Still knock-kneed about your role in Social Media? Start with Active Listening

This is another one of those items that’s been sitting in my gotta put this in writing file.  This post from John F. Moore finally spurred me into action.

Still some of the most frequent questions I hear about social media, and in particular customer service’s role in social media, are rooted in a fear of the unknown, the perceived risk of such an unstructured channel and what I believe is some circles in social media potentially over complicating things a bit.

Customer service, maybe because of historically being painted into the ‘cost of doing business’ corner, seems in large part still a bit knock-kneed about taking the social CRM reigns within their organizations.

Amber Naslund, Director of Community at Radian6, a leading social media listening platform, in a recent webinar suggests easing into social media by first passively listening to what is being said.  Passive listening can be done very simply and with little expense.  Passive listening allows you to eavesdrop on the conversation with virtually no risk. 

In your personal lives, I’m sure you’ve all Googled your name (and if you haven’t I’d suggest it) just to see what might be out there on the web about you.  This is pretty much the same approach.

In a corporate setting, where resources are scarce, I’m going to suggest a slightly modified approach – active listening.  An initial active listening project is a more formalized method for eavesdropping on social media. An active listening project will help you justify the time and effort spent by establishing a project with a fixed time horizon and defining measurable questions to be answered; building your business case and defining your ROI model.

Active listening, formalized as a defined project, can address two key issues:

1. Build a level of confidence in your capabilities while contributing significant input to your social strategy development.

2. Answer the ultimate question “should I be engaging in social media?”

While many of you reading this may emphatically answer that with “YES!”, for some, engagement may not be relevant, at least not right now.  Some conversations I’ve had recently are with 100 year old plus, global brands with a fairly low tolerance for risk, perceived or real.  And, many of their key consumer demographics may still be largely engaging in off-line word of mouth.

So, if, during your active listening project, you hear your customers enforce, engaging in conversations where you should be participating, then go for it.  Take that information and develop your plan and don’t hesitate any longer.  Or, your competition will engage your consumers for you.

If, on the other hand, you listen and hear crickets, step back, continue to monitor and reevaluate systematically over time; spending today’s dollars and resources on providing exceptional customer experiences through other channels where your consumers are currently active.   

As for tools to help organize the information, whether in passive or active listening mode, there are  a myriad free tools to help you search, filter and organize topics of interest such as your company, brands, competitors and industry trends.

Here are two pretty good lists of free tools for starters:

Level Ten Design

Marketing Pilgrim

More on an approach for an active listening project later.

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