Arment Dietrich

Five Steps to a Social Listening Program

By: Arment Dietrich | March 28, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by Lisa Gerber.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised anymore. Maybe I’m just sad now: At how many organizations are missing opportunities to be involved in the conversation.

How many times a day do you come across a scathing review; one that influences your decision not to buy?

And would that decision be influenced the other way if the organization had responded in some manner – be it with an apology, an explanation, or a resolution?

The funny thing is, I bet most really have intentions to be involved, but don’t know how.

If you’ve seen Jay Baer speak, you’ve seen his example of a motel review on TripAdvisor that has been sitting there for YEARS talking about fear of being murdered in the motel and HIV in the mattress. It’s the only review, so I’m guessing everyone reads it and moves on to the next choice.

I’m going to try and de-mystify the whole idea of social listening. I’m not just talking about product reviews. I’m talking about blogs, news sites, forums and discussion boards, and social networks. It takes more than a Google alert and a Twitter search but it’s not hard. And once you create a listening dashboard, it’s even easier to check it daily or more frequently depending on the nature of your business.

If anyone is talking about your industry, you, or your competition in comments of blogs, news articles, video or the social networks, you now have the opportunity to decide if you want to say something.

  1. Develop your Keywords. Use the Google Adwords Keyword tool and determine carefully your listening topics.
  2. Monitor Twitter: You can use Hootsuite or TweetDeck. Create a search column for the keywords. Now start paying attention to who is tweeting. Start following them and add them to a list. I have my lists created by clients.
  3. Follow Blogs and Google Search. In your RSS reader, create a folder for this particular listening campaign. Start paying attention to the blogs being uncovered in the twitter search and subscribe, adding them to that file in your reader. Set up Google alerts for your keywords and add them to the same file in your RSS feed. Handy!
  4. The Kitchen Sink. Blog comments, Q&A sites, forums and discussion boards, oh my.
    • Boardreader scours the forums and discussion boards.
    • Topsy watches blogs and news and shows you trackbacks from across the web. Trackbacks is a great feature because if you see something alarming, say, in a blog post, you can actually check to see how many people are linking back to it. In other words, exactly how bad is this going to get? Are people paying attention to it and sharing it?
    • Then you have to think about Flickr, Yahoo! Answers, Google blog search, video, QuoraWikiAnswers, socialmentionFacebook, and even WDYL.
  5. Build the dashboard. Bring everything under one roof. Use a dashboard like your RSS reader and build RSS feeds from each of the searches listed above. Netvibes is a social monitoring dashboard that brings all these existing tools together under one roof. The user experience in netvibes isn’t superb, but you can toggle the layout to a newsfeed type or a widget. It’s going to be more helpful for the person who doesn’t understand how to set up RSS feeds, because it walks you through the process of installing the different search widgets.

Now, you too, can watch the web and be sure you are involved when you are needed.

So? what did I miss? Are you listening? What are some tools and secrets you use?

  • Superb explanation on how to effectively do this. This is so important and I believe massively underutilized. Have you ever found businesses balk at this because they’re unsure about resourcing it or its value?

    •  @JoelFortner Thanks, Joel, and yes, we hear it all the time – which is really what motivated me to write about it. It’s not that difficult in terms of resources and dollars to do it in a very basic way – to be able to participate in the conversation, and respond when needed. Really, can anyone afford NOT to be doing it, as in the example of the Jay Baer’s reference above and what we show clients all the time.
      Being absent is far more conspicuous than being present. 

      • I think your comment about affording not to be doing it is key.  Thanks for the great information.  I’ll surely point people to it.

  • I am a big advocate of social monitoring and agree with your points 100%. Monitoring your brand, products, industry or competitors can give you a better sense of where you stand plus allow you to see how the market feels about certain products or services. It’s a great research tool! 

    •  @anandp29 I bet a lot of people and organizations think they already know what they will find so they don’t bother. Everyone would be surprised. 

  • jakelepiarz

    Social media monitoring has been a bit part of my job for years now. Data intensive, often tedious, but critical to clients, especially those in high risk industries.

  • jakelepiarz

    Social media monitoring has been a big part of my job for years now. Data intensive, often tedious, but critical to clients, especially those in high risk industries.

  • Great tips @Lisa Gerber . I pursue some small businesses I see so much potential for and set up my own listening then ask them ‘Have you seen this?’ whether for insight, reaction etc and they always say ‘how did you find that?’.

    •  @HowieSPM So when you say pursue, you use it as a new business pitch opportunity? Such a great idea!

  • GnosisArts

    You offer some sound tips, Lisa. You’re right: as the Web proliferates more and more nodes where your brands can be discussed, the time spent monitoring can grow exponentially. As you alluded to, the PRs social listening toolbox can get quickly get jam-packed with tools, many of which you may only use, like, once or twice a year, lol.
    But please indulge my fancy and allow me to shamefully add … yet another tool to your readers’ monitoring toolbox, lol. This is like the tool your hubby or boyfriend buys for that sharp, within-a-millimeter handyman job that only happens once in a while but is important enough for him to go to Home Depot and buy that new thing-a-ma-jig he’s been clamoring over (i.e, not really necessary but makes the job a WHOLE lot easier!)
    It’s called Gnosify. It allows you to monitor keywords on Twitter via text message. It is especially useful for following trending hashtags, event hashtags and setting up tweetchat reminders.
    Sign up here
    Eric Bryant
    Gnosis Media Group

    •  @GnosisArts This looks WAY COOL!! Going to check it out for sure. 
      PS, I wouldn’t let my husband by sharp tools. 🙂 

      •  @GnosisArts Um. of course I meant BUY sharp tools. Holy cow. Guess I’m  not the sharpest tool in the shed today. 

  • Nice and great post.
    Thanks & regards.

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  • Eric brought up Twitter chats, and I’d definitely add them as a specific listening point…go to the list of Twitter chats and find out if there’s one related to your niche/industry, and then either lurk for intel or get active.  I love this type of “nitty gritty” get-it-done post! Thanks!

    •  @rosemaryoneill This is an awesome point, because the monitoring process will naturally uncover hashtags and twitter chats for those keywords (and that is part of the analysis report). But I didn’t include a step for proactively finding them. Do you use a specific search tool for twitter chats? 

  • lisagerber

    @kelleemagee 🙂 Thanks, Kellee!

  • Great post,  @Lisa Gerber ! What I really like is that you’re asking people to consider monitoring more than just social media. There are lots of free tools that grab different segments of the web and bring back the relevant results so companies can measure and respond. At spiral16  we try to hammer home the idea that the web is a much bigger place and as Jay points out, there could be posts out there that you need to know about. I think businesses tend to get tunnel vision sometimes, which is dangerous. Our tool helps people measure the web more comprehensively and provides a deeper level of analytics and benchmarking, but as you point out, even without a paid tool, companies should look beyond TweetDeck and HootSuite to stay on top of things.
    Eric Melin

    •  @SceneStealrEric  spiral16 Absolutely!! I haven’t had the chance to play around with Spiral 16, but larger organizations, they absolutely need to be using tools such as yours to be able to do it really well and at volume. Thanks, Eric!!

  • Very smart topic and related to the podcast that Joe Hackman had with Ken Mueller yesterday about local review sites. It really is shocking that more businesses fail to take a look around the web to see who is saying what about them.

    •  @TheJackB  Joe Hackman  Ken Mueller I heard Ken was on that podcast! I was trying to bug him on Skype!!! I’ll have to go have a listen. 

  • trontastic

     @Lisa Gerber I could hug you for writing this. Over and over and over again I ask business owners what people are saying about their brand and they haven’t a single clue in the world. If you’re a small business owner and don’t have the (or any) additional time in the day, having a single source for all of this is really really important. You need to be able to get in and get out quickly so you can move on to other things.
    The other side of this that people typically don’t think about but should be aware of is coverage acuracy. One would assume that when you have a Google feed for a keyword, they are going to see what ever Google sees for that keyword and will report back on it. That isn’t the case at all. Know that Google is going to limit the amount of information it gives back to you, as they should or you would be getting millions of results in your RSS. Same goes for other RSS type feeds. You’re typically going to see the “most popular” discussions, comments or threads to a certain extent.
    I think I’ve mentioned this one on a previous post but I’d recommend business owners check out Trackur ( They do a good job bringing everything under one roof and continue to improve their coverage accuracy. i’m not affiliated to them in any way, just a fan of their product. They have a free version and go up from there.

    •  @trontastic I’ll gladly accept the hug!
      Good point about the coverage accuracy – was interesting to see all the things I discovered in deeper tools that weren’t coming up in Google alerts. Checking out Trackur now.

  • I’m a social talker; at least my wife thinks so. She tells me ‘why don’t you shut the hell up and listen sometimes’? She didn’t really say hell, but the rest is true. I feel it’s my duty and obligation to help the socially awkward feel more comfortable at social events….I’m trying to be a better listener…..
    Your game plan really sounds like work but since I know you are smart like that I will probably take some time to at least take it to the next level. Sometimes it’s just best not to know what other’s are saying about you; of course, I’m sensitive like that so I’d rather be fat, dumb and happy……just sayin’….

    •  @bdorman264 I haven’t met either of you in person but somehow I can picture her telling you to shut up. It’s making me laugh. 

  • lisagerber

    @shonali Thank you thank you! 🙂 Ps, been meaning to take a photo of an atomic pushup for you. maybe today!

    • shonali

      @lisagerber I wanna see NOW!!!

      • lisagerber

        @shonali They are too atomic to do during the work day.

  • lisagerber

    @prtips Thanks, Springboard!! 🙂

  • lisagerber

    @giselenmendez thanks, Gisele!

    • GiseleNMendez

      @lisagerber My pleasure, Lisa 🙂 How are you today?

  • lisagerber

    @bdorman264 HAHA. I know, it’s way more fun to talk. about oneself.

  • lisagerber

    @heathersemplice Hi, and thanks, Heather!

  • lisagerber

    @gcmelvin Thanks for sharing my post,Greg!

  • lisagerber

    @cargillcreative @shatterboxVox – thanks for the RT’s!

  • AllisonNNH

    At my company, Manzama (the first listening platform designed for law firms, , this is exactly the conversation we’re having with our clients. They have been very focused on how to contribute to the social media conversation, and not so much on how to capitalize on it. It’s time to think about what’s being said about the firm, its clients, etc…and to figure out how to leverage that information for competitive advantage. 

    •  @AllisonNNH Hi, it’s months later and I am over grabbing a link, not realizing I had some comments over here to address! So glad to hear this. It’s INCREDIBLE what we’ve been able to accomplish with one particular client with whom we’ve set up this listening dashboard. They are using it to respond to criticism, share their side of the story and really turn some detractors around by providing better information. 

  • rdopping

    We’ve not met yet but I see you around a bunch o blogs in my network. Guess I need those tools, huh. It’s April 4 a full 7 days after your post. I am using iGoogle but it’s pretty limited (mail, google reader and some other widgets). I will check out Google Ad Words Keyword. Good one, huh? I am finding Google Alerts kinda sporadic (probably not using the right way). Man, this stuff is sometimes exhausting. So much social, so little time.
    Thank for the tips though, very helpful. BTW, any friend of Dorman’s is a friend of mine. That gives a guy I’ve never met a lot of credit.

    •  @rdopping Hi!!!! I’ve seen you around too. and now you don’t have to feel so bad, because you were 7 days late. I’m about 4 months late!
      Google alerts are good but not entirely reliable. This system works really well, we’ve discovered. Let me know if you have any questions. Would love to hear how it goes. and sorry about my slow reply. 🙂 

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