Finding Where Your Customers Are Talking About You Online
On Tuesday, I gave a webinar on how businesses can use social networking to learn about their customers, deepen their relationships with customers, and provide more effective and responsive customer service.
You can view the archived version of the webinar for free. When you click that link, it looks like it’s for registration of the event that already happened, but if you step through the registration process, it’ll bring you to the archived video.
In the webinar, I talked about how your customers are likely already online talking about your brand and your industry. The web is full of all kinds of community-driven sites where you can listen to what your customers are saying and can get involved. I talked a bit about setting up a social media program in your company, and some things to consider as you get started, as well as getting engaged in the conversation, improving customer relationships, and benefiting from the feedback.
Monitoring the conversation
In the comments to the previous post, someone asked what tools I recommend for tracking conversations about you online. That really depends on your situation. If you have a large brand and time is more valuable than money, you might consider hiring an agency to track and aggregate the conversations for you. A service such as TruCast compiles conversations, scores them, and, and provides workflow management for responses.
You can set up various searches and alerts or use a product like Andy Beal’s new Trackur to aggregate those searches for you.
Below are some ideas for a free, low-tech way to get started if you want to try setting things up yourself. You can set up all kinds of searches about your brand, your competitors, your industry — just about anything you want to track. Here are some places you might get started.
Google Alerts tracks web search, Google Groups, Google News, Google Video, and Google Blogsearch.
Unfortunately, Google Alerts can only be sent to your email, and aren’t available via RSS. If you have the alerts sent to a Gmail address and you assign those emails a label using filtering, you should be able to then subscribe to the RSS feed of that label using an RSS aggregator that supports authenticated RSS (using the feed format https://mail.google.com/mail/feed/atom/labelname/), but I haven’t been able to get that to work.
You can also set up separate searches for each of these and with some of them, for instance, Google Blogsearch, you can set the search up as an RSS feed. For Google Blogsearch, just do the search, then click the Subscribe link you want on the left.
Google web search has some interesting advanced options. For instance, to get web search results for a topic that have appeared within the last 24 hours, you can choose Advanced Search from the Google home page, then expand the date options. Set up the parameters you want, then click the Advanced Search button.
I normally suggest people track Twitter conversations with Terraminds, but it’s currently down and I’m not sure when it will be back up. You can set up tracking directly in Twitter, but Terraminds is nice because you can subscribe to the RSS feed of the searches and you don’t need a Twitter account. To track a search term on Twitter, simply sign up for Twitter, then send the message “track
Flickr and YouTube
As I mentioned in the webinar, there are photo pools for just about everything. When I spoke at SEMPdx in January, one of the attendees had a winery client and we talked about how she could find wine-related photo pools and post pictures of the vineyards, wine barrels, and even particularly interesting labels.
YouTube is definitely worth checking out, as 48% of internet users have been to a video sharing site in the last year. People discuss everything online, even on video sharing sites. In just a quick browse, I found discussions on hard drive recovery, home theater systems, and mascara.
Discussion Groups and Forums
You can get alerts for Google Groups as part of Google Alerts, but you may want to search Google Groups separately to find out what groups exist and what discussion has already happened. There are also lots of other similar groups out there that you may want to search, such as Yahoo! Groups and MSN Groups.
You can, of course, do some simple searches for forums that make be talking about you as well, such as with these examples:
Don’t overlook places like Yahoo! Answers as well.
Vertical and Niche Sites
You can do searches for these sites, but you can also find prominent bloggers who are talking about your topic, and check their “about me” page to see what sites they have profiles on.
As I mentioned in the webinar, just about every topical site now has a social network element to it. Avvo, a legal search engine, and Zillow, a real estate search engine, are two examples of vertical sites with lots of discussion and opportunities.
Similarly, social media sites (a la Digg, but more specialized) exist for just about every topic.
Again, you can do a web search or blog search to find bloggers, but you can also check specific blog indexing sites, such as Technorati or Icerocket. Many of the RSS readers, like Bloglines, have search features as well (Bloglines even lets you subscribe to the search). Once you find bloggers who are talking about your topic, check their profiles for other sites they visit, and see who’s on their blogroll. By going from blogroll to blogroll and compiling a list of bloggers and places they frequent, you will likely end up with a pretty good place to start.
Don’t forget social bookmarking sites. Not only can you find out what is popular for your topical area, but discussions happen on these sites as well.
With all the talk of user-generated content, just about every site now has reviews. This is another great place to check out the discussion. Certainly there are review-specific sites such as epinions and shopping sites like Amazon, but just about every local business directory site now has reviews as well, from Yelp to Google Local.
Social Networking Sites
Sites like Facebook and MySpace can be difficult to search. Certainly try searching them directly, but you might also do a site: search on a major search engine, like this one that searches Facebook for discussions about gardening.
Clearly, people are talking everywhere. Companies worry about negative discussion, but reality is that the discussion – good or bad — will happen whether you’re involved or not. The first step is to understand who your customers are, where they are, and to listen. Social networking isn’t a fad. It’s just evolution of what we’ve always done — talk to each other.