Sharpening your online listening skills and taking action

People all over the Internet are talking about your brand. Are you listening? That’s a good question, but a better one would be: Are you listening and interacting properly? In online environments, you’re not suppose to sit up high and let people say whatever they want and ignore them. That hasn’t been the case at all since Web 2.0 hit back in the late 90s!

The goal of this article is to teach you better online listening skills, and let you know how you’re suppose to respond. At the end, I want to hear your experiences with online listening!

Your first online listening tips

All of your online activity, especially in social media, should follow a typical conversational structure. We didn’t reinvent how to speak with one another online. We have created a new medium to do it on, like going from face to face conversations to the telephone.

Brands use to pay thousands of dollars

The benefit of doing this is that you can now learn more about what people think of your brand. Where people would once privately chat about an issue, the online world has brought these issues out into the open.

Brands use to pay thousands of dollars on focus groups. Now it’s all right at your fingertips for free – if you know where and how to look.
Your first step is to identify where your brand can listen to people online: Twitter, Facebook, Blog posts, Instagram and Review websites.

All these and more are fair game. How you’ll actually listen to each one can differ. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are best dealt with in one spot with a tool like Hootsuite. You can monitor brand mentions via searches, even ones which don’t directly mention your accounts.

tweet above doesn’t directly mention the @Nike or @Jumpman23

This tweet above doesn’t directly mention the @Nike or @Jumpman23 Twitter account. Both of those accounts could still see and respond to the tweet if they wanted. They could either use a listening tool like Hootsuite, or by doing a search for their name in the Twitter search bar.

For blogs, you’re going to have to do some good old fashion searching. A Google Alert notification can also help, that’s how those at Devumi found this review about them. They saw the positive review, and interacted with the webmaster. If someone said something positive about you within earshot you’d say thank you…right? Your momma raised you that well at least!

Examples of good online listening and interaction with a typical conversation follows a predictable pattern:

Person 1: “Hey, how are you doing?”
Person 2: “I’m ok. A little tired. You?”
Person 1: “Can’t complain.”

A typical conversation will not go like this:

Person 1: “Hey, how are you doing?”
Person 2: “I’m ok. A little tired. You?”
Person 1: “You should buy a new pair of Nike running shoes.”

That is a marketing tactic that never, ever worked. In an online environment, that interaction could be a stick that someone picks up and uses to beat your brand over the head. You can’t sell directly, you have to sell a voice and brand loyalty.

Here’s that silly Gorilla on the Devumi Twitter account having a conversation with a follower.

Just two people, okay, a person and a gorilla, talking about mutual interests that center around the Devumi brand. It all started from the Devumi Gorilla asking a question, and it succeeded when he followed through. Now the Gorilla and @JamesEasterling talk all the time and retweet each other.

Join and start conversations

Being able to really listen to people is a key skill. Another is being able to truly talk to them and start conversations. One of the…well, I don’t want to say worst, but a frustrating social media account I follow is Cubana. They’re a restaurant and all they ever post is images of their food, like this:

social media account I follow is Cubana

This example is typical of their postings. After scrolling through 2 weeks worth of content on their Facebook page I saw a trend emerge: Not one single like, Not one single comment and Not one single share.

Why is that? Because they appear to be wholly uninterested in getting them! With 279 followers you’d think someone would have something, anything, to contribute, but they don’t. Why? Because this account posts in a completely detached manner. Playstation’s Facebook page, however, clearly gets it:


Yes, they have many fans so you’d expect more interactions. But that isn’t the only reason why this post saw so many comments, likes and shares. The big reason is because they asked for it by starting a conversation.

Opening up the post you can see people giving honest answers about PlayStation, comments that are good and bad are included. The PlayStation team is free to interact and take note of what is said. One of the masters of online listening skills on Twitter is the goofy @mtn_dw account. Here’s a perfect example here.

They were using a listening tool to catch that mention of them, which wasn’t a direct @mtn_dw mention, and responded in a human way. In fact, take a look at their Tweets and Replies page and see how it’s done. The page is FULL of conversations they’re having with people online thanks to their top-notch listening skills.

Listening and conversing online

What sort of online listening skills from brands have impressed you? Has there been a time when a brand heard something you’ve said online and went above and beyond to communicate with you? I’d love to discuss it with you in the comments!

Sharpening your online listening skills and taking action

  • Matthew

    Hey all, I’m down here to discuss your experiences!