Social media is the ultimate listening post where you can be a fly on the wall – listen to conversations about your business – and gain strategic insights. It’s not subterfuge. In fact, your audience is expecting you to pay attention to their conversation. Not listening is the ultimate snub.

How do you do it? The same way you listen in person. Here are six strategies that leverage the ultimate listening post to create businesses that really stand out on social media.

1. Be present.

In modern marketing, we must meet our tribe where they are: social media. There are 1.32 billion people on Facebook. Do you know that 48% of 18-34 year olds check Facebook when they wake up? Most folks would agree the 18-34 year old demographic has tremendous buying power. One million links are shared on Facebook every 20 minutes. 1.07 billion Facebook users are visiting the site via mobile.

Are you there? Are you standing at the virtual listening post? If you want your message to be heard, you have to start by listening. Old school image advertising and marketing is slowly dying. Social is alive and thriving. You must be there if you want the value social can teach you in your business.

Facebook isn’t the only social scene in town. Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest round out the seven basics in the social food group. Quick facts:

Twitter: 271 million active users sending 500 million tweets daily; YouTube: 100 hours of video uploaded every minute; Instagram: 1.6 billion likes every single day; LinkedIn: Professionals are signing up to join LinkedIn at a rate of more than two new members per second; Google+ is Google — if you want to be found on Google, you simply must be on this platform; Pinterest: 83% of global users are women.

So, how do you get involved?

2. Establish rapport.

Get the hang of the listening post: Start by setting up your posts (all your social media sites) and quietly listening to the conversation. Tune out the noise and listen for specific sounds. The beauty is you can search for your company name, product category, competitors, market region and many other key terms or search using “hashtags” which is just a nice, compact way of aggregating searchable data. Hashtags are short, single words or phrases preceded by the pound sign. Try searching for #IceCream on Facebook or Twitter for an example of how a hashtag is the accumulated conversation on a topic.

3. Next, make eye contact.

After you’ve listened for a while, you’ve got the lay of the land and can get involved in the conversation by making digital eye contact. You’re a wedding planner? What problems are brides talking about? How can you help? Here’s an actual tweet: “You know you’re planning a wedding when you open a word document and start typing, ‘Things to be stressed about’… ,” So… as a wedding planner, you respond appropriately with empathy to encourage, assist, offer your free wedding planning tool, direct the bride to your website for free list downloads, look her in the eye digitally and let her know you care and you understand!

4. Repeat what you heard.

Social media for business is different than social media with friends and family. In business social, it’s not about you. It’s about the person you’re interacting with. Just like in any interaction, the best conversationalists are the active listeners. Same in social. Fully 93% of human communication implied through gestures, vocal inflection, facial cues. We lose these important components in the digital world. Make up for it by confirming what you’ve heard… Back to the bride… here’s a a great way to reply to her #weddingproblems tweet: “No need to stress out! Download my free checklist and send your #weddingproblems packing!” Demonstrate you’re listening.

5. Respond appropriately.

Your listening post just became a service tool. In social, you always start by listening, then you add serving and finally, you can offer your services for solution. The ratio is 3:1 – serve, serve, serve, sell. You never come right in with sell, you’ll get deleted faster than the Spanx come off after the wedding!

Beware! You might not like what you hear about your industry, or even worse, your own business! The anonymity of the web can lead to snarky comments and words that would never fly face to face — or even in public. Always take the high road. If you find negativity, bad reviews or angry posts, be ready for them. Put on your rhino skin and don’t take it personally. Take any negative conversation offline. Invite the offended person to engage with you via email, direct message, phone call or even text messaging. Whatever it takes to keep the disagreement out of the social space, it’s worth the effort to do it. Listen, respond appropriately, repair the relationship in private and move on. If possible, ask the poster to update their gripe or comment with a positive outcome after you’ve addressed their issue and satisfied them.

6. People can’t hear until they’re heard.

The truth in life and in social is this: People can’t hear until they’re heard. You’ve got to listen first. Step up to the listening post and hear what your clients, customers, patients, guests, accounts are saying. Only then can you become a valuable, go-to solution for them.

Remember, not paying attention, not listening in the social space is the ultimate snub. Find your customers where they are and give them a wow experience before they even set foot in your brick and mortar or click and order business.

 

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