Do you listen and engage in conversation with your customers?

The position of community manager and social media marketing manager is one of the top recruited roles in today’s market. Companies don’t have big marketing budgets and they want to listen and engage with their customers to help them make their future products and services. No matter what industry you are in, talking with your customers is key and talking where your customers “hang-out” is even more important. That’s why getting a twitter account, signing up for a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, or other social networking sites that your customers hang out in is your top priority in 2009 and beyond. When I was at Yahoo!, our CMO at the time Cammie Dunway (now at Nintendo) used to say let’s “surprise and delight” our customers with a phone call, email, knock on their door, whatever it takes to make our brand in their mind one that actually listens and does something about it. So I ask you, reader of this blog, when was the last time you actually talked to your customers? Not in a focus group but a real conversation on their terms. Sure your product manager might be an innovator but is he/she really communicating with his customers on a daily/weekly basis.  If not, make him/her. Times are tough and you gotta get your product launches right the first time and not rely upon the next version to release your enhancements. 

Here are top three ways in which you can start listening and engaging with your customers:

  1. Setup daily searches on Twitter and Google to see who is talking about your brand, industry keywords, and competitor keywords. Optional, if you have budget, look at tools from Techrigy, Scoutlabs, Radian6, or Visible Technologies.
  2. Setup a process internally with your customer support,  marketing, product management, and pr before you start communicating. Let people know what you are doing and how you plan on communicating and reaching out to your customers. They’re might be some culture shock but it is in their best interest. One option would be to start off with a 2-4 week trial run before you go all out, show those results to management, revise and then get approval for a bigger campaign depending on your overall strategy.
  3. Since you are starting social media within your company, you need to start educating those around you. Setup brown-bags teaching them on the tools you use and the data you see. Teach them a whole new way of communicating in a honest, truthful, & personable way.

Got any questions? Are you a community manager? Let me know what worked best for you in listening and engaging with your customers. Add a comment below. 



8 responses to this post.

  1. Hey Randy,
    I live & breathe community building & I appreciate how you mentioned the culture shift that needs to be considered.. I just posted my revised roles & responsibilities for a comm mgr

    It’s quite easy for companies to get started monitoring what consumers are saying about their brand & competitors. Thanks for including Techrigy SM2. We have the Freemium & prof versions

    Community Strategist, Techrigy


    • wow Connie. I think you just wrote my performance goals for the year. Most of what you described in the roles and responsibilities is right on point. I’ve used your products before and chatted with your business dev, sales, and founder. ttyl.


  2. Yes! Well said.

    It is so important to “surprise and delight” customers and it is amazing how many companies have strayed away from actually speaking with customers. Because of this, companies that do respond and reach out to have conversations with customers are remarkable.

    Companies can start by having one person do the listening & responding, but this doesn’t scale well for most companies (even small ones), nor does it truly enable the whole organization to participate in the listening where appropriate. Even with traditional communications (phones, etc.), too many employees are too far removed from customers hiding behind “the field”. The social web is an opportunity for everyone to tune in to hear customers’ voices.

    As companies mature in this, they can deploy a listening solution (I like to call it a listening grid) where everyone can plug into just the slice of conversation that is relevant to them plus employees can collaborate and support the staff who do the engaging (community manager, customer support, sales, etc.)

    Imagine a sales person listening and getting alerts for just his own customers and then when the community manager sees these same conversations he/she knows they are “Bob’s” customer. A product manager can listen for his slice, opinions about his product, and jump into the conversation from time to time, after collaborating with his colleagues. The PM might be intrigued by a customer’s idea for his product, but he knows it is Bob’s customer, so he uses his listening grid to ask Bob if he thinks the customer would appreciate him reaching out. Bob says “yes” and can follow the conversation. Everything is stored for analysis later on. This is the vision of an engaged brand where listening & engagement becomes part of the culture, not just a task for one person. It is coordinated & scalable. Of course, it is wise to start small and expand this carefully.

    Now my comment is too long, but you got me going; I’m quite passionate about the subject of the people behind their brands talking to customers. Thanks also for mentioning Radian6.

    CEO, Radian6


    • Marcel thanks for the comment and passion for conversation and engagement. Very familiar with your tools and the competition. It was a great testament to everyone’s monitoring tools that you found my blog. Trend analysis and predicting future conversations is going to be the money maker in this business. If you can predict what people are going to talk about in the public mainstream of your audience based upon the influencers then you are going to do better than your competition. No doubt about it! On your point to having everyone listen I agree on that. There is some education on social media that needs to happen internally and the one person in charge of social media gaining trust. Why would a bus. dev guy wanna change his research habits and listen to someone from marketing. Dealing with politics is going to be a reality.


  3. Randy,

    It’s good for you to solicit feedback from the community around how brands should participate in direct one-to-one communication with customers in online communities. Even though it sounds really easy to most people who casually participate in social media, the truth is that many companies are not fully prepared for this new form of customer relationship management. Everyone has heard about the success stories from some well-known brands that get referenced every time in these discussions, but they are the exception and not the corporate rule, just yet. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done in this area and discussions about this topic on blogs like yours are one way to help companies as they sort out their social media strategies. Thanks also for including us in your post.



  4. Hi Randy and good morning,

    Good post – reminds me of something I heard Marcel say in a webcast that has always stuck with me, that “social media is a party line”. Which implies both listening AND interacting, all while paying attention to the nuances of communication on a line where everybody can hear.

    Collective Intellect (my firm) has recently been doing some interesting demographic work on clarifying WHO is doing the talking and what they look like. We’ve also rolled out some new social media reporting that focuses on brand and product attributes specifically – c’mon over if you want to see what we’re up to.



  5. […] Source: Do you listen and engage in conversation with your customers? […]


  6. Posted by sms marketing on February 8, 2013 at 9:37 am

    There is apparently a bunch to identify about this. I believe you made various good points in features also.


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