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Who’s Talkin’ Tire? Are You Listening?

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When it comes to social media, there seem to be two groups of thought:

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1. I can’t wait to get into social media so I can boost my business’ presence
2. There’s just a bunch of teenagers on those sites, and it’s a waste of time.

Believe it or not – and you may not – but social media works.

For those non-believers, I know how you feel. Considering something you’ve never tried (especially something with so much apparent complexity) can be overwhelming, but don’t knock it until you try it.

And sure, there are teenagers soaking up every minute of their world on their iPhones and Blackberrys (I still can’t believe 13-year-olds have nicer phones and better data plans than me), but a new study by eMarketer shows that 46% of Boomers maintain a profile on social networks, and 36% of folks ages 63 and older have a profile.

Who are these people happily tweeting to their colleagues and facebooking (it’s a verb now, that’s how far we’ve come) their kids? Your customers – the people whom you’ve spent thousands of advertising dollars trying to reach! Now they’re just a relatively inexpensive click away.

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And to the social media go-getters, I say great – but wait! There are a few things you need to consider before jumping in and spreading all the fantastic news you can about your company.

Look Before You Leap

Whichever school of thought you’re in – thinking about diving in or sitting on the sidelines – there is one great practice you need to begin today. Just as with any conversation, it’s best to listen before diving in.

The same is true with social media: your first task is to begin a regular program of social media listening, or monitoring.

What do we mean by monitoring? Simply by doing a quick and easy search for the key word “tires” we can see that in the past 13 hours, there have been more than 1,500 mentions of tires on Twitter. There are more than 1,100 tire mentions on Facebook and 164,000 videos on YouTube.

Those conversations are opportunities waiting to happen – you can “listen” to them for free and even respond if you wish. But let’s drill down a little more. How many of those conversations are going on about you or your business – or in your geographic area?

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With this question, you can draw a few conclusions. The “no news equals good news” phrase does not apply here, but it presents a great opportunity. The same goes with the other scenario in which customers may be rating your business online or discussing your practices on blogs and forums or tweeting about a great or not-so-great experience they had last weekend with one of your employees. Oh yes, and they might be naming names.

In the past, if customers had an unpleasant experience, they told their neighbor or best friend that they got ripped off. Today, they just fire up their blog or Twitter account or Facebook profile and tell the whole world in 60 seconds, which is why social media monitoring is so important for every business.

Getting Started

Ramping up your monitoring program is easy – and free in most cases. Here are a few best practices:

• Set up Google Alerts for you, your company (your company’s acronym if it has one) and your competitors. Choose “comprehensive” and any mentions of your key words in news, blogs and Web results will be delivered to your inbox daily or weekly depending on your preference.

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• Plug in your company name to www.socialmention.com. This site will show you what’s being said about your company across all social media sites. It will also provide you with an estimate of how positive or negative the coverage is overall. PeopleBrowsr is a similar service.

• Visit Twitter Search to see what the tweeps are talking about today. You may be surprised to see how much activity there is around the word “tires” and your other key words.
 
By being an active online community member, you’ll have a chance to:

• Educate the public and correct problems that arise

• Thank folks for their patronage and turn them into return customers

• Receive feedback and make positive changes for your business

Monitoring won’t cost you anything except time – maybe an hour a week. But it’s completely worth it to know what’s going on in your industry and in your community.

So non-believers, have I converted you yet? I’d love your feedback. In our next post, we’ll talk about how to start to engage once you’ve been listening for a time.

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