By David Terrar, CEO, D2C Limited

Marketing just changed. Actually it’s been happening over the last 15 years as a result of more than a dozen trends from the rise of Google search, to The Long Tail to consumers getting a voice with User Generated Content (with blogs, forums, wikis, interactive news and Amazon changing the way we buy things forever).

The old world of a few channels and broadcast advertising has given way to a new world of multiple channels and the Internet – anyone can be a publisher and your customer has a voice in a way they never did before. In 1999 The Cluetrain Manifesto told us that “all markets are conversations”, and you need to get proactive and join in that conversation because marketing can’t simply control the message any more. If you need to catch up on “new marketing” then Cluetrain plus Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae are two good places to start.

This is Social Media. You need to monitor what people are saying about you on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google Plus, their blogs and any forums, review sites or news sources that might be relevant to your target market or user community. You need to find the places your customers or potential clients are hanging out and start to have a dialogue with them. Thankfully you can start by using free tools and a modest investment of your time. Use Google Alerts, Facebook search and Twiiter’s advanced search to monitor for your company, brand or key topics.

Tools like SocialMention, Technorati or Alltop can help you track conversations or find where to look for the experts and influencers that you need to engage with. Twitter is an important channel, and you can use tools like; Tweetdeck, HootSuite, Seesmic, CoTweet

To help you both search and monitor, as well as managing your own Twitter output. You might set up a whole series of feeds and searches, and then make your life easier by pulling them together in your own dashboard with Google Reader or Netvibes. When the i of ROi is so small, there is a lot you can do that will make a difference.

When you need to get more sophisticated, then there are plenty of paid for tools and services that can help.  Take a look at Brandwatch, Alterian SM2, Trampoline, SONAR, Market Sentinel, Radian6 or BrandsEye. These all have different strengths, but they can help automate your monitoring and handle things like sentiment analysis – if you get a mention, does the language used actually mean good or bad?  Sometimes only a human can sort that out.

Conversations will be happening out there whether you like it or not.  Take a leaf out of Dell’s book.  They’ve used the “Dell Hell” PR disaster to transform their Internet strategy so that they get over $7m a year in new sales with a small team monitoring Twitter (Dell makes $6.5 million from twitter sales), and the creation of IdeaStorm, where they are crowdsourcing ideas for their products and services.  The community does the work and they get all the kudos – a neat trick!

You can read more of David’s blog posts at BizTwoZero.com and follow him on Twitter @DT

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