A friend of mine recently asked me to sit on his board of advisors for a new consultancy he launched. My primary role will be to advise on all things social and digital media. The first of such advice is related to the business as a whole. How can one use digital and social media to get started? To launch? To get found? To take part in the conversations? The first in this series is below, titled listening. To see others in this series, click on the ‘DMPL‘ category, or use the menu in the navigation header.
Part 1: Listening I
I’ve talked about listening in the past, but here is a more bulleted, action-oriented list to get started. With new business idea firmly in hand, you need to go out and prove to the world that you’re worth someone’s share of eyeball. How do you find the conversations worth your participation? What words are people using to discuss your brand, industry, space, and pain points?
- start with some basis of search terms – At the outset of your business or initiative, you’ve got to know that you’re searching on something. For illustrative purposes, let’s pretend it’s a mini-app or a widget that helps you book calendar entries/appointments across multiple calendars. What words would be interesting to track online to see the discussion swirling around it? Words that come to my mind include calendar, appointment, entry, meeting, and date. Actions include book, set, accept, approve, and reject. Now, pretend you’re playing the game Taboo (or Catchphrase). In that game, the object is for a player to have his/her partner(s) guess the word on his/her card without using the word itself or five additional words listed on the card. So – what are the five words that would be on the card if the main word was what you are searching on? Secondarily, how would people go about getting you to guess the word on the card? The exercise here is to think, quickly and out loud, for the ways people might be discussing your product, or the frustrations that go along with it, etc.
- using Google’s Wonder Wheel – Googling a phrase like ‘appointment booking’ yields over 440,000 results. These might be useful on an individual level. But instead, look at them in aggregate, and look for commonly-used words. How? Use Google’s Wonder Wheel.
After running a search, look on the left side. Scroll down and look for ‘All Results’ or ‘More Search Tools’. Expand those to reveal the term ‘Wonder Wheel’. What you’ll see is something that resembles a word cloud or spider diagram of terms. These are the common phrases that appear in the top Google results for what you searched. Click on any one of those to see a child wonder wheel implementation. In just a few minutes, you can see some terms that people use to talk about this space.
- start with some basis of sites – Along with a start collection of search terms, you ideally have a collection of websites, even if only a handful, where this might be discussed. They could be discussion forums, LinkedIn groups, Facebook fan pages, blogs, and so on. With at least a few sites, you can use Google to help you find more. Here’s how. Go to www.Google.com. In the search bar, enter the URL for a site that you already have, the press ‘Google Search’. It may seem odd, but yes, you are Googling a site for which you already have the URL. On the results page, if the site has a modest amount of traffic, you’ll see some items at the tail end of the search result. One of these is the word ‘Similar’.
This is Google telling you it knows other similar sites based on this site. Do this for a handful of sites, and then another handful. In time, you won’t need to do this, but it’s a great start. Hopefully, these sites are RSS-enabled so you don’t need to visit them every day. Speaking of RSS…
- set up an RSS aggregator/feed reader – This is fundamentally important, because it acts as a second inbox for content. Some bristle these days, saying that RSS is dead. It may be ‘dead’ for one kind of use (serendipitously finding links), but it is alive and well for collecting automated feeds. Setting up a refined, persistent Twitter search and pushing the results to RSS is a nice way to monitor a pulse in near-real time without having to run the search manually each time. There are several to pick from (here’s a good list – I use Google Reader. Also, ReadWriteWeb published a great article on extending the use of RSS. (And if you’re sitting there, quietly saying, “But – I don’t even know what RSS is!”, head over to Common Craft’s description of RSS in plain English)
- Social Mention – Use a free social media search tool to show you results of your terms in the social space. Social Mention is good for this, as is Omgili. But I’ll focus on Social Mention for a moment, because the data other than the actual search results is key. Go to www.SocialMention.com and enter the phrase, using quotes, “book appointment” into the search bar. Ensure that ‘All’ is selected (one can restrict search to just blogs or just other sites; for now, we want it all). Sometimes the results take a while, so be patient. Temporarily ignore the main results/middle column. Instead, focus on the content on the left.Using algorithms, Social Mention scores the relative strength, sentiment, passion, and reach of that term in the social space. Scroll down to see top keywords associated with that search term, top people commenting or tweeting about that, and the top hash tags (related to Twitter) and places where these conversations are happening. All this, and you haven’t even looked at the main results yet. Pretty good stuff.
- Google Alerts – Once you’ve refined your search terms a bit, head over to http://www.google.com/alerts and create some persistent searches. Google alerts are like running a search on a term and getting the results, only that it’s done automatically. Simply enter the search terms (use the preview to help you filter out signal from noise), pick the type (I recommend ‘Everything’), and how often (I recommend once a day). You can get the results sent to an email address, or you can push them to an RSS/feed aggregator.
In the next entry for this series, I’ll continue a little more on some listening tools for keyword and term tracking.
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