Shhh do you hear that? If you do that means you’re “listening.” Many businesses use social media to get their message out, but those who are the most successful at getting their message out via social media have learned to be good listeners.
Successful social media marketing involves interaction. It’s impossible to interact with your customers, prospects and influencers if you’re not listening. The challenge here is that there are only so many hours to invest in social media marketing per day. For many successful businesses, blogging is the backbone of their social marketing. Consistently producing quality content is the key to developing a quality business blog. Once you’ve established a pattern of great content, however, you’ve got to get traffic to your blog and create interaction. This is where listening becomes so critical.
Why is listening so important?
If you’re not listening, you won’t understand what the most important issues are for the audiences that you’re trying to influence. If you want people to listen to you then you can’t simply talk about yourself. Nobody knows everything, and by listening to others and sharing their content, they are much more inclined to listen to you and promote your content. Finally, listening in social media allows you to learn new things that you can incorporate in your own blog posts and ultimately share with your followers.
Now that you understand some of the reasons that listening is so important, here are a few free tools that I’ve discovered that help me to be a better listener on a daily basis.
#1) RSS Feeds
I used to subscribe to a lot of e-newsletters which clogged up my inbox, and competed with requests from prospects and customers for attention. I’ve unsubscribed to just about all e-newsletters and e-zines, and instead follow important topics via rss feed. For me personally, I feel like consuming content via rss feed gives me so much more control over my time. Instead of stopping what I’m working on to check the latest e-newsletter, I can simply check my rss feeds a few times a day to stay up to date. In fact, by following the feeds, I almost always catch someone’s latest blog post BEFORE it even makes it into their e-newsletter or e-zine; I’m actually getting the information earlier than I would be getting it via e-mail.
There are a variety of quality free sites that you can use to create a personal rss feed page. Personally, I use netvibes. Your netvibes page starts with some default (sponsor) feeds, but they are easily removed, and then you can simply pull in the feeds that you want to follow and then just drop and drag them wherever you want them to appear on your page-very cool!
My netvibes page provides so much more than feeds though-it’s more like a virtual dashboard because I can pull in a view of my g-mail account, my Twitter account, and a view of any specific words that I want to search for on Twitter. One other way that I use netvibes to listen is that I created a custom feed for LinkedIn questions that fall within my areas of expertise-not only am I listening here, but this allows me to be one of the 1st responders to any of these LinkedIn inquiries.
Other free series that you may want to consider for managing your feeds include Alltop, Pageflakes and Google Reader. If you’re wondering where to get started with feeds, I would highly recommend this blog post/podcast as a great place to start. If you do nothing else after reading this post, and you really want to organize your life and become a better listener at the same time, managing rss feeds is a terrific place to start.
Using Twitter to Listen: Many think of Twitter as a fantastic medium for broadcasting, but really it’s an even better tool for listening. Signing up for a Twitter account is free, and you can use it to listen without ever sending a single tweet. In fact, if you’re brand new to Twitter, this is probably the absolute best way to start. Specific to Twitter, here are 2 free resources that I’ve found to improve my listening:
#2) Twitter Lists
As you increase the number of people that you follow, Twitter lists will help you to filter all of the “noise” that you hear if you try to listen to your full Twitter stream all at once. You can segment your followers on 3rd party applications like TweetDeck or HootSuite, but I prefer the simplicity and limited computer brain-power required to run the basic Twitter interface. I used TweetDeck for several months and discovered that my computer runs much faster when the application was closed.
Twitter lists can be public or private; the majority of my lists are public because I want others to be able to follow them as well. As an example, I created Twitter lists titled direct mail, nonprofit, social media among others because these are all areas that directly influence my primary business of creating and managing direct mail campaigns for small businesses, PR & marketing professionals and nonprofits. How would you categorize your audiences or topics for listening? Answer this simple question and you can instantly start creating your own lists.
You create Twitter lists directly on the Twitter interface, and you can also register them on listorious which is sort of like a bookmarking site for your lists. By adding them to listorious, it increases the visibility of your lists and makes them easier for other people to find which ultimately makes it easier for them to find you. On the flip side, listorious is a great place to find others who are worth following in the areas that are most relevant to you-yet another effective way to improve your listening!
#3) The TwitterTim.es
If you’re using Twitter, then The TwitterTim.es is quite possibly the most efficient way to find great information to share that is relevant to your followers. It aggregates and ranks the most popular tweets from the people you’re following. That’s right, it’s customized just for you based on who you are following on Twitter. It’s also completely free!
It ranks which tweets/topics are the most popular across your followers, and lists the hottest ones first at the top of the page. You can preview blog posts and articles directly from the The Twitter Tim.es interface, and it even shows you which of your followers have tweeted about each topic. To make it as easy as possible, you can even Retweet directly The Twitter Tim.es. With The Twitter Tim.es, you’re not just listening, but you’re actually listening to the people that are important to you.
When you initially sign up for The TwitterTim.es it takes about 60 minutes to compile your first issue, but then once you’ve signed up, you have instant access. Your personal The TwitterTim.es will update itself so that you can check in over the course of the day to see what is trending at any given time. News travels so quickly via social media that it’s critical to make sure you are up-to-date on the latest innovations, product releases and which services are down. When you listen for breaking news, you can in turn be the first to share it with your followers.
Providing value is one of the keys to growing your social influence and social network. If you want to expand your influence, it’s critical that you learn to be a good listener. You can use free tools like rrs feeds, Twitter Lists and The TwitterTim.es to become a more efficient and effective listener. As more people discover that you’re a good listener, not only will your influence grow, but your business will grow as well.
Please share your tips for listening in the comments section below. Thanks in advance for sharing!