Social media provides your business with an incredibly powerful way to interact with your customers, suppliers, and employees. Of course, this means that anyone can use it to easily share their opinions about your business around the world. How do you know what’s being said about you? In today’s Friday Flashback from November 23, 2009, you’ll learn how to find out.
You might think that anytime someone mentions your small business in a tweet that Twitter would notify you. That would be nice, but unless they mention your Twitter name using the @ symbol, chances are that you’ll miss their comment.
In Who’s Talking About You Online , two underlying problems with trying to listen for comments about your small business on Twitter were identified.
- First, you can’t follow everyone so not all comments make it to your feed.
- Second, the comments from those you do follow can easily get lost in the myriad of other comments in your feed.
To overcome both of these issues, a listening post was suggested.
Using Twitter’s Built In Search Functions
Before setting up your listening post, look at what Twitter already offers in terms of search capabilities. There are three primary functions to help you find what you’re looking for in an ocean of tweets.
- Twitter Hashtags are keywords inserted into a tweet to make it easier to find in a search. Anyone can make, or post to, a hashtag. All that is required is putting a # at the beginning of the word. If your keyword has more than one word you simply concatenate the two together. One such hashtag on Twitter is #FollowFriday where people recommend others to follow.
- Twitter Search To find tweets containing these hashtags, or any other words you want to find, you’ll need to use Twitter’s search feature. Your small business name won’t likely be a hashtag people are using, but you can still search for the name via this function to pull up any tweets that mention your small business.
- Twitter Lists This is a recently added feature [at the time of this post]. It allows users to create their own lists that follow certain people based on whatever criteria they desire. It’s useful to organize the people you follow into related channels so you do not miss their tweets.
Setting Up Your Twitter Listening Post
While you can save your searches and lists in Twitter for future use, they only work while you are online returning real time results. That’s great, but what about when you’re not online?
Here’s a step-by-step guide to walk you through setting up a listening post using Twitter’s built-in features that will work for you round the clock.
Step #1: Decide What Your Search Terms Will Be
The first thing you need to do is decide on your search terms. What exactly should your listening post be tuned to find? Here are some suggestions:
- Your small business name
- Your own name
- The names of products/services you sell
- Your competitors
- Industry terms
Be as specific as possible, and think of variations – especially ways to shorten it since Twitter forces updates to be no more than 140 characters. I have set up one for “Big Feet Marketing” and “BigFeetMktg”.
Step #2: Search Your Terms Using Twitter Search
When I first started using Twitter, I thought the little search box on my home page was Twitter Search. It was not until later that I found out there is a more robust search feature at search.twitter.com.
The advanced search option gives you a lot of flexibility with how you perform your search. For searches on your company name, make sure to use the This Exact Phrase box; otherwise, it’ll return tweets with any of the words in your company’s name.
Step #3: Subscribe to the RSS Feed of Your Search
Once you’ve performed the search, you’ll see an option to subscribe to your query’s feed in the upper right-hand corner. This option will continue to periodically run your query and send the results to your favorite reader.
I use Google Reader for my RSS subscriptions, but you can choose whatever one you like best. Now all that you have to do is open your reader to see what your listening posts have picked up. You don’t even have to be online for it to continue working.
UPDATE: Since I wrote this post, third party applications like TweetDeck and HootSuite allow you to easily search Twitter and set up listening posts in the form of customized feeds. I still use the listening posts I set up using the methods in this post because with a few tweaks this method can be applied to most social media networks.
Photo Credit: iStockphoto/iLexx