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Social Listening: A Few Facts Every PR PRo Must Know

Negative Trust SignalsAccording to a 2015 Brandwatch study, only 46.6% of brands engage with a tagged mention. Even worse, LESS THAN 5% respond to a complaint that isn’t tagged – leaving a whopping 95%+ of brands who allow trust and reputation to erode.

It’s not that they don’t care–most, anyway–I believe they don’t have resources in place to catch (or handle) the mentions, and they don’t realize how damaging neglect can be.

What is a tagged mention versus untagged? A tag is when the person mentioning the brand takes the extra step to link their mention to the brand’s social media page, usually through the use of an @ symbol or hashtag.

Tagging the brand ensures the brand is notified of the mention and, depending on the social media platform and its settings, publishes the mention on the brands social media page. Without the tag to connect the mention to the page or profile, the mention won’t show up in notifications for the page.

Untagged mentions are often deliberate by someone who wants to complain without coming to the attention of the brand, but occasionally a simple mistake by someone who doesn’t know how to link to the brand or doesn’t care whether the brand sees it or not.

As PR pros, we are responsible for awareness and reputation, and it’s a logical leap to monitoring mentions and crisis control. They are intertwined, like laces on your sneaker.Integrate inbound marketing tactics into PR

Even if we don’t handle social media for a client, it’s definitely our role to advise them on social listening and its kissing cousin, crisis management. Whether or not they TAKE our advice is an entirely different discussion, but we do need to be making recommendations and flagging gaps. Social listening can be automated through individual platforms and software solutions, but only if you’ve taken time to put that monitoring in place.

1. Know there are three basic kinds of online monitoring: web mentions, social media mentions and customer reviews.

Most software solutions handle one or two of these, and I’m unaware of ANY that handle all three. Understand exactly what you are getting with your monitoring before you sign a contract or subscription agreement. Never assume you know!

Many, many blog articles about monitoring actually mix up solutions, confusing them with each other, even comparing reviews for solutions that aren’t apples-to-apples. Google Alerts is a great example of this – it’s listed on quite a few blog posts about monitoring customer reviews, yet I’ve never seen a review come up on a Google Alert. It’s not a predictable, consistent way to watch reviews and would be a mistake to rely on. HootSuite is another solution that is written about as a mention monitoring tool, when the reality is that it only monitors tagged social media mentions, but not untagged mentions and certainly not mentions outside of the specific social media platforms you set up within your dashboard.

It’s a social media management dashboard, not a mention monitoring solution. You need to watch untagged mentions, or be aware that you are not.

Customer Review ManagementOne last example are reputation management “software” companies that don’t help you manage reviews at all–instead, they are SEO vendors who attempt to push down negative reviews in search results. They do not monitor reviews, despite confusing website language that implies they do, and they typically don’t help you manage customer reviews on the native platform where the review was posted. Instead, they focus only on how a review ranks on search engines and attempt to bury bad reviews under other content.

Before you decide on a solution, take time to thoroughly understand your needs, then compare those needs to your potential solutions. Ask questions. Otherwise, you can end up with a crisis on your hands that you didn’t see coming, despite your efforts.

2. Know the difference between mention monitoring vs. reputation management – and what each software solution can do.

At the simplest level, monitoring mentions includes social media and general web mentions (blogs, articles, etc.) and reputation software monitors customer reviews.

Mention (, Google Alerts, HootSuite and SocialOomph, for example, don’t monitor customer review sites (learn why in my new book, Above The Noise, coming this January).

If you have a restaurant or retail client who wants to monitor their customer reviews on websites like Yelp, Google My Business, Open Table and Trip Advisor, then mention software will not work. They need reputation management or review monitoring software such as Review Trackers, ReviewPush or ReviewInc., which typically start at around $30+ per month. Small businesses can claim ownership of their business profiles on each review site individually to receive free review alerts.

3. Proactively set up free basic monitoring for your clients. It takes literally minutes to set up Google Alerts and Mention.

My normal process is to set up both of these, since Google Alerts isn’t quite as reliable as it could be. Google Alerts will catch the blog and article mentions, backed up by Mention, and Mention will catch your untagged social media mentions.

Did I mention the word mention enough times in that last sentence? Yikes.

Whether I need a paid upgrade or more robust solution depends on the client, but I address it as part of my “new client discovery” process and procedures.

TIP: When setting up the free version of Mention, I do not connect it to my client’s social media accounts. I’m only interested in having it catch untagged mentions, since their social media platforms will already be flagging tagged mentions, and I don’t want to waste the maximum number of free mentions with clutter I already know about from other sources. Save them for the untagged keywords.

One other tip – set up Mention to email the alerts to your own inbox, then use Outlook rules or IFTTT to automatically forward them to your client. Automating simple tasks like this saves time for other things. If you have compliance people that need to be included, it’s especially helpful.

4. Don’t assume your clients are actually reading the alerts.

Email inboxes are tricky things – how well you “listen” to email alerts can depend on how flooded your inbox is that day, and how busy you are. Never assume your clients read the alerts once you set up the monitoring systems, unless they have already proven to be consistently on top of them.

Do your own monitoring, and facilitate handling anything urgent if it falls between cracks.

By setting up the social and online listening tools yourself, you are able to quickly review email alerts and ensure your client is on top of them. It takes an hour or two a month (collectively) to  breeze through them, and it’s a wonderful value-add to a PR retainer. It also helps you “own” crisis planning, management and response for that client–something most companies ignore until forced into repairing a situation.

If the alerts are going to an in-house staff person, monitoring those alerts will help you help them. You’ll know when to pick up the phone.

Learn more about social listening, trust signals and monitoring your brand in ABOVE THE NOISE: Building Trust & Reputation Online Using Basic Digital PR, my new book coming out this January! Subscribe now to receive upcoming book launch freebies and notification of when the book is available for purchase in bookstores.


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