At the heart of networked / participatory / interactive communication, there is a key activity. An activity that is involved in any real conversation. An activity that is new to advertisers, as it was completely absent from the “television advertising complex” (Seth Godin). You see what I mean? Yes: listening.
When you’re involved in a real conversation with someone, you take turns listening and speaking. And you’d better listen in a genuine way.
Not everyone is able to do that. Not every advertiser is able to do that. Problem. It has become commonsense today that your brand is no longer what you say it is. It is what Google says it is. In other words: it is what people say it is. The best thing you can do if you want to participate in this ongoing conversation about your brand is to listen in, so there is a chance for people to listen back to you when you’re speaking about your brand.
This is not a mantra. Listen first. It is a reflex you need to develop. It is the first thing you need to answer when you ask the question: what need I do in this situation. What need I do to solve this problem. What should I put in place to work out this campaign. Answer these questions by looking for the appropriate ways to listen in these situations. Your challenge is: what does it mean, “listen first” in this particular case. How can I listen best?
This means two things:
- How can “listening” provide elements to meet my needs: what should I be listening to? Your product/brand/organisation/company name, of course, but also your keywords, your competitors, the key influencers in your area – they are all starting points. Use these sources to see how people really speak about you, and use that in the next listening round to make your listening channels even richer.
- How can I best listen here: what are the tools that enable me to do so? If there are paying platforms such as Radian 6 and Alterian SM 2 to help you tap into the social media, do not forget the basic tools: Google Reader to set up RSS feeds (view my previous post about this, Google Alerts to get an email message each time Google meets one of your keywords. Use vertical search engines, such as Kurrently or 48ers. Icerocket may be useful for blogs more specifically. Use all these to set up a monitoring activity.
I just came across a very interesting Slideshare by Jeremiah Owyand from Altimeter Group. It is entitled “Eight stages of listening” and helps us understand how to analyse, monitor and participate in online conversations. Take the few minutes that are necessary to read these dozen slides NOW. Do not postpone doing this, and take a note of what is suggested. It is bound to help you out some time, when you’re wondering: what should I do?
Now, let me know if you agree! If you know more of those basic tools that can help anyone out when it comes to listening – please comment!