results. I’ve highlighted this option in the image below.

Now, click that RSS button, and it will allow you the option to subscribe with your brand-new Google Reader. Once you’ve subscribed, you’ll be alerted with every new mention of your business found in the blogosphere. Easy, huh?

Step 3: Search online news for mentions of your business name
This step is pretty much a replica of the previous one, except this time you’re searching Google News for mentions of your business. First off, head here, and again, type in your business name (bonus tip: if your business name is a “phrase”, then type in your business name within quotation marks… eg: “your business name here”). Once that’s done, you’re again taken to a results page. There is again an option to subscribe to the results, although – just to make things confusing – Google place this at the bottom of the page, not on the left-hand side as we saw previously. Here’s an image to point it out to you…

Again, simply click on that RSS option, and you’ll be able to subscribe to a feed for those results. Every time a new item is found, you’ll be updated.
Obviously, unless your business has some buzz going on, this may not provide you with too much information right away… but it’s nice to be prepared, isn’t it? 😉

Step 3: Subscribe to Twitter mentions
I’m sure that most of you would have at least heard Twitter mentioned by now, even if you aren’t an active participant. Regardless, Twitter is a fascinating beast for the insights it gives into customer service. And if your business is being mentioned on Twitter, wouldn’t you like to know what’s being said? Again, this is a simple process. Just head over to Twitter Search, which can be found here. Enter in your business name, as we’ve done previously, and hit enter.

Again, you’ll be taken to a results page, and again, there’s the option to subscribe to updates (man, this RSS thing is everywhere, isn’t it?)

You know the deal by now… click that, and you’ll have the option to subscribe in Google Reader.

Step 4: Search for what people are saying about your business on forums
The same principle applies here, except this time we’ll be using the forum search engine “Omgili”. Head over to their homepage, and enter your desired term. Again, your results page display an RSS option, although it isn’t immediately obvious…

Click on that, and once again you can subscribe to results in your RSS reader.

Step 5: Monitor. Listen. Act accordingly.
Without a question, this is the hardest part of the process. If you aren’t acting on the knowledge you gain from this process, then don’t bother. Seriously. This whole process can be invaluable to your business and how you view your customers… but only if you actually take that knowledge, and do something with it.

Still too much work for you? Seriously? Oh, ok, I’ll show you the one-step option. If you insist.

Looking for a one-step option? Well, there is one, sure. Why did I take you through that process then? Well, to be honest, because I wanted to teach you a bit more about these media online, and how you can use each one. And, to be honest, I have found that this one-stop solution can sometimes miss out on mentions of a specific term, which is why I like to split up my searches to make sure I’m not missing anything. But if you don’t even have the time to go through the above individual steps, then – as a beginner’s starting point – you can’t really beat Social Mention.

Now if you’re going to use Social Mention, I’m going to assume that you at least got as far as “Step 1” above, and you’ve already set up Google Reader. If not… go back and do that first. We’ll wait.

Back? Ok. So first off, head over to Socialmention’s homepage. As we’ve discussed for all the previous steps, enter the term you desire to monitor. Now, the important thing to note with Socialmention is that you have the option to select which channels you would like to monitor. So, for example, you could select to search just news…. or just blogs… or just videos… or, handily, search all. Which is the option I’ll be taking here.

You’ll notice that the left-hand column of the results page displays some handy metrics such as “sentiment”, “passion” etc. While these are nice to look at, I’d take these results with a grain of salt. By all means, take a look at them, but I find the results questionable at times, and difficult to base action on reliably. That’s ok though, because we aren’t using Socialmention for their metrics on engagement. The main reason for using socialmention then? Because, it too searches for mentions of your brand, and offers an RSS option.

Click that RSS option, and you’ll be updated each time Socialmention finds a new mention of your brand online.

This week’s task

Take five minutes out of your day, and implement this for your business. Honestly, it is so easy and quick to do (and above all, free!) that you’d be doing yourself a disservice not to.

Listening to what your customers are saying about your business is vital to your success. So start listening today.

Any questions about this week’s lesson?

Image credit: iboy_daniel

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