Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hey! You Listening to Me? A Framework for Social Listening (with No Budget)

I've been tracking social media for a while now, and have decided that those of us who monitor social media are more akin to anthropologist than marketers. Certainly, you have to decide who and what topics to follow - and why. But like an anthropologist, you have to sit with human beings and understand their behavior, their norms, their culture, and follow that tribe as it changes.

There are numerous blogs out there that can give you tools on how to track social media for free, and paid. In most cases, the free version of listening to your social media audience can involve multiple tools including Twilerts, Google Alerts, Technorati, Backtype, and others. These are tough times, and you may need to make the business case before you spend a dime on a listening platform.

Soo...just as important (if not more so) than the tools themselves is a framework to make sense of the all the noise. Here's four steps to getting some insight from listening to social media. (Feel free to click on images for better readability).

Drink from the fire hose (sort of). Using a free listening platform tool like SM2, Filterbox, Yahoo Pipes and/or Social Mention - identify where there is a good deal of conversation around your target audience. This will probably take a few weeks, and many track back historical data - which may get you there sooner. What you are looking for is this: common social media sites (networks, blogs, micro-blogs, taggers) and individuals that come up - again, and again. (Keep in mind, in social media - these sites and influencers can change often). You might already know a few movers and shakers in your space - now might be the time to check out their digital footprint.

2. Take a deep breath - and jump in. Who are the influencers? Who gets linked often, mentioned often, re-tweeted often? What are common topics that are viral? What are the concerns of these communities? You can use my handy guide (images from Mr. Men and Little Miss) as a benchmark on identifying influencers.

3. Compare yourself -and your competitors in these exchanges. Are you given relevant content, insight, and spaces to encourage dialogue? How strong a presence does your company vs. your competition? Who's involved in social media at your competitors? How big a 'social footprint' do they have?

4. How can you be better? Now comes the tricky parts. I like brainstorming using the POST method from Forrester- along with sweat equity 'free' research to create a relevant preliminary strategy for social media. Be prepared to answer the question: Now What? When? Why? Be sure to set realistic expectations, and to debunk a few social media myths.


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