You learn far more by listening than talking
This week I spotted friend of G&I, Will Martindale, writing an interesting article for the Huffington Post about Battersea after the London riots visited Clapham Junction in August 2011. It took me back to that night on St John’s Road and Lavender Hill, when shops and businesses I know and love, were burned and smashed by the young rioters. It was not the first night of the London riots – the violence and looting began a few nights earlier in Tottenham, but I remember I felt expectation (or should I say opportunism) in the hot, summer air. I was monitoring keywords on Twitter such as Clapham Junction and some of the key fashion store names which were appearing in an increasing number of posts. It was clear that people were mobilising towards Debenhams on St John’s Road so a colleague called the Police. She was told the Police do not respond to crimes which might happen, only those which have happened. That night in Clapham Junction saw the high street destroyed and a slice of the reported £100m cost to the taxpayer of the UK riots, clocked up in Battersea.
The recent outbreak of the Ebola virus has been tracked on social media via keyword searches of people describing unusual symptoms. This social media analysis is able to identify hotspots of human reports one whole week before officials on the ground can mobilise to declare the outbreak, thus providing valuable time advantage to medical professionals as they work to contain the spread of this deadly virus.
I enjoy seeing social media embraced as a serious channel through which organisations shape their activities and it is clear social networks provide a more powerful tool for communication than previously held by the average citizen. These two examples highlight the importance of listening as well as talking via social media and many brands would enjoy much more value from their social media investment if they spent more time listening. Consumer insight is one important aspect of the listening part of social media marketing and content marketing does benefit hugely from analysis of customer trends (when interpreted regularly and correctly), but consider also the benefits and possible strategies for listening to people who are not (yet) your customers.
Listen, and you will find new customers
There are many helpful tools to find and listen to specific users, such as Twitter Lists, Hootsuite and Klout, but don’t forget you are communicating via a social network – this is not Google adwords serving up results to specific enquiries. Twitter advertising provides the option to target users via geographical location and keyword, but despite reaching far greater numbers, delivering a promoted tweet will be considered spam if it is not welcome – we have all seen irrelevant advertisements in our streams or on our walls.
By taking the time to find the right audience and learn more about those users you are targeting, you gain the opportunity to interact personally and engage / educate them along the way. If successful, you will also enjoy access to their social reach – don’t forget: birds of a feather, flock together. Those who have attended our Twitter training courses will have heard my warning that “Tweeting out into the ether” has very little effect – I view this as akin to wasting budget on showing cold advertisements to people who really are not interested. The powerful, targeted approach starts with listening and provides a way to ensure your social media activity brings real networking benefits to your business.
Do not “hard sell” via social
When you switch from listen to talk, never bring the hard sell. I think it is fair to say the British are for the most part, not keen on the in-your-face sales techniques and I have heard many fellow UK social media users voice privacy concerns about their information being used by brands which bring intuitive adverts in their personal accounts. When you find and listen to you target audience, be careful not to whack them in the face with your business card – a good social media marketer always remembers their Twetiquette.
How do you listen via social media? Let me know on Twitter @Gertrudeandivy or in the Comments below.