About 6 months ago in my normal course of reading on Web marketing, engagement in social media and attending webinars I kept hearing about the importance of *listening* as a business communications strategy. Chris Brogan spoke and wrote about this and gave a step by step process in Grow Bigger Ears in 10 Minutes.
Professional Vs. Free Tools
It led me to do some research on both paid/professional and free listening or monitoring tools. I test drove a few and bought one from Filtrbox.com that I use for myself and client projects. These professional tools do all the work for you. Just enter your keywords, configure some preference settings and your off to the races. The benefit of paid tools is the capability they have to help you see trending and analyze results with detailed reporting. For example, here’s a 2-week trend report on keywords associated with the home staging business (notice the comparative graph that really helps you see what are the most popular terms over time). You can also measure sentiment – positive and unfavorable mentions which you can use to manage your brand’s reputation.
If you’re interested in the paid tools for your business just Google “social media monitoring tools” and you’ll get about 11 million references! But, if you’re a small, local business investing in a professional tool or service could be overkill and outside your budget. Don’t despair. I’m going to show you how to build an effective keyword listening tool for free.
A Free Listening Station Tool You Can Build on iGoogle
While I use my subscription to the Filtrbox tool, there’s a listening station I set up for free about 6 months ago and use everyday. It’s created in an iGoogle tab using Google Alerts and RSS Feeds. I learned how to do this by following Marty Weintraub’s “guerrilla tutorial” How to Build a Reputation Monitoring Dashboard. Marty’s tutorial is also very useful and offers good ideas on setting up monitoring categories in Excel.
With my iGoogle Listening Station I’m able to view all of the keywords, brands, blogs, Twitter feeds – you name it – that’s important for me to stay on top of. I’ve found that having the most important information in one place whenever or wherever I want to access it is very helpful, and powerful.
Here’s an example of an iGoogle Listening Station I built using the setup guide you can download below. Note, you can change the theme or look and feel of your page. Here I’m using the “Gourmet theme of the day” which gives, you guessed it, a different look every day. This one has a Valentine’s Day theme – I wonder why?
Benefits of a Custom Listening Station on iGoogle
- Be alerted to any new mentions of selected: keywords, brand names, personal names, product names, et cetera
- Easily monitor the flow of content you care about in one place
- View titles/headlines of mentions from multiple sources and mediums across the Web
- Hover over the titles to view a summary of the article before clicking to read more
- Use to research industry buzz and business value
- Share your discoveries and perspectives gained with members of your organization or management team
- Help you become a better writer or thought leader – “listening is the new marketing”
- Build awareness, credibility and influence through regular engagement on monitored blogs you also comment on
- Increase your creativity, idea generation and ability to expand your imagination on new things to try
- You can share your tab with others via a link to it in an email message
Want more reasons to setup a listening station? Read what Darren Rowse of ProBlogger said about reasons to be aware of what others are talking about in your niche. In his post, Darren also discusses some ways to setup alerts, and the types of alerts to setup. Let’s move on to helping you get your custom listening station on iGoogle.
iGoogle Listening Station Setup Process & Guide
With small, local business in mind, I’ve put together a step by step guide (with screenshot illustrations) on the process to setup a custom listening station for your niche on iGoogle. This guide is available as a free PDF download here: How to Create a Custom Listening Station on iGoogle.
The guide is 21 pages and covers the following topics:
- How to setup your custom listening station on iGoogle
- Adding content via Google Alerts
- Adding content via RSS Feeds
- Adding content via Twitter search queries
- How to customize the layout, move content around in columns and change the theme (design)
- Tips for using your listening station
Download the guide and try it out. I’d love to hear your feedback and the benefits you derive from listening and engaging activities.
Download the free iGoogle Listening Station Setup Guide. [print_link]