Shut Up and Listen to the Internet

September 08, 2008

Posted in Marketing.

Marketing and communications are about dialogue. Dialogue is a multi-sided conversation. And when you’re not talking, you must listen (not just wait for the next chance to talk).

Organizations needs to learn how to listen, especially in this socially-networked world made smaller by the web. Inspired by Beth’s post on listening, I figured I’d share some of the ways I listen on the web.

Search and Google Alerts

Go to Google and search for all kinds of stuff related to your brand. Learn how to use some advanced search techniques to get better results. Then, set up Google Alerts so you get notified when new conversations pop up.

Twitter Search

People often forget that what they’re saying is public. On Twitter, many people dump their off-the-cuff thoughts with little regard to the exposure. With the relatively new search feature, Twitter becomes an even more public place. See what people are really thinking and saying.

Facebook and MySpace Groups

Search Facebook and MySpace for messages, wall posts, groups, etc. You’ll probably need to sign up for an account to really look around, but it’s worth it.


Beth Kanter linked to this recently. It’s a really neat way of measuring your brand against various social media sites. It’s less about listening and more about scoring yourself for exposure. But it might lead to finding your brand in places that you didn’t know about.

Easy Feedback

If you want honest feedback, make it super easy for people to give it to you. Don’t make anyone jump through hoops or dig through tons of pages to find your contact info.


The signal to noise ratio of comments on websites depends a lot on the website. It’s well worth looking for websites that have quality comments to see what people are saying. It’s worth responding, but be very careful not to join into an argument. Don’t get defensive and remember that this is a public, permanent record. People will read what you say, even years later.

Be an active part of the conversation. On your own website, allow comments. Read and respond to them. Go out to other blogs and leave insightful, valuable comments. You’ll build brand, gain exposure, and develop new relationships.

So while you’re at it, why don’t you leave a comment here?


  1. admin — September 09, 2008

    That’s a great problem to have, though. It certainly takes time to respond and participate, but the investment is worth it.

  2. Alanna — September 09, 2008

    If you make it easy for people to give you feedback, though, they will expect you to respond. You can listen through google alerts and twitter search and not do anything with it if you don’t want to, but once you encourage people to reach out to you, you’d better have a way to reply.

  3. Alanna — September 09, 2008

    Agreed that it’s a great problem to have. I think, though, that too many NGOs rush in to social media with no plan for how to respond. And listening and then (appearing to be) ignoring what you hear will make people angry enough you may be worse off.

  4. Vanessa — September 10, 2008

    I agree with Alanna that many NGOs rush into social media, only thinking of the how (social media) rather than the why (engaging current and potential supporters in conversation). Nonprofits are only going to see the utility of social media when they begin to engage their audiences as individuals and communicating with them as such.

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