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I just watched the Livestream of an interesting panel discussion on social media listening hosted by JWT as part of the Social Media Week in New York. It is a topic that fascinates me. Very often the emphasis in social media campaign is on curating or creating content and on updating things on a regular basis. I have given this advice too. But the second important aspect of a social media marketing venture is listening – and this does not always get the attention it deserves.

The unique aspect of a social media campaign, as opposed to a print media campaign, is that you can track the individuals who you reach. When people comment or follow your postings you get additional information about what they like or dislike about your product or service. Social media engagement will be meaningless if you do not follow-up on this information. So, instead of just focusing on the number or visitors or on conversion rates, pay attention to who drops in and engages with your profile. Sometimes it may seem like a tangential question but it may be worth answering it and following it up to see where it leads.

Image courtesy of Idea Champions

This brings up the question of whether all commenters or followers should be treated equally? The panel did address this question and I appreciated the point that ultimately a brand will establish its sincerity only if it listens to all followers equally rather than focusing on the influencers. While I truly appreciate the democratic spirit of the comment, I feel that every social media marketing manager has to have some standards of the kind of comments they will answer or address. The truth is that there are a spammers and promoters who comment, sometimes in abrasive and provocative terms, to just get a click through to their site. It does not make sense to give them the same value as others who are genuinely engaging with the content.

Whether you are a non-profit entering Facebook or a small business owner using Tumblr, plan your social media time to include the time for listening and responding. Given that circles of influence on social media are ultimately fairly personal, each connection you make is going to have a ripple effect. Stay alert for spam and do not hesitate to draw the line about not engaging with irrelevant comments. Talking and listening are important for meaningful communication. And remember that a big part of listening in social media is sorting out the signal amidst the noise!