Social listening is vital for thought leaders to stay up to date with what is going on in their field. Good social listening means that you understand the concerns of your customers and competitors. Here are a few suggestions to improve your social listening skills.

It is important to be able to monitor and react in real-time

This may be more important for consumer brands such as restaurants, with much bigger customer bases, but it is still important in B2B. If you are not on top of what is being said, and able to respond quickly and effectively, you could suffer some serious reputational damage. Use good social software to analyse what is being said in real time—and then act on it.

Use social alerts to make sure that you don’t miss anything

This is especially important when you have just launched a new campaign or are focused on a particular message. A negative mention elsewhere, with a different hashtag, may go unnoticed, but could cause problems later. Using Smart Alerts means that you will not miss anything.

Monitor continuously, not just during a campaign

 It is tempting to stop social listening when you’re busy. After all, you only really want to know about responses to a new campaign or similar, don’t you? No. You want to know about your customers’ pain points and problems on an ongoing basis, so that you can help to solve them.

Follow customers and influencers to be aware of important developments

Yes, you need to listen to your customers. But you also need to be aware of who is influential in your space—whether key customer, competitor or outside expert—and listen to them as well. Follow them on Twitter or LinkedIn, and make sure that you check in regularly, responding and commenting on their posts to build connections.

Experiment with different tools to simplify listening

Social platforms offer multiple ways to filter and simplify listening, and make your life easier. Most allow you to create streams linked to specific terms or phrases, which helps enormously if you’re trying to follow several subjects. It will search both Google + and Twitter, and you can check it once a day to see what’s new. You can also set up pre-prepared responses if appropriate, to speed up the reply process.

LinkedIn saved search is very good for social listening

You can follow influencers even if you are not connected to them, just as you can on Twitter. Search within LinkedIn is also a good resource to identify people who are talking about particular terms or keywords. What’s more, because of LinkedIn’s focus on more in-depth thinking, it moves a bit slower than Twitter. Conversations can last several weeks or months, rather than hours.

Twitter itself is still a great tool for keeping track of competitive activity

 It may move quickly, making it harder to keep track, but Twitter is a great source of competitive intelligence. It has an awful lot of users, and you can follow anyone you like, including your competitors. You can search by hashtags or handles, and conversations are linked together. With so much going on, it is hard not to find useful information.

RSS is an efficient way to keep up with specific publications

Away from social media, RSS, or Rich Site Summary, allows you to keep to up to date on specific websites. If you subscribe to the website’s RSS, your browser will automatically check for updates, and let you know about them. You need a piece of software called an RSS reader, and you enter the website details into that. It checks your specified sites on a regular basis, which is helpful for things like industry-specific blogs.

Google Alerts are among the best options for staying abreast of the whole internet

By creating a Google Alert on a particular topic, you can be alerted by email every time Google finds a new result on that topic. This takes advantage of the fact that Google is constantly scanning the web, and means that you don’t have to. You can specify whether you want to see new results as they are found, or once a day, or once a week.

Services like Buffer will help you pull everything together in one place 

You can add RSS feeds to your Buffer social profiles, and share links directly. This means that you can bring together results from several sources into one place, making it easier to scan.

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