The first piece of advice I offer to anyone who is considering entering the world of social networking is “listen before you leap”. Get online and find out what is being said about you, your company, your products and services and your topic, subject, issue or community of interest. Just for fun google your organization’s name followed by the word “sucks”. Hopefully you won’t find anything, but if you do, don’t be too devastated. You will be among some very good company. Remember part of the reason for listening is to identify your detractors as well as your advocates. Should you find a detractor, seek them out, and open a dialog with the aim of resolving their issue. After all, the reason for listening is to know what to say.

Ok, so how do you listen to a community? Oh, and remember it’s not your community. You will just be one voice amongst many. Your goal is to discover how to contribute in a compelling way to your chosen community. Right then, back to listening techniques. Here are few to start:
1. Search for information about your chosen community. Use a variety of sites (but at least Google, Facebook and Also be sure to use a variety of search terms to get a full picture of the information available.
2. Create “Google Alerts”. This is “active listening”. It harnesses the power of Google for your specific search parameters and gives you alert results on an as-it-happens, daily or weekly basis. Please note, for best results enclose your search terms in quotation marks, e.g. “Outback Solutions”.
3. Ask your friends what they are interested in. Both your virtual and “real” friends. Don’t forget the “10 levels intimacy” post.

Good listening!