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social media how toYou’ve likely heard stories about how big companies are using Twitter as a powerful listening tool.   And although Chris Brogan has been telling us to grow bigger ears for a while, what are you actually doing about it?

Do you want to improve your Twitter listening skills? Here’s a closer look at how to monitor your brand, yourself or your competitors using Twitter (and you don’t need to be a big business!).

Why Is Twitter an Ideal Listening Tool?

Here’s why Twitter is one of the best social media platforms for listening:

  • Real-time results. We’ve all heard examples of how breaking news spreads immediately on Twitter. Because of Twitter’s real-time search engine, you can get a quick pulse of public opinion.
  • Wide reach. Twitter is useful to many different types and sizes of businesses.
  • Direct feedback. You hear what people are saying as they say it.

With these points in mind, simply follow these guidelines to grow bionic listening ears.

#1: Decide What You Want to Monitor

Decide which information you want to monitor.  Common types include your brand names, industry keywords, customers and competitors.

A daily listening routine gives you more value over time. Spend the time you need to find the right mix and create a routine that works for you.

# 2:  Find the Best Real-Time Monitoring Tools

Real-time market information is valuable to many businesses today. Here are Nathan Hangen’s suggestions for using Twitter tools. But as professional blogger Ching Ya says, “there’s no such thing as the perfect search tool.” Have a look at Twitter monitoring tools in the decision tree below that Ching Ya put together:

Twitter Monitoring Tools

Twitter Monitoring Tools. Image source: http://www.wchingya.com

A good place to start looking for the right people to monitor on Twitter is Twellow.  Also check out Twellowhood for location-based searches.

# 3: Track With URL Shorteners

Use URL shortening tools to monitor the links you share on Twitter and help you find out what’s popular with your audience.

As Jeff Bullas says, the popular URL shortener bit.lyallows you to track how many people are clicking on the shortened link with a set of metrics that displays it in a visual format as well as textually.” This makes it easy to track your important links and monitor the interactions you have on social media.

#4: Follow Hashtags

Hashtags are a simple search tool. People follow hashtags for Keywords, Events and Trending Topics.

You can simply use Twitter search on a hashtag.  You can also go to Hashtags.org for statistics.

Found a hashtag, but don’t know what it’s about?  Look it up on What The Hashtag, a user-editable encyclopedia for hashtags.

There are also many tools to help you monitor hashtags such as Monitter and Twitterfall.  Have a look at how John Haydon uses multiple hashtag searches on TweetGrid to make sure he doesn’t miss parts of the conversation relevant to him.

Be sure to watch the above video!

# 5: Monitor Trends When It’s Appropriate

Twitter is the best social media platform for real-time search. If staying current on what’s happening in the world is important to your business, you also need to stay current on the latest tools for monitoring trending topics on Twitter.

Hashtags are also used for trending topics, so the tools you use for hashtags can also help you to monitor trending topics.  In addition to the hashtag tools mentioned above, there are a few other tools to keep in mind when following trends on Twitter:

#6: Use Twitter Lists to Monitor People on Twitter

You might find it convenient to create your own Twitter lists and monitor people through these lists.  Remember, you can set up a private list to follow your competitors and you’ll be the only person to see this private list on your Twitter profile.

You can also set up an RSS feed to follow someone else’s Twitter list using Twitter Lists 2 RSS.

#7: Set Up a Listening Plan

A simple listening plan can involve these simple procedures:

  • Check your keywords on Twitter Search.
  • Sign up for RSS feeds of the search results you need.
  • Sign up for email updates for your most important keyword results using tools such as SocialOomph.

You might lose the edge of real-time search but you’ll find more value in a regular routine. With clear objectives on what you need to monitor and by drilling down to find what you’re looking for, simple monitoring tools can give you great results.

#8: Build Relationships

As Olivier Blanchard says, you’re listening to people, so remember to be human. Listening is the first part of creating real relationships with people and it’s only one part of using social media for your business.  You still need to connect your Twitter listening to other social media activities to cultivate and nurture relationships in social communication.

As you proceed to connect and engage with people on Twitter, here are a few words from Olivier: “Engagement doesn’t have to be a perfectly designed and executed PR program where every bit of interaction is carefully crafted and weighed against all possible outcomes. Let it be a living, breathing, imperfect thing: Wing it a little.”

To develop your bionic ear you’ll need to interact and adapt your approach based on what you learn when listening on Twitter.  Follow these 8 steps to listen more and learn more about the people you want to connect with on Twitter.

What are you doing to develop your Twitter listening skills?  How is it working for you? Please share your comments below.

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