What's your goal? Listening
In high school I worked at a department store and the first lesson in my "sales associate" training was to ask an open-ended question.
This gets around the "May I help you?" question that gets people off the hook by allowing them to say no. Of course, even when you asked, "what color pants can I find for you?" they looked either irritated or terrified- that they were being stalked. The irritated put you in place by letting you know they were "just looking." The terrified, being nice mid-westerners, were not afraid of you, but the position you put them in- having to say no.
The point is, open-ended questions were designed to give you an opportunity to listen to the customer. The negative reactions came from years of bad experiences with sales people not asking the right questions, not creating the opportunity to listen.
I know I sound like I'm beating a dead horse, but if building community is our key goal, online social media gives you the opportunity to listen to your customers. Whether you are building community around a common interest, to promote a cause, or sell a product, listening is the key to expanding that community.
Blogging offers many ways to listen to your community.
So how does something you crank out give you the opportunity to listen? Three ways
- Research and linking
- Offline converstations
While writing my blog, researching and synthesizing the ideas of others, helps me clarify my topic and learn more about how others in my field are thinking. A good example is Chris Brogan's piece on listening. He gives us a great list of various tools you can use to learn what your audience is already saying about your organization such as Technorati, Crazy Egg, Google Blogsearch, etc. All of which are extremely valuable to track and measure your audience. As you incorporate the thoughts of others into your post and provide a link to their site, readers have the opportunity to learn from many different sources.
In addition to monitoring what others say about your organization, which is the subject of a future post on listening, it's imoprtant to take a look at what the competition is doing and what their audience is saying about their product, customer service, etc. It gives you the chance to see how they are developing their service or product, what is going well and what they might be missing.
Let's take an example: ice cream. Nothing builds community like ice cream and there is a particular company that has done a great job of this using a blog. The New York Times posted a great article on how blogs can generate business in a kind of roundabout way. One of the companies listed is Denali Flavor's Moose Tracks Ice Cream. Let's say we are marketing Moose Tracks. As we research Moose Tracks we find, among other things, reviews from Ice Cream Tasters, and a review of Hershey's Moose Tracks Cake.
For today's discussion let's skip past what others say about Moose Tracks, and take a look at feedback about a competing "Premium" ice cream: Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream. (Ice Cream, in case you didn't know, comes in different grades. Moose Tracks is "Premium Ice Cream.")
BinkyBlogs and and parent hacks blog on how Dreyer's Dibs are great for little hands. This is great feedback, you know Dreyer's did some great research to identify a major drawback to ice cream for kids- large portions and the mess they can cause.
Keeping Ice Cream Honest
This group of triathletes rant on a bulletin board that Dreyer's is using false advertising to promote their Slow Churned Rich & Creamy Yogurt Blends (Can I even count this as ice cream??). The complaint was that Dreyer's compared a smaller serving of its frozen yogurt with a larger serving of regular yogurt to demonstrate that it is even better for you than regular yogurt. 24 people contributed to this discussion. How many of them discussed it with their friends?
Who Let the Watchdogs Out?
Yep, a food service industry blog, Capico International, nailed Dreyer's- and a host of other companies- for shrinking package sizes, but keeping the price the same. Like we wouldn't notice the lighter package? This is ice cream people!
So let's see, we now know premium ice cream consumers like easy-to-use portions for children, honest comparisons and information regarding price changes. How hard was that? Next time, we'll listen to Moose Tracks' community.
Discussion about tracking, comments and offline conversations are to follow!
-I Can't Keep Up
PS- Mark your calendars! July is National Ice Cream Month.