This is the first of a series of posts on the pillars of social media. The foundation to get a rounded overall perspective and foundation about social media. Taking on social media can be a overwhelming task.

Lets first focus on the number one skill and the act of listening.

When ever I am working with a new small business or even a larger company, my first advice to them is to listen. Listen to how people are currently talking about your business, products and competitors. Listening is one of the core foundational skills that all people working within the marketing field must master. To effectively reach customers, we have to listen to them.

“Not listening enough at first to understand the workings and sentiments of a community” – 10 Mistakes Made by Social Media Newbies

To start listening, you need to start searching. Consider searching for your business name, specific products you offer, competitors in your area.  Search the most up to date, fast moving source of information on the web – Twitter’s own built in search tool search.twitter.com. After recovering from an overload of information on Twitter, move on to Google, Bing and Yahoo. Next, look at popular customer review sites like Yelp and Angie‘s list.

In the process of searching Twitter, and looking through search engine results you are going to find some really interesting information, information worth visiting again. I highly recommend using a web-based book mark service like Digg or Delicious.

These two services offer easy plugins for IE, Firefox and others.
Digg: IE | Firefox Delicious: IE  & Firefox

Search the web: Start with big engines – search Google, Bing, and Yahoo and look at your first and second page results. As you find websites with information that talks specificly about your company, products or competitors. Scan over them and bookmark them, even if they don’t seem relevant. Better to have them marked now, than have to search for them later for a report.

Also recommend  setting up a Google alert, you will be sent an email when your specific search term comes through Google, you get a little note with a handy link. Very simple tool that sends you a list of links associated with whatever you are looking for. Personally I find it useful for brand management, finding out what the conversation is about a specific company, product or service is invaluable.

By just listening you will see the vast array of information available to you, the diligence, skill and time listening takes and begin building an expectation that this isn’t an overnight process.  So, get out there and start listening to your customers, communities and hear what is being said about you and your competitors.

What are you best ideas for seeking out customer conversations?

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About the author

Lyndi Thompson wrote 114 articles on this blog.

Online startup marketing strategy & solutions. Customer focused, high energy, creative & thankful. I love connecting good people to create great communities. New Mom. Fan of chocolate & the smell of horses.