In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had a lot of conversation about WHYyou should participate in a social media program. So you want some tips and tools on HOW to actually do that now?!?

The very first step is to LISTEN and that’s where we’re going to focus today.

* Go to Twitter search and enter your name, your company name, any of your brand names, even your competitor’s names. Write down anything that is alarming or interesting. You can subscribe to the RSS feed so you don’t have to do the search every day.

* Or, if you’d prefer email alerts, go to TweetBeep, enter the search terms, and set up your account that way.

* Part of your listening should always include monitoring blog posts. But sometimes that’s not enough. What if someone is writing about you (positive or negative) in a blog’s comments? Use BackType to search the comments and to search for specific people who might always try to bring you down. For instance, if “IMAJERK” always comments about you, you can set up BackType to track them.

* BoardReader lets you monitor discussion groups and forums. This is great for knowing when a new group or discussion begins about your company. I have a friend who is the CEO of Bojangles. They have more than 20 Facebook pages set up by avid customers that are not supported by the company. Anytime a new fan creates a page, they are able to track it via BoardReader. Likewise, if someone were to create an “I Hate Your Company” page or discussion group, you’d know it immediately through BoardReader.

* I love Trendrr (as opposed to Google Trends) because it gives me pretty, shiny charts and graphs. I love numbers and I watching charts increase so this is perfect for me. Trendrr allows you to track and compare the trend of any keyword, including your company, you, or your competition. You can then compare them to other keywords to figure out where the trends are and what you should be including in your social media strategy.

* But if you do only one thing, use TweetDeck. This easy-to-download and free desktop application allows you to create searches. So just like you would do with Twitter search, this gives you real-time results right where you tweet. I have searches set up for each of our clients, Arment Dietrich, and Gini Dietrich. Anytime anyone tweets about anything I”m searching, it automatically aggregates them into columns in TweetDeck. It’s a lifesaver and I’m able to respond immediately.

I use a combination of all of these tools daily to be certain I don’t miss anything. It allows me to connect and engage, but also to monitor for any issues or concerns. AND it sets benchmarks for social media campaigns, based on trends.

At some point, you’ll need to graduate from free tools and look at services such as Radian6, Sysomos, Rapleaf, Infegy, or Scout Labs. But if you’re just getting started, or if you don’t have monitoring tools in place, the above are a great place to start!

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich