Can you hear them? People are talking about you behind your back. Their comments are influencing other people’s thoughts and feelings about your company, products and services. In essence, they’re co-managing your brand. Does that thought make you uncomfortable? It should, if a social media strategy is missing from your marketing plan.

You might ask “why should I care about what a few hundred people with too much time on their hands have to say about my company? Because these are people that care enough to spend their valuable time writing about your company or product. They are your evangelists and influencers and, for better or for worse, they are talking to countless other people. Web users trust them because they have no financial stake in what they’re writing about. You can’t buy their recommendations; you have to earn them by addressing their comments and concerns. This opportunity can translate into more efficient product development, improved service offerings or even re-evaluating the focus of your brand.

Now let’s talk about what you can do to take advantage of this opportunity.

Listen & Learn

You can find out what’s being said, by who and on which websites without spending all of your time scouring the internet. Companies like Umbria (now owned by JD Power) and others who specialize in social media research and analysis can give you detailed reports, cross-referenced with demographic information derived from user profiles. Twitter is emerging as the new “word-of-mouth” and there are several tools out there to help you eavesdrop on the conversation like TweetBeep.

Assess & React

Next, it’s important to effectively assess the feedback you have gathered. Segment the information into categories to see which types of feedback are most common and potentially relevant. This will help to define which feedback to focus on and which to disregard as isolated occurrences. Once you have identified the patterns, consider adopting initiatives to address the criticism. Be sure to weigh all information in conjunction with your company and brand goals before making any changes to your overall marketing efforts.

Join the Conversation

Once you know what people are saying, it also important to join in the conversation. One way is to create your own blog. The web site can be specifically focused on your company’s offering or you can present general news and information about your industry. This will help you to establish a healthy connection with your audience that will help lead to a developing a lasting relationship and increased brand loyalty. Additionally, you should take the time to comment on other people’s blogs. Set aside a half hour a day to post on the sites that fit within market and that apply to your target audience. Focus your comments on the sites where there are comments about your company and address any criticism that may exist there. The same company that provided you with your initial analysis can tell you if your efforts have been successful. They can also let you know if offline campaigns have produced any online buzz.

Creating a network of social media channels that work together and in harmony with existing marketing channels can multiply the impact social media can have on your business. Bloom can help build the marketing tools that work together to fully leverage this opportunity. Contact us today.