If your social media manager is any good, your company is constantly listening in to social media conversations that mention your brand. There are several ways to do that, and many tools, but the simplest, most basic (and free) ones are utilizing Google Search and Twitter Search to follow mentions of your brand online.
Social media listening is obviously very important – just as important as churning out your own content, if not more so. After all, you want to know what people are saying about your brand. You want to know the good things they’re saying, so that you can thank them, retweet them, or otherwise use them in your marketing materials.
Even more so, you want to know the bad things people are saying about your brand. Negative feedback is important – it helps you improve, fine-tune your efforts, and become even better than you already are. Most importantly, listening to negative feedback can help you quickly identify social media fiascos and respond immediately, before they escalate.
In other words, in the era of social media, if a customer is unhappy, you want to know about it right away and make it right before her unhappiness spreads – and the best way to do that is via social media listening.
But here’s the dilemma: should you listen silently, or should you respond? Of course you should respond to negative tweets. But what about positive tweets? Should you retweet them? Follow the person who tweeted? Do nothing?
Many people like being followed or retweeted by the brands they like, or getting a response from the brand to something they said online. It deepens their connection with the company and shows them that it cares about them.
But many others feel that being followed by a brand is creepy – see the screenshot above, taken from the Twitter stream of one of my clients. The person said something positive about the company, I thanked them and retweeted them, and then decided to follow them. Their response tells me that it was a mistake – that I had gone too far in trying to connect with them.
Ultimately, unlike opportunistic tweets that try to take advantage of a tragedy, which should never be done, the decision whether and to what extent you should reach out to consumers online is up to you. It depends on the brand, on the consumers, and it’s really a learn-as-you-go process.
While social listening is a must, social responding and connecting is not. You can play with it a little, see how fans respond when you do follow them or retweet them, and fine-tune your actions accordingly. For that particular client, by the way, I continue to connect with fans, because the vast majority of them is flattered and excited when I do.