Here’s how to stay abreast of what customers are saying about your company on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
1. Set up alerts and conduct regular web searches. To find comments outside of your own established business pages, set up Google Alerts for your name and your business name (put quotation marks around any proper names to get the most accurate results). For the result type, click on Everything to receive email notifications whenever your business gets mentioned on blogs and discussion sites. Meanwhile, use the search tools on social media sites to plug in keywords related to your company and industry. This will pull up what’s being said in the social sphere about your business and businesses like yours.
2. Consider investing in a monitoring tool. “With a small business, you want to make sure you have a pulse on what’s being said about you,” says Andrew Caravella, vice president of marketing for Sprout Social, whose social-media management software includes a monitoring component. The system scours Facebook and Twitter for mentions of a particular brand or keyword. Other useful tools that can find social media conversations: Topsy, Trackur, and Radian6 Social Marketing Cloud.
3. Make people feel as if they’re being heard. Although you don’t want to get caught in the fray of complainers who spend their free time criticizing everyone online, you do want your business to come across as caring and responsive. Often the complainers just want to be acknowledged. A restaurant owner, for example, should respond to a negative comment by saying, “‘We want to make this right’ and offer the person a coupon or something like that,” advises Andrea Vahl, a social media coach for businesses. Look for opportunities to be appreciative, too. When Vahl stumbled across a positive mention of her name on a site, she jumped into the conversation. “I commented on that forum thread and said, ‘Thanks for the shout-out, and let me give you some more insight,’” she says, noting that doing so could catch the attention of potential customers.
4. Don’t spend too much time eavesdropping. You have more important things to do (like run a business) than troll for mentions about your company. Schedule a regular time once a week for social media monitoring, such as Monday mornings, Vahl suggests. Chime in when a response could preserve your company’s reputation or showcase its offerings. “It’s important to respond; it shows you are proactive,”
Sarah Johnson is a business writer and editorial consultant. Her work has appeared in CFO and CIO magazines.