In the network economy Listening beats Talking: Listening is another way of finding answers – and finding answers from new places – from customers, partners and employees outside of the leadership circle. Why is this important? Most of our companies are structured to talk. Marketing, PR, Tradshows and events – are all vehicles for advocacy – for talking. Listening companies reap the benefits of reduced cycle time, open innovation and better customer intimacy and loyalty.
Ultimately, listening is a commitment to take action on the part of a company. Because they do this so well, Starbucks is often cited in this regard. “My Starbucks Idea” definitely gets it right. Despite the fact that I am no fan of Starbucks they are part of the dialogue on improvement and they take action when ideas reach critical mass in the community.
But where do you start?
While there are paid services and tools for monitoring online brand conversation, I often counsel clients to begin with setting up a very basic set of listening devices; free tools that allow you to get a sense of how your company is being represented on the Social Web. Here is the dead simple starting kit. I would love to hear of any additions.
Set up Google Alerts – you can track what is being said about your company quickly and easily. Google will send you a daily email.
Set up a good RSS reader – If you aren’t getting your news customized and delivered to your browser daily – you are missing out. I use NetVibes because it is elegant and also signs me into my social networks at the same time. In the workshops I run this alone is worth the price of admission since it will save you hours of time.
Search Facebook for groups with your company name (you may also want to check Bebo, HiFive and Ning if you are industrious). I had a conversation yesterday with a business owner who was stunned that his one-state restaurant chain had 37 dedicated groups in Facebook. You can also try adding adjectives to your company name (+sucks, +rules etc.)
Try this same procedure on Technorati to go back in time and see what has been said about you in the blogosphere. A friend at a major clothing retailer built her case to fund Social Web initiatives by collecting customer quotes/complaints gathered on Technorati. Add worthwhile bloggers to your Netvibes page to get a sense of what else they are talking about and tracking.