Social media listening is the modern marketing practice of staying constantly attuned to your customers, fans, and followers; leveraging their free insights into your brand or business; and engaging in dialogues.
Twitter is a rich resource for such monitoring—”listening” in current parlance—with millions of conversations proliferating daily across the network about a wide range of companies and brands. A great place to start, if you’re interested in fine-tuning your listening, is with Mention.net, a free (up to a point) service that’s like Google Alerts on steroids.
That’s just the beginning. For 10 solid tips on how to be a better listener on Twitter, keep reading.
Eric Jacobson, who blogs about leadership and management, recently wrote a post expounding 10 tips on how to be a better listener in order to improve your leadership skills. I’d like to adapt those 10 great tips into rules of thumb for improving your online listening skills, on Twitter specifically.
Here we go (read Eric’s original post here):
1. Look at the person who’s speaking to you. Maintain eye contact.
Make it work on Twitter: Obviously you can’t make eye contact with people via Twitter, but you can do so figuratively. Give all your followers their fair due, treating each RT, mention, favorite, and DM with the respect that you would those interactions in person.
2. Watch for nonverbal cues, body language, gestures, and facial expressions.
Make it work on Twitter: The Twitter equivalent of hand gestures, facial expressions, and the like are the accoutrements to tweets. Think about links, attached photos, videos, and gifs, and the conversational context in which tweets are happening. As a community manager, I’ve often found brand mentions as simple appearances in photos, with no accompanying text (let alone Twitter handle). That doesn’t make those mentions any less important.
3. Eliminate all distractions. Don’t multitask.
Make it work on Twitter: Quit the multitasking and pay attention to each tweet you read if you’re trying to absorb valuable information from your fans and followers. It can be hard on Twitter to spend the extra few nanoseconds and actually read carefully through all 140 characters, but just do it. You’ll be surprised at how much more information you absorb-the tweeter’s implied tone of voice, who retweeted their tweet, whom they @ mentioned in the tweet, and more.
4. Ask questions that let the other person know you have heard them, and that you want to learn more.
Make it work on Twitter: This is probably the most important tip in bettering your Twitter listening skills. If you don’t actively engage with your followers, you’re doing the Internet equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling mumbo-jumbo. Whether the feedback is positive, negative, or neutral, acknowledge the action and make it an interaction.Here’s a great example from Evian Water on Facebook, and another from Warby Parker on Twitter.
5. Don’t interrupt.
Make it work on Twitter: Simple: don’t butt into a conversation on Twitter tactlessly, especially on behalf of a brand or business. As we shared earlier this year, 43 percent of respondents in a consumer survey said they think companies’ listening in on social media invades consumers’ privacy. You want to be helpful and attentive, not creepy and annoying.
6. Don’t finish the other person’s sentences.
Make it work on Twitter: Although the speed with which new tweets populate your Twitter stream can make it seem like operating lightning fast is the only way to stay afloat on Twitter, it’s OK to take a breather in the midst of your interactions. You’ll want to put a digital bookmark in any conversations that are left unfinished—social CRM services like SocialBro can help with that—but it’s better to give each customer time to respond before walloping them with three tweets in a row.
7. Avoid using words such as “no,” “but,” and “however,” when you respond .
Make it work on Twitter: The customer is always right. Heard that one before? It’s true, even on Twitter, and even if you’re only tweeting on behalf of yourself, or your “personal brand.” As Shea puts it, “Do not feed the trolls.” It’s perfectly fine, even productive, to engage in healthy debate over Twitter, but not so fine to let it escalate or participate in tomato throwing.
For example, I recently attended Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s talk in Philadelphia about her controversial new book, Lean In. In live-tweeting the event, I noticed that one of my tweets, a particularly controversial quote of Sandberg’s, caused some votes of approval, and some consternation. I actually completely agree with Sandberg’s sentiment, but also totally respect that a lot of people do not. So in engagement over the matter on Twitter, I chose to acquiesce. Regarding an issue I felt more strongly about, I might have opted to speak out. Brands, as well, have to pick those battles carefully.
8. Don’t prejudge.
Make it work on Twitter: No matter the person’s number of followers, the length of time he or she has been on Twitter, or the types of tweets you see on that person’s Twitter profile, each follower interacting with you might prove you wrong if you reserve your judgment. Unless it’s a bot, in which case, get the heck out of there.
9. Display a friendly, open attitude and body language.
Make it work on Twitter: One way I can tell off the bat if a brand is a good social listener is through a quick glance at their Twitter stream. If there is not a single tweet starting with an @ mention of another tweep, implying that the entire stream is composed of “pushed” content, chances are, the brand or business is talking at you more than with you. Combat that impression by demonstrating willingness to engage, and by keeping your Twitter bio and profile picture fresh and catchy.
10. Ask questions to clarify what you heard.
Make it work on Twitter: Just as with No. 4, asking questions is what social listening is all about. Customer unhappy with your product? Tweet them inquiring at which location they purchased it, and when, ensuring them you’ll take care of it, and how. A fan posted a link to a recipe they created with your product? Tweet them your gratitude and approval, and ask if they’ve tried the other flavors. A blog reader shared your latest post? Tweet them a thank-you and ask for a follow-up about the post’s content.
Any additional advice you’d share about becoming a better listener on Twitter?
Allison Stadd is a contributing writer for Media Bistro’s AllTwitter.com and digital communications manager at Quaker City Mercantile. A version of this article originally appeared on AllTwitter.com.