What good things are people saying about you?
How do you find out if people are already talking about you or your products? That’s fairly easy because there are so many good free tools to help you.
You can begin with Google and its tools. If you type in your key terms (or the key terms for competitors) you can refine and filter your search to include blogs, videos, and forums; posts in the last hour, day or week; and sort the results. Try their wonder wheel, too, to discover other terms to search on.
Tools for searching other social media: Social Mention (allows you to search for a string of words, such as “BBQ sauce” instead of searching for BBQ and/or sauce), Same Point (includes Twitter posts and podcasts), Icerocket (includes Twitter and video)
Video: Truveo Video
Some of these tools provide you with RSS feeds with your search results to be sent to you every day or week. Others will send you an email with updated results. Google Alerts and Giga Alerts are two services like this.
Now that you know what people are saying and where, you want to respond, right? You want to say thanks, argue with, or add to almost every posted item.
Don’t worry too much about saying thank-you; just do it. No one is ever really put off by a thank-you. And until you really get a feeling for the rules of a forum or how a blogger writes, this is probably the only safe immediate response.
Responding and engaging
After you’ve found something you really feel compelled to respond to, get some context. Read more about the person who you want to respond to. Sometimes you can tell that the person wants nothing more than to engage in heated battles. You might learn that his postings seem to overflow with praise for all sorts of things in hopes of being rewarded with a gift or dollars. You might find that she tweest constantly but has only three followers. The posts by these people probably aren’t worth a response.
But if you find that someone has honest praise, send a thank-you and perhaps a little additional information or an offer for anyone viewing your comment. You need to decide if you want to send the author/creator a message directly (it can be pretty easy these days to find an email address) or if you want to make a public reply. If you think you might want to ask the person for a testimonial or to be a guest blogger or engage with him or her directly at some point, I suggest posting something simple publicly and then sending a direct message or email a few hours later. That gives the author time to notice your reply and your name so he or she doesn’t think you’re a spammer.
If you are responding to something negative I suggest you prepare a response in Word or someplace other than the site where you want to post. This will let you take some time in editing your response and it’ll include a spell check. Be direct and specific and try to smile as you write. I once wrote a complaint email, received an immediate thankful response, kept up a conversation and became friends with the person I wanted to throttle weeks earlier. Being responsive allows a person to feel heard and understood. Being defensive makes the other party want to increase the offensive game. So be respectful and maybe make a friend. You’re making your customer service process public, so keep that in mind.
Keep an eye open for people posting about problems that you can help them solve. They might not know about you or your product, so you can introduce yourself. Keep the public posting brief and make direct contact. I have a client who called to follow up on a tweet, was hung up on, got a call back in apology, and made an immediate sale on a product that usually has a sales cycle of several months. As long as you only make the offer of assistance only once, your risk of being seen as a spammer is low.
Whenever you post a comment anywhere, be sure your signature line after your name provides a link to your own blog or web site. Make sure the link is relevant and perhaps re-write the link text to make it more obviously relevant. Provide the actual URL as some blogs and other sites won’t allow you to encode the link.
Keep following any discussion that ensues online. That might means checking back for several weeks. That might mean sending a message directly to the original author to check if everything is still good or has been resolved.
Expand the conversation
Let more people in on the discussion. Tweet a link to anything particularly flattering. Or retweet a tweet. Or write an entire blog post in response if you’re feeling like you have a lot to say. Or start a discussion in one of your own social sites, rephrase the original comments or link to the video, and ask for stories about similar experiences by others. Or if you found a story about something cool one of your clients did or wrote about, act like a proud grandparent and brag on them a bit in your own space, then invite their response.
Carve out a half hour a week or so to check on what’s being said about your topics. You’ll learn a lot about your customers or industry even if you seldom decide respond to anything directly.