Listening is an essential first step in any successful social media program. It’s vital to understand the nature of conversations that your constituencies are engaged in and equally important to understand what competitors and peers are doing online before you can influence those conversations and build thought-leadership.
Your goal should be to conduct intelligence-driven social media; to rise above mere opportunistic posts.
How do you do that?
I use iGoogle as my homepage. It serves as my personalized dashboard where I’ve plugged in feeds that give me quick access to my G-mail account; shared Google Docs; a Google Reader for RSS feeds; Google Calendars that I share among my business colleagues and family; as well as feeds from a couple of news organizations and the weather.
You may do that, too. But did you know that iGoogle’s dashboard can be constructed to display all sorts of other digital information?
Build an Intelligence Gathering System
The free iGoogle dashboard can be configured to monitor multiple web monitoring searches, yielding an efficient and powerful compendium of much of what an organization needs to know about what’s going on online.
In order to use it as a business listening post, you first need a Google Account. That’s easy enough. Like all of the other Google products I’ve mentioned, it’s free.
We like free
Once your account is established, click on More, then Even More, and select iGoogle. Your template will then be created.
If you have a personal iGoogle, simply repeat the last three steps. A tab will appear in the upper left of the banner that will indicates you now have TWO iGoogles dashboards and you can toggle back and forth between Home and the one you’ve just created.
Now comes the fun part
On the upper right in the iGoogle banner, you’ll see a little square icon. Hover your cursor over that icon and you’ll see: Add Gadgets. Click on that. At the bottom of the left-hand column, find Add Feed or Gadget.
Select which RSS feeds you want to monitor. If you already use a Reader, then just copy a feed address, paste it in the box, and click on Add. If you’re like me, you have dozens or feeds in your Reader. The Listening Post that you are creating should be selective. Every time you paste one into the Add Feed box and click Add, it will be displayed on your new iGoogle Listening Post dashboard. You can also paste in a Google Alert.
So how do you maintain your listening post?
You don’t. It just keeps rolling along. You can modify it by adding or subtracting feeds. Otherwise, it silently does its job.
Until November 2013, that is. That’s when Google—for some unfathomable reason—plans to eliminate iGoogle from its list of product offerings and you will have to transfer to less satisfying options like NetVibes, Feedly or My Yahoo. But until then, it’s a great, free way of gathering intelligence.
Need help figuring out your social media program?
SCOTT PETERSON is co-founder of Relay Station Social Media LLC. We help companies amplify their communications, build reputations, and expand business through unique communications strategies, integrated Internet marketing, social media, analytics, and training.