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From the author of How to Listen to the Conversation

How to Listen to the Conversation

The good thing about today's technology is that it allows us, as brands and marketers, to listen to that online conversation before we're thrust into the middle of it. Even if your company doesn't currently have a social media account or presence, you can "listen" to what people are saying about your company, your competitors, your industry, or even your executives.

Here are four free and easy ways to listen to the online conversation:

  • Search online. Perhaps the easiest way to get a feel for your audience or what's being said about you is to trust search engines such as Google to find the conversations. The key is searching for more than your company name. Typing "Acme Enterprises" will lead you to some results, but using qualifiers such as "hate Acme Enterprises" or "Acme Enterprises sucks" might help you to find more specific conversations.
  • Subscribe to a Google Alert. A Google Alert is an automatic search that you set up, with the results delivered to you via email or an RSS feed reader. This technique prevents you from having to repeat those searches every day. Go to the Google Alerts page to set up your alerts. You'll need a Google account to subscribe, but they're free.
  • Check out Social Mention. SocialMention.com is a free social-media monitoring service that gives you a sneak peek at what a more robust monitoring solution might look like. It operates just like an online search, but focuses on conversational platforms such as blogs and Twitter. It even performs some cursory analysis for you, showing what percentage of mentions about the keyword you've searched are positive versus negative, the most influential sites that mention the keyword, and so on. The drawback to this service is that it only goes back 30 days, so you'll have to archive and track these results over time if you want to get a longer picture of what's being said about you online.
  • Run a Twitter search. Because Twitter has emerged as the go-to spot for conversations, it makes sense to monitor that network for people mentioning your brand. Another search function that works like a search engine, search.twitter.com allows you to enter a keyword or phrase and find any mentions of it on Twitter. The search returns results in real time, so you can even keep that search page up on your browser and watch the conversations come in that match your keyword.

What's powerful about these four platforms is that they give you an unprecedented amount of conversational data and results from the online world for absolutely no charge. They're all free. And outside of having a Google account to access Google Alerts, you don't have to be connected to a social network to use them.

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