With the advent of the digital age, business has changed. We all know that and we all know that it continues to change, but are we really paying attention to how much it is changing? I thought I was. I was wrong.

Social Listening. If you’ve heard of it you’re ahead of the game. If you’ve haven’t, don’t feel bad. I’ve been hearing about it for a few years now and it wasn’t until recently that I actually understood what I was hearing. It sounded like a buzzword created to make me feel out of my element and convince me to buy something I didn’t need. Like I said, I was wrong.

Social Listening is a key aspect of Social Selling (damn you, buzzwords). Social Selling is exactly what it sounds like—using social platforms to generate sales. It’s also a lot more complicated than that. It focuses on using social platforms to become a valuable member of a community and connect people with products and services that fill a need. Imagine a utopian/hippy version of doing business where everyone you talk to trusts you and wants what you have to offer. It’s like that.

The first step to this whole feel-good style of doing business is to establish yourself as an expert. You do that by providing useful content and valuable information to your community. You offer it up without asking for anything in return. …I can hear some people right now, thinking, “That’s all well and good, but I’ve got bills to pay.” Don’t worry. That’s not the end of this story.

The second half is the listening and, while it too is what it sounds like in it’s basic form, this is where the money happens. In the world we live in today, people are volunteering a wealth of information on social platforms. In a personal example, yesterday I tweeted “Just discovered a rip in my favorite jeans. ☹” Nothing happened, other than a few sympathetic replies from my followers, and that’s how I know the top Jeans brands aren’t yet using social listening. If they were, their trigger monitoring conversations about jeans on twitter would have run my tweet past a pair of eyes and this would have happened.

@me “Just discovered a rip in my favorite jeans. ☹”
— @LEVIS “Ugh! That is the worst! Hopefully our sitewide 20% off sale on levi.com will help soften the blow.”

The result would have been two-fold. One: they would have made me feel like a rock star because a huge company is paying attention to my nonsense on twitter. Two: their sale message, instead of being spammed out to the world at large, would have been delivered directly to someone in immediate need of their product.

Now, social listening might not seem that impressive through the lens of a single pair of jeans but follow that formula up and out. If I had said “If I have to sleep one more night on this stupid mattress, I’m going to scream” and MOR Furniture found me with their mattress trigger and turned it into a $3,000 mattress sale, listening has suddenly paid off.

While you can do the listening without establishing yourself as an expert and providing value, I promise it works a lot better when you do. If I go to @LEVIS and see all they do is stalk people talking about jeans and send them buy links, I feel a lot less special. If those links are spaced out (or even hidden because twitter’s default view doesn’t show @ replies) and drowned out by useful content that is interesting to me as a jeans consumer, my feeling special is reinforced by the idea that they genuinely reached out to me because they sympathized with my problem.

Most companies today already have someone monitoring their social media, but most view it as a revenue-less customer service necessity. That’s a huge missed opportunity. When you take your social presence out of the hands of that underpaid intern* and put it in the hands of an expert sales professional, that necessity becomes an active revenue stream. Why not take something you already do, add a little savvy to it, and turn it into a sales generator?

*Putting any communication with your customers in the hands of an amateur—whether it’s social media, email marketing, or even just answering your 800 line— is throwing money down the drain. “When the Game is on the line, Winners want the ball.” Every contact with your customers is a red zone opportunity that should be in the hands of a play-maker.


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