The Benefits of Social Media Conversations

One of the most valuable benefits of social media is that it allows for conversation. From a user perspective, this is useful for entertainment and information gathering. For example, you might follow along with others watching the Academy Awards, or you might post a message to Twitter asking your followers for recommendations on a new project management tool.

From a brand perspective, social media conversations are useful in that they can give insight into the thoughts of your audience members. Social media users are raising their hands, asking for feedback, and providing their opinions on your brand and products. These conversations can also bring issues to a brand communications manager’s attention – but only if the manager is listening.

Some companies are lucky enough to have the budget to pay for enterprise-level listening software, such as Hootsuite Enterprise or Salesforce Radian6. For others, non-profits in particular, these luxuries are the stuff of dreams. In these  cases, we have to get creative. In previous posts I outlined how to run searches on social media, expand your search with keywords and Boolean operators, create alerts for your brand based on these search parameters, and how to automate your search results gathering process using IFTTT and Google, all on zero budget. These posts primarily were aimed at broad information gathering and generalized listening.

Now, I’m going to talk about another use for these skills: targeted listening.

Targeted Listening

What do I mean by targeted listening? I’m referring to using social media monitoring tactics to pay close attention to a specific person, organization, or issue. It might be an individual you would like to engage with your brand. It might be a potential supporter or brand advocate. You might hope to gather background information on your subject, or you might hope to learn more about their interests.

What targeted listening is not is broad-based generic listening related to your brand. With broad listening, a communications manager is looking for individuals to signal that they are talking about the subject the manager is interested in. With targeted listening, the manager has already identified individuals who are discussing the subject.

How to Implement

Here are quick steps to implementing targeted listening. You may also refer to my previous posts listed above for specific details on using social media search, if necessary, as well as IFTTT and Google Docs.

  1. Identify your targets. These may result from your broad listening efforts, or from conversations with staff on your team.
  2. Gather details. With a quick search you should be able to find the individual’s Twitter handle, the Twitter handle for their business, and their company name.
  3. Create Google Alerts for the target’s name, business, company, etc. This will allow you to capture information about the individual when it is published in media and by others’ accounts.
  4. Using IFTTT, feed the Google Alert feed(s) and the various Twitter streams into a Google Docs spreadsheet.
  5. Create a habit of checking your Google Docs for updates. You might add a recurring calendar appointment to your schedule to remind you to do this. Google Docs will allow you to add extra columns for manually added notes regarding the data.


Stay On Target!” by Pete is licensed under CC BY 2.0