Companies have been rushing to embrace social media in droves over the last year. While it's great to see companies embracing Web 2.0, I worry sometimes about the number of companies rushing in to talk rather than listen. After all, one of the greatest benefits of social media is having the ability to find out what your customers are talking about. Bill Balderaz points this out today over at The Buzz Saw.

Bill writes:

Want to know what vegetables working moms feed their kids? They are talking about it. Want to know what music teens are downloading? That is there too. The software IT administrators at hospitals in Tallahassee are buying? Them too.

Now search on your brand name and your competitors' brand names, what a treasure trove of market research, all generated by real consumers, voluntarily and free!

His point is spot on. Companies are getting a better handle on the idea of online reputation management and many are already tracking the conversation about themselves online. It's a good start, but it doesn't go far enough. People gather in communities to their likes and dislikes. You can learn a lot by listening.

September 13, 2007

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.



There's nothing wrong with companies rushing to get involved with social media. That's where many of the people talking about their brand live, so it's a good thing that they're moving there as well. But you're point is very well taken. Companies need to start by listening.

In his book “Word of Mouth Marketing”, Andy Sernovitz wrote, “The best word of mouth you can get comes from doing something good.” It begs the question of priorities when millions are being spent on poorly-executed ad campaigns when marketers could spend much less and get a higher return by simply tuning into the real, authentic conversations that exist.

Here's the three-step alternative method I recommend as a way of getting started:

1. Find an intern or junior staffer with not much to do.

2. Put them in front of a computer. Use Google News, Google Blogsearch, and Technorati and search for your name, your clients, and your industry.

3. Ask for daily reports.


Our company, a PR firm based in Chicago, recently had a similar experience and blogged about it. Click the link below for the gory details, but the quick summary is that we never got a response. Zip.

Michael E. Rubin
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Jennifer, or is it micro business guru. Love your articles, I`m about to creep into the whole social media experience. I`ve been following your example for a while now by starting a small web business on NOTHING! Just lots of time to work on it. What fun.

Thanks for posting John! Always good to hear from readers that are diving into the fun. :) Please stick around and let us know how things go, we'd love to hear from you over in the Small Business Ideas forum.

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > The Value of Social Media is Often in Listening