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How To: Get Social Media ESP

by James Ball on December 1, 2009


I didn’t “get it” for a long time. Most of the people I talk to don’t “get it” either. It is paramount in engagement, and yet many of us think that we can manage well enough without it. It’s free to anyone that wants it, and you can have it TODAY!


Before you run away, consider this: This may be the one thing, which if refined, can pull it all together for you and you business. Social media can help you, today. If I had to name only one thing to define the difference between the social media “elite” and those who seem perpetually confused, it would be listening. Social media is communication, right? Communication essentially has only two parts, talking and listening. While I do place greater emphasis on listening much of the time, can we agree here that these two are at least equal in importance?

To my great surprise, Brian Solis stopped in here and left a comment yesterday. I didn’t ask him to, all I did was mention and link to him. He was listening somehow, and he heard his name. He’s thousands of miles away, we’ve never met, and he’s obviously got ESP. It was a confirmation of sorts.

I have no superpowers, but I do shop at the superhero supply store. I grabbed some cool stuff for you too. I put a blogroll and some widgets right here on this page for you, to help make listening easier for you while you’re here.  Click around a bit, you may find some things worthy of a closer listen!

Listed are a few of my favorite listening tools and what I use them for:

  • Google Alerts – I use this to listen for my name, my company’s name, the URL’s that are associated with both, and I listen for what my competitors and alliances are doing. Google Alerts delivers an email to me when any of this shows up anywhere online.
  • TweetDeck– Twitter is quite possibly the best place for listening. To do so using the site is not really effective for me. Even when using tools and applications, Twitter is noisy and difficult to navigate efficiently. TweetDeck lets me filter the noise by allowing me to create filters for the things I want to hear about. I place these things into columns. I have columns for two Twitter accounts that I monitor. I listen for any @ mentions of my name in two columns, one for each Twitter ID. Two columns are for direct messages to both accounts. I have a column that searches for the word “Georgia”, and another that searches for the phrase “social media”. I have a custom “Watching” column for each account, in these two columns I select friends, thought leaders, competitors, and other people that have something to say that relates to my business. I also set up columns that watch just one person’s tweets and the things others say to them.
  • Google Reader – This is an aggregator that uses RSS to collect all of the blogs and websites that I want to follow. When I open the reader each day, everything new from every site and blog I follow is right there in a neatly organized list.

Many places that I frequent online, sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, allow you to filter your notification settings. Nobody wants to be covered up in pointless emails, but set your preferences up to insure that you don’t miss an important conversation that you ought to be participating in. Develop and refine your listening practices in social media. If you are not actively listening, you truly are missing the larger part of what social media has to offer for your business.

These are some of the things I do in order to listen well. I didn’t always listen at all, but as I’ve developed and refined my listening habits, my business and my presence have noticeably benefited from this part of what I do each day. Please take just a minute and comment. What are your tools for listening? What has made the difference for you?

*Knowing what you are listening for is a topic in itself. I did want to share this article here today though.

@WholeMind December 1, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Great post. The first thing I ask any client is if they are listening to what people are saying about them and their competitors/industry/etc.

The only service that I would add is Twitter Search. I don't get into TweetDeck that often but am always checking my RSS feeds so I setup searches in Twitter Search and subscribe to the feeds.

James Ball December 1, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Hello Mike. Yes, is a powerful resource. I've become quite the Tweetdeck fan, and as such I search Twitter from there exclusively. The "columns" I set up are in reality searches on Twitter. Shame on me for assuming everyone does, or would use Tweetdeck, and for leaving Twitter search off the list! Thank you for your comment Mike.

Christina December 1, 2009 at 5:54 pm

As a communications prof (aka a big nerd), it's fascinating to me to see how we're taking the building blocks of good communication and finding new ways to apply them. I know I'm not providing a new insight, but this article just reminded me.

And gave me new material for the next lesson I teach about effective listening. 😉

James Ball December 1, 2009 at 8:02 pm

Christina, thank you for your comment. It is interesting that you pull so much from social media to integrate with your teaching. Keep it up!

Christina December 1, 2009 at 5:54 pm

As a communications prof (aka a big nerd), it's fascinating to me to see how we're taking the building blocks of good communication and finding new ways to apply them. I know I'm not providing a new insight, but this article just reminded me.

And gave me new material for the next lesson I teach about effective listening. 😉

@Brandon101 December 1, 2009 at 11:06 pm

Great reminder of the importance of listening James. I use some of the same tools – certainly TweetDeck for monitoring Twitter, Facebook, and now LinkedIn. I also have TweetDeck on my iPhone which I use for monitoring on the go. I often jump over to to do a quick search – I've found it less clunky for quick searches vs. TweetDeck.

I've also found that I rarely check on my Google Reader account. I'm getting everything through Twitter and even email for the newsletters and blog alerts that I'm most interested in. I do have Google Alerts set up for my name and I see those weekly. However, there are evidently some young whippersnappers that have the same name that are active in sports, so I see their content quite often. 😉

For client work, I've used Radian6. It's an excellent tool and we actually used it as a biz dev tool using the agency version of the tool. It's an outstanding service that I highly recommend for any business of reasonable size. There are so many insights to be gained by properly monitoring various topics and keywords.

Thanks for the post!

James Ball December 1, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Brandon, thank you for the insight. I'm very happy to hear a good review of Radian6 that didn't come from Radian6. The people involved are incredible, and I've been wanting to ask around about them. Thanks for mentioning LinkedIn too…headed there now to find you!

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