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One of the more informative and substantive panels that I got to attend while at Blogworld was hosted by Jeremiah Owyang, partner at the Altimeter Group. The topic of the discussion was about the future of social media and its relationship to business. One particular element that I’d like to highlight in this post is this whole concept of listening. For businesses, it’s really important for them to listen to the conversations without jumping right in and trying to sell their wares. Here are eight objectives from Owyang to help define a listening policy:

Don’t have any objectives at all.

I would imagine this to be a pretty good objective to keep in mind. The best way to actually understand what’s being said is to just not have any distraction. Don’t set any goals or accomplishments in mind when having conversations with your customers and partners. Just listen to them talk and that’s it.

Tracking of brand mentions.

With social media, the purpose of listening is to understand what others are saying about you and your brand. The objective of listening is to make sure you’re tracking each of those mentions. Through tools such as Radian6, ScoutLabs, Mighty Brands and others, you’re going to be able to do a pretty good job understanding what’s being said – the good AND the bad.

Identifying market risks and opportunities.

If you’re always talking, how are you going to be aware of what the risks are when foraying into a new demographic or market? The same will go for the opportunities as well. Will you be letting all of this pass you by?

Improving campaign efficiency.

Once you’ve launched a campaign, isn’t it important to measure whether you’re on the mark with your marketing efforts or would you rather just spray and pray that you’ve achieved the maximum amount of attention? Listen to your audience and you’ll be able to do practically real-time updates to your performance.

Measuring support efforts.

Like with improving campaign efficiency, by listening to the crowd and the customers, you’re going to want to pay attention to how you’re reacting to them from a customer service standpoint. Just because you’ve reached out and your customers are convinced that they really want to buy your product, don’t make it seem like the service stops there. It doesn’t. Monitor the wave of sentiment towards your product even after the sale.

Responding to customer inquiry.

This probably can go without saying. If your customer has any complaints, feedback or suggestions, make sure that they feel appreciated. Social media has become customer service. It’s about the people. And their voices can be heard much clearer than yours.

Better understand customers.

Social media has become market research 2.0. It’s allowed businesses to better understand their customers in a more targeted way. No longer are people just numbers on a table or chart. The human side of research will appear and give you personalities and traits that can go a longer way to make your company a success.

Being proactive and anticipating customers.

If you think you know your customers, then get out there and anticipate their every move, complaint, suggestion, feedback and even idea. If you know that a customer’s anniversary is coming up, make a proactive choice to reach out via social media to congratulate them. If it’s another special occasion or perhaps just something important in their lives, use it to have a positive connection.

Still think that there isn’t enough reason for you to listen to your customers using social media? The objectives given above by Jeremiah Owyang are pretty powerful individually and combined, all eight can really carry some weight with customers. Show them that you care by not talking…and listen to THEIR needs.

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