No matter what industry / which stage of the business you are in, the classic 5W+1H (Who/What/Where/When/Why/How) questions apply to every step of the way. Before we continue, I am going to assume you already know the “Why“, if not, please go back to your business plan and find out why you started the business in the first place.
O.K., so here we go;
Who – you want to know who are/were your customers and who will most likely be your advocates for the products/services you are offering. Have they always like it, or been referred by their family/friends to try it, or they are the gold mine — meaning they are haters-turned-lovers?
What — you want to know what people are mostly talking about; is it you as business owners, the products/services you offer, or they are talking with/about your competitors? What is the context, i.e. sentiment analysis?
Where — you know you have to start somewhere, you know you have to listen to your customers and clients and you know you have to do something if they say good/not so good thing about your business. The question is, where (which channel)? You should tailor your message to different channels depends on your market; only 13% of people online are on Twitter, most people won’t like/join Facebook Fan pages if asked to access their and their friends’ personal information, can be overwhelming sometimes, Tamara Littleton, CEO of eModeration, has a great post here which gives the reasons why Ten is the magic number.
When — this is not about the time of day, it is about when the event occurs that triggers people to talk. Were they inquiring before making the decision? Did they have great experience and simply want to spread the words or they had unbearable encounter that maybe a better solution can be offered? Can you avert the crisis and turn into opportunity?
And all the above goes back to the question of WHY, so does the cycle starts all over again. WHY they want to talk about you and to continue the conversation? WHY they buy your products/services and keep buying more? WHY they prefer to talk on specific channels? WHY they decide to talk at that moment?
So you ask, how do I start this listening? What tools can I use? Tool is just tool; you need a human mind to interpret the data and information you have collected. But if you insist to know, given the cost of accessing legacy platforms providers (Radian6, Sysomos just to name a few) creates barrier for small business owners, , I’d say DIY by using Google Alert and/or Social Mention; the brilliant Jay Baer has great resource here , or a recent article from MarketingProfs “5 Free & Easy-to-Use Listening Tools for Monitoring Social Media” can also help you.
Here are some sobering numbers about the real use of social media, from @jasonfalls. EVERYONE should read this http://izmy.us/uF1 . The DIY tools are good enough until your brand gets about 300 mentions per month, and then you’ll want some more analytics.
So, are you listening? In the right place ??