As social media sites continue their meteoric rise as the fastest growing online, the push for companies to adopt social technology increases as well. TDK’s Enterprise Social Technology Series outlines a path for incorporating social technology into enterprise business models. The series will consist of the following articles:

Social Media Listening and Participation

After completing extensive research and careful planning you may feel ready to jump into all aspects of the social media sphere, however we recommend a phased approach consisting of 7 phases:

  • Phase 1: Research
  • Phase 2: Planning
  • Phase 3: Listening
  • Phase 4: Participation
  • Phase 5: Content Creation
  • Phase 6: Buzz Generation
  • Phase 7: Feedback and Control

At this point we’ve already completed 2 of those phases, the research and planning phases. We are now ready for the campaign kickoff phase: Listening. We start by listening and learning about the communities we wish to engage with, in order to ensure that our participation in those communities has the desired effect.

The old adage “listen and learn before you act” is the guiding principle here. Learn the norms and etiquette of the communities you’ve decided to participate in… before you participate! Observe how others are communicating and how others are reacting to that communication. Find the community thought leaders who are most relevant to your target audience and listen to them. Listen to what is being said about your brand and gauge brand sentiment in the community. Find and listen to your target audience.

The central aim of the listening phase is to prepare us for the participation phase. Many social technology users simply promote their own content in social media. This is generally not a best practice and is a key reason why the content creation phase comes after the participation phase. We should engage with the community and develop good engagement habits before we start promoting content in the community. Some best practices for engagement include:

  • Personalize your brand, but practice restraint, not everything is worth sharing.
  • Align your social brand personality with your organizational vision, goals and objectives.
  • Prioritize engagement. You can’t always engage with everyone, prioritize engagement with influencers and thought leaders.
  • Seek out influential conversations and add value to them.
  • Stay positive. Focus on building your own authority and reputation, not damaging that of your competition.
  • Don’t automatically ignore negative brand mentions. If negative conversation is happening around your brand, it’s happening whether or not you get involved. Assess the situation to determine if engagement would help. Does the conversation contain influencers? Does the tone of the conversation indicate that sentiment is salvageable?
  • Build relationships, not just connections. Maximizing the leverage  provided by engaging with thought leaders and your target audience requires a mutual respect and appreciation.
  • Don’t focus solely on sharing your expertise, seek out the expertise of other thought leaders.
  • Use social technology tools to improve listening and engagement efficiency.

The final best practice mentioned is quite important. To manage listening and engagement across several disparate social media communities can be quite a challenge. Given limited resources, the more efficient this process becomes, the more we can expand media reach and energize engagement. There are many social technology tools which can help in this effort. It should be noted that these tools evolve over time. Socioadvocacy.com offered some items to consider when selecting a social listening tool.

  • Consider whether the monthly or yearly premium is within your budget capacity. Charges vary widely.
  • Does the tool monitor the social platforms that you require? 
  • Will the tool identify the social platforms your audience is using?
  • Will the tool help track your competition on social media?
  • Will the tool help track what your audience is talking about, as well as the trends they are following?
  • What metrics does the tool measure and what is the quality of the data?
  • What is the quality of the tool's customer support?
  • Take a 'test drive': Try the tool for free before agreeing to subscribe.

We’ve listed a few free tools below which can get even the lowest budget campaigns off the ground and running strong:

  • Google Alerts: Email updates of the latest relevant Google results (web, news, etc.) based on your choice of query or topic.
  • Twitter, FacebookLinkedIn, et al searches: All the major social networks have search capabilities which help you listen and engage.
  • Meltwater (Formerly IceRocket): Real time search of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Web and more.
  • SocialMention: Real-time social media search and analysis. Provides brand sentiment analysis.
  • TweetDeck: Twitter Management Dashboard.
  • Hootsuite: Social Media Dashboard for managing multiple social media networks.

Once you get the listening and participation phases underway, you will have the core of your social technology machine in motion, at which point you'll be ready to start creating content and generating buzz!

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