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?