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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Listening To Customers With Twitter

My Listening Ears originally uploaded by niclindh
My Listening EarsAsk any social media practitioner how to get started and "Listen" is what each will tell you. By listening, you begin to 'hear' what's going on, what's being said and how it's being said. That, then, enables you to take part in a conversation and identify how to offer value. A social media listening tool that has been front and center lately is Twitter.

Take this WSJ online article titled "For Companies, a Tweet in Time Can Avert PR Mess" with examples from Ford, Coke, Pepsi and Southwest Airlines.

Now, a dose of reality doesn't hurt at this point. Despite the hype, the entire world isn't on Twitter. In fact, many of your core customers may not even have heard about it let alone issued a Tweet of any significance. That's a point that Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace, makes in this AdAge article titled "Using Social Media To Listen To Customers" [registration required].

However, learning how to listen to customers is critical, and social media platforms like Twitter make listening much easier than standing around crowds trying to absorb the messages being exchanged. Twitter represents a listening post, one that might offer unexpected and valuable insight. And one that teaches you how to listen across other social media platforms.

As Ms. Hessan states: "Listening doesn't mean getting one small piece of data and taking action.... Sometimes it means getting a piece of data and probing further."

In many companies, the official listening post is the responsibility of customer service -- although some have realized that listening is everyone's responsibility and opportunity. This Mashable post - HOW TO: Use Twitter for Customer Service - summarizes how best to go about using Twitter for listening to customers:

1. Understand why Twitter is an ideal customer service platform
2. Track the ENTIRE conversation around your brand
3. Make customers aware of your presence
4. Respond quickly and transparently
5. Be engaged in the conversations
6. Be authentic

Be sure to read the full post to understand the nuances and opportunities.

Now that you've been cautioned and guided, inspire yourself with Diva Marketing's post about Before There Was Social Media There Were Customer Service Reps and then explore the companies listed in Kevin O'Keefe's Real Lawyers Have Blogs and his post about Major companies who use Twitter for customer service.

A few wonderful [and practical] resources to share with you from Matt Dickman:
Twitter, the ultimate customer service tool
Twitter and customer service; how to listen
Twitter and customer service; the big picture

And, as it relates to listening to customers, you might enjoy Read 16 Social Media Tips Relating To Listening.

What other methods have you used to listen to customers?

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