Many small and medium businesses ignore one of the most vital – and useful – aspects of Twitter: the ability to listen.
Listening to customers, competitors and industry leaders doesn’t have to be an expensive proposition that only the “big guys” can afford, nor does it have to be a time-consuming activity that only large teams can handle. Listening on Twitter is as simple as knowing how to search.
We’ve written before about the benefits of social listening, whether listening to your competitor’s customers or your competitors themselves. It’s an essential component of using Twitter to its fullest. By listening, you’ll be on the pulse of industry news, customer opinions, competitor strategy and more.
There are plenty of fantastic listening tools out there, ranging in price from free to several hundred dollars a month. But if you’re just starting out with your social listening program, there’s no better tool than Twitter’s advanced search.
There are two basic steps you need to take in order to set up a solid search-based social listening program:
- 1) Create relevant searches
- 2) Save and review these searches
Step #1 takes some creative thinking, especially for smaller operations that don’t have a lot of social data at their fingertips.
You have to determine what to search for in order to listen in on the right conversations. Because of the hundreds of millions of tweets sent on Twitter every day, focusing in on the small – but highly targeted – portion of these relevant to you can be difficult.
If you’re new to Twitter’s advanced search, try some basic, high-level keywords at first. You might want to try searching for “New York” and “cupcakes” if you have a cupcake shop in New York. This will serve up the most recent tweets about (you guessed it) cupcakes in New York.
But to really take advantage of the advanced search functionality, you can go a littler further. If you are exclusively a cupcake shop and you never, ever serve cookies, you can use the search field labeled “None of these words” to and add “cookies.” And if you only want to only search for locals, you can enable your location and exclude anyone tweeting outside of New York.
You can also play around with sentiment (searching for people who are feeling positively towards cupcakes, for instance), relevant hashtags, relevant accounts (like your competitors), and other features.
You may have to go through dozens of iterations to get your search results looking the way you want, but with enough trial and error, you’ll get there.
Step #2 requires that you save this search and keep checking in to ensure that you have your finger on the pulse of the conversation at all times.
When you’re happy with your search results, click “Save” so that you can always tune into these results whenever you need to.
It’s a good idea to “listen” to these search results at least once a week, if not daily when you log on to Twitter. And you can make your life a whole lot easier by using a dashboard like HootSuite – which will allow you to monitor multiple searches alongside lists, your timeline, mentions and more – rather than Twitter.com to do your listening.
(Search image via Shutterstock)