Social listening is one of the fastest growing technologies to hit the business world in years. But many people believe that social listening is limited strictly to the marketing department of an organization. However, organizations that are seeing the most success from social listening are making it a company-wide exercise. With so much chatter happening across social networks, do you really know what you’re missing?

We have dozens of business conversations each day through a host of mediums including email, advertising, content marketing, social media and even surveys. Unfortunately, most of these conversations are one-way exchanges and any data gained quickly becomes outdated. But social listening digs deeper and offers real-time insight from customers, partners, prospects and industry leaders. Getting started can be the hardest part but it is worth putting in the time because the payoff can be big…very big.

Find out what social media platforms your customers and partners are active on. Whether they are on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ or a particular blog, it is important to understand where they are going to gather information. Pay close attention to the types of content they are consuming; not just the topic/theme but also the delivery method (white paper, video, infographic, etc.). These may all tell us something different about what that person is thinking about. Take note of any industry or technology trends that they are particularly interested in. Analyze your own online campaigns to see the level of engagement. All of these will help you quickly recognize buying signals so you can engage with them proactively rather than reactively.

One of the biggest frustrations with social media, and it is a valid one, is that there is a tremendous amount of noise that comes along with the valuable posts and updates. Understanding how to cut through that noise will help improve your social listening. You can do this by narrowing down the people you like or follow to only those that are relevant, investing in a social listening tool like Microsoft Dynamics CRM to help focus your attention, and by knowing your social listening goals and action plan. By cutting through the unrelated chatter, you can start to see trends and interests of the people you are following. And that is the first step in growing your business via social listening.