Tools for Being a Better Listener When Your Customers Aren’t in the Room

Image via GraphicStockMost of the time being a better listener means closing your mouth and not thinking about what you will say next. But the real listening help most small business owners need in today’s business climate is digital.
Why Being a Good Listener is Important
In addition to people feeling more valued when they believe you’re listening to them, being a good listener helps you find sales opportunities, solve customer frustrations before they escalate, learn about your competitor’s customers’ complaints, and build a loyal customer base. Here are some tips on how you can find out what’s being said about you, your business, and the service you provide or product you sell.
Assemble a Toolkit
There are plenty of options when it comes to social media and digital monitoring. They run the gamut on expense as well from free to hundreds of dollars a month for a large enterprise solution. Most small businesses can get by with the free options, at least in the beginning. The only reason to upgrade to a paid platform early on is out of a desire to have an integrated dashboard for monitoring and not have to use several tools to accomplish the results you’d like.
Google Alerts
This is an extremely easy way to be alerted on people taking about any subject you’re interested in. Go to, enter in a word or phrase you want to monitor for, and then decide how often you’d like to be notified, what source you want Google to scan (news, blogs, etc.), the language, region, and how many results to report on. The results you receive will be emailed to you based on your preferences. At the very least you should set up alerts on the following:
Company name and variations (set this alert to “as-it-happens”)
Names of C-suite, owners, or anyone with a highly visible profile within your company (another as-it-happens)
Industry you serve, product you make, service you provide
Problems you help with (for instance “flooded basement”)
Competitor’s name and variations (as-it-happens)

You can also use alerts to do research on how often someone is talking about a service or product.
If you’ve ever attempted to search on Twitter or Facebook, you realize how unreliable the results are and that’s why you want to use a third-party tool to do it. If someone is talking about you (without using your handle), you don’t want to run the risk of missing it.
Twilert and Tweetdeck
These sites allow you to monitor Twitter in much the same way you monitor the web through Google alerts. Twilert will serve up alerts to your inbox while Tweetdeck places them in a stream on their site for you. Twilert offers a 30-day trial but is a paid service with plans starting at $9 a month. Tweetdeck is free. Some people prefer Hootsuite to Tweetdeck.
SocialMention turns up things you don’t find elsewhere such as videos and audio recordings. You can run manual searches or use their alert feature. Also check out TalkWalker.
Mention will also deliver alerts to your inbox. It’s free for a limited number of mentions delivered per month. After you reach the limit, it stops delivering them for that month or gives you the option to upgrade to a paid plan. If people talk about you often, you’ll need to be part of their paid plans. The nice thing about this service is that you can review the mentions and tell the site whether they are relevant or not.
Paid Services
In addition to the paid versions of the free platforms above Radian6 (part of SalesForce) and Nimble offer more than just alerts, they provide insights and analysis.
A Final Word About Listening
Listening is one of the most critical things to your business’ success in social media. If people are talking about you and you’re not part of the conversation you’re missing a sales opportunity and a customer service avenue. Thanks to companies like HP and BestBuy, people are conditioned to expect faster service from Twitter than a phone call so this must be a priority for you.
When someone is talking about something you can help with offer your expertise, not your business card. Help them out the way you would a friend not a salesperson. Look to have a conversation before you try to sell. If you overhear something and force a salesy conversation, it will feel creepy.
Look for opportunities to help. If you do, they’ll come back when they are ready to buy.


Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine,, AssociationTech, and Socialfish. She is a regular blogger at and the Event Manager’s Blog.

She’s a bookish writer on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere.


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