06/22/2012 02:00 pm ET Updated Aug 22, 2012

Artful Social Listening

Are you listening, really listening, to the conversations going on about you and your products? As a CEO and an adviser to governments and politicians, I do a lot of listening. I even wrote a blog post about my listening into my industry, Government 2.0.

In the 1990's and early 2000's it was "You got mail" as made famous by the AOL advertising stable. Now the new thing is a play on the old one, "You've got Klout." Or do you? Or do you have Peerindex? Do you know your grade on Grader? Do you know what your Kred is? Did you know you can see how many impressions you get through twitter using a variety of tools like Crowdbooster and others?

It's ok, most people have no clue. But you need to get a clue. It might seem like fun and games as in the social media stock market "Empire Avenue." But the reality is, people are watching; whether employers, potential employers, clients, friends, enemies, ex-spouses, competitors, the police, governments, and of course giant database companies. It is like credit scores were maybe 25 years ago: they mattered but they did not rule your life like credit scores such as FICO do now. Social media influence and "credibility" are of increasing importance. So these scores, whether real or gamed, whether you subscribe or not, matter.

Real keyword and conversation searching brings your audience to you. Passive or not searching through your social networks does not. It is pretty simple. Relying on one analytical metric to track your progress or that of the campaigns you are running is a false flag. You need to incorporate a constant monitoring of multiple channels in order to really understand what is going on. Indeed, as I have written about before elsewhere, social media is a double-edged sword, and this applies both to engagement and listening equally. Social CEOs are applying this type of thinking not just to themselves, but to their entire organizations.

1. Listening tools like: Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, Bottlenose, and Google and Bing alerts.
2. Engagement through real conversation, not a one-way broadcast model; talk to people like you would at a coffee shop or across your kitchen table.
3. Do not rely on just one metric to follow your progress, but rather think about it like this: times change. Social media is no longer just a buzzword, but a part of daily life. It might even be like a utility in the near future, something the average person literally cannot live without. Therefore, the more you know about what you are listening to, the better.
4. Relate social media to real world business. If you are a retailer, use your social media for customer service with active listening and response to problems. If you are a restauranteur, use it to promote chef's specials or bring in someone with a true high definition camera and make a reel of background images of your food to post on Facebook or Google + or to tweet specials. Compare your foot traffic on days when you do this versus days you don't. Thank your customers; talk to them just like you would in real life.
5. Actively search your social media platforms for conversations going on around your industry, about you or your competitors. Engage with the influencers and some of the outliers alike about the things that drive business to you; reaching out to those leaders in the conversations to dialog with you on a real basis shows you are both listening and showing the world you know your stuff too.

You can follow Alan on Twitter through @Ideagov and on Google + and here on the Huffington Post.

Cross published on Silberberg Innovations.