Customer gripes and horror stories can spread across the internet faster than a wildfire across the American West. And once a PR crisis like that gets going, the best you can do is minimize the damage.

The only way to stop a crisis before it starts is to listen to what people are saying online. But searching the internet and setting up automatic alerts isn’t enough.

You have to listen actively. Intelligently. The amount of rigor you put into online listening will directly influence how quickly you can identify and respond to potential problems.

Here are some best practices to consider as you build your online listening program:

  • First, define your terms. Outline the terms and topics your company is associated with, and use those to identify and track relevant conversations.
  • Establish the team. Identify a core team of staff that can monitor social media channels, review social analytics, scan online news, etc. Circulate a comprehensive list of contact information covering everyone on your team; you may need “all hands on deck” if there is breaking news or updates.
  • Don’t forget about time zones. The online world is global and always on. Your listening should be the same. Build international teams that work in shifts, so your organization can get the most accurate insight into local opinion and track regional conversations that are picking up steam.
  • Weigh your influencers. The perspective of an internet personality with thousands of Twitter followers may have more online clout than a regional reporter with no social presence. So remember to look not just at the opinions being voiced but also at the people voicing them. Create a system for measuring and rating influence that allows you to place critics and detractors into tiers or categories. This will help you be efficient about deciding whether and how to respond. Each company will have different criteria for assessing influence; put some thought into what makes an influencer potent for your company and industry.
  • If it’s fit to print, flag it. Immediately share relevant articles with core members of your online listening team. Not only will this help track any shifts of perception around your company, it will also give you insights into whether you need to tweak your program.

While each listening program is different, the ability to quickly assess and understand the rapidly changing online landscape is vitally important to any company. Have questions about any of the best practices above? Leave a comment and we’ll take a closer look in a future post.

Feature image by Marat Gilyadzinov.

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