Social Media – are you talking or listening?

I have just read a very interesting blog on the Marketing Society website by Simon Kemp called “Listen, learn, earn” in which he extols the value of ‘Social Media Listening’. He believes that many marketers miss a lot of potential valuable insights by seeing Social Media as essentially an outbound communication channel – a new way to get our message across.
His recommendation is that instead (or perhaps as well) as talking, we view Social Media as a window to observe other people talking about our market, a bit like a massive and unstructured focus group. Using search tools, you can explore what people are saying about topics that are interesting to you and your business.
There are a number of free tools available – I’ve tried and, but there are plenty of others too. It’s probably a good idea to try a few and find the one that you find the easiest to use.
One downside is that you can easily get distracted from your original purpose once you start reading some of the posts, so it’s probably a good idea before you start, to jot down what it is you are looking for from your research and also how long you want to spend ‘listening’. As you explore the conversations, make some notes too, so you can capture the key insights and/or areas to explore more deeply in the future.
Simon suggests we ask ourselves some key questions to help turn what we hear into valuable learning:
Who is talking (who posted it)?
What are they (really) saying ?
Where are they saying it?
When are they saying it?
Why are they saying it (what is their motivation)?
Which elements engage other people (likes, shares, comments)?
How might these comments and the views they represent affect my business?
Whilst you can search for your company or brand name to find out what people are saying about you, it is probably more interesting and valuable to explore the benefits your business delivers, and the problems you help fix.
Happy listening,