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Tracking Your Customer’s Social Media Activity

listen to your customersThe more you know about your customer’s world the more you can help them get what they want out of life. To some degree, no matter what we sell, that’s the ultimate goal of serving a customer. Smart sales folks have always made it a habit of discretely discovering everything they can about prospects and customers to find more and more ways to make deeper connections. Things like Alma Maters, names and activities of spouses and kids, and hobbies are all great bits of useful connecting information if you can discover them.

Well, social media use has made this job so easy that if you’re not tracking it, you’re not really doing your job. The fact that people now willingly and publicly post information about where they attended school, what they do in their spare time, what books they read, what sports their kids play, what they think about proposed legislation and the last ten songs they listened can be mapped to help you create a total picture of your customer’s world if you take the time to plug into their activity.

Ways to plug into your customer’s world

Social CRM

To me this will ultimately be one of the best solution once it’s automatically built into most CRM tools. The idea here is that you can add multiple RSS feeds to a record in your CRM system and have the most recent twitter, Facebook, blog and Flickr activity produced by your customer at hand as you prepare for a call. I’ve toyed around with a tool called BatchBook that was built with this functionality in mind. I’m certain that this approach will eventually be a part of the CRM plumbing and rightly so.

FriendFeed

Friend Feed is a tool that was built with the idea of collecting a host of social media activities in one place, so the underlying premise plays right into what we’re trying to do here. If your customers are using Friend Feed, and allow you to connect, then all you need to do is use the list feature to group your customer’s FF feeds for easy viewing. The big knock on FriendFeed is that if your customer is not using it you can’t follow them, but users have found a way to hack around this by creating something called “imaginary friends” This is simply a group with all the feeds from your customer’s activity from saved searches, Facebook, twitter and their blog. This way your group is effectively a friend not yet using FF. The other great thing about FriendFeed is that you can comment immediately on the activity from your customers and stay in a conversation as well as track.

RSS Dashboards

No matter what approach you employ for monitoring your customer’s social media activity the plumbing that drives it all is RSS technology. Once you understand this notion and then realize that every online social media tool, including very specific twitter searches, produces an RSS feed you can start to think of creative ways to make your own RSS mashups of multiple feeds. I wrote recently about Yahoo Pipes, a variety of listening devices, and using NetVibes to create a one page dashboard. All of these posts describe some of the various ways you can tap many RSS feeds to build your own custom RSS feeds.

While I’ve focused on customers, this is also a great tactic to use to keep tabs on competitors or monitor and converse with key journalists. In fact, once you get the hang of setting of few of these routines up, you’ll likely start to think of dozens of ways to use this approach.

Image credit: djfoobarmatt

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  • melissawells

    Yes!

  • http://www.business901.com Joseph T. Dager

    Nice content John. Still amazing the use of RSS, it is just always there. The most underrated tool on the web, but the most powerful.

  • http://www.dukky.com/ Kristen

    Dukky couldn't agree with you more. Don't want to spam your comments but would love to add one more tool to your list:

    We've created a tool that tracks a customer's social media activity around a deal or coupon. Consumers can share their favorite offers with friends via their social networks and our dashboard tracks their sharing (and ultimately their redemptions) in real-time. Marketers then can measure the degree of their customers' influence, and the power of each social network in regards to their brand and offers.

    Kristen
    @dukky.com

  • CoreyJFarris

    I agree with your premise but to it I would add a word of caution: while it is true that people do willingly and publicly post information about themselves on the Internet, it is impossible for you to know their intent in doing so and also their expectations for how this information will be used. Revealing that you have gained personal information about a customer through social networking sites may require more tact and care in a business arena than in a social one. Social media can and should be a great tool for learning about your customers as long as you do it the right way. Remember: there's a fine line between networking and stalking.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Of course just about any marketing tactic could come with this warning and it's valid. The idea behind social media participation though is that it be used for deeper engagement. I'm assuming you're commenting on customer blogs, accepting Facebook friend requests from them and following, with their knowledge on twitter – so the level of how you push the relationship based on what you learn would be determined by an appropriate level of engagement based on the relationship, which I hope you're using this info to build.

    But yes, “I saw you and misses had a lovely pork roast last night” might often be an over the top response.

  • http://www.ducttapemarketing.com/blog ducttape

    Of course just about any marketing tactic could come with this warning and it's valid. The idea behind social media participation though is that it be used for deeper engagement. I'm assuming you're commenting on customer blogs, accepting Facebook friend requests from them and following, with their knowledge on twitter – so the level of how you push the relationship based on what you learn would be determined by an appropriate level of engagement based on the relationship, which I hope you're using this info to build.

    But yes, “I saw you and misses had a lovely pork roast last night” might often be an over the top response.

  • davidwelch

    You think Highrise (37 Signals) will add some functionality to rival Batchbook?

  • Socialicious_Sadie

    I like that you can create your own RSS dashboard. I like to keep things tidy and this is a good way to monitor my customers in one place. Great post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jmctigue John McTigue

    Of course there are relatively expensive tools like Radian6 that do this, but they are more for medium-large companies with money to spend on social media marketing.

  • http://vbpoutsourcing.com KJ Rodgers

    I like the possibilities of tracking competitors as well as possible customers.

  • AmberNaslund

    John,

    Love this discussion; it's a key issue for us as we dive deeper into the world of social CRM. And while it's super important to be tracking how your customers are interacting with YOUR brand, it's every bit as insightful to see how they're reacting to trends in your industry, what your competitors are doing,and how they're participating on the social web outside your brand. It all goes into the big pile of customer insight that makes us communicators better at our jobs.

    Thanks for this discussion, and for some great suggestions for your readers. RSS is a powerful thing indeed!

    Cheers,
    Amber Naslund
    Director of Community, Radian6
    @ambercadabra

  • http://www.more-for-small-business.com/ Kris Bovay

    Great post. I'd also add that to not only track customers, but also your competitors and suppliers!

  • http://www.mccloudphotography.com/ Justin

    Nic epost John. I still enjoy the use of RSS feeders and their usefulness.

  • max191

    Thanks for the great post. It reminds me that I have to bring more structure in to my blogging. Your blog is very interesting. Please let me know how to go for your rss blog.
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