How do you know what customers are saying about your business and your brand? 

You spend all your time and effort running your business. You take pride in your work, wear so many hats and do everything you can to make every customer experience great.  While you are in your shop, your store or busy meeting with clients, someone may be commenting or making reference to your company online.

What if this comment is wonderful and supportive of your business? Wouldn’t you want to reach out and say thank you?

What if it was negative and false? Wouldn’t you want to set the record straight?

What if a potential customer made note of a flavour of donut they wished your shop offered and 100 people agreed? Wouldn’t you start baking and updating the ‘new flavour’ board?

With so many review sites from Yelp to Google business reviews, Facebook reviews and more, it is important to keep an eye and ear out for customer comments and feedback.  There are also casual comments, news stories, photos and other websites that may reference your business. Whether or not you have social media accounts, your customers do.

While some big brands have whole teams of folks taking this on, you are a small business. You don’t have a team. But what you do have are some strategies to catch most of the buzz.

So what is this all called?

Digital Monitoring or Social Monitoring is just that, monitoring, to what is happening online and replying to direct questions.

This is a good starting spot for any small business that currently, does not have any systems in place.  It is a reactive approach and one that alerts a business owner when they may otherwise miss an important item.  Strategies 1 and 2 below speak to this phase.

Digital Listening or Social Media Listening is taking things a bit further by stepping into conversations, tracking industry terms, company terms, setting up accounts to more actively engage with your customers and using this insight, to enhance your future marketing efforts.

Expanding efforts in this area can have some very positive rewards as you learn more about your customers, industry and potential opportunities. Strategies 3-6 speak to this phase.

Strategies for Social Monitoring and Social Listening

Below are some strategies for small businesses. Depending on your goals, you may decide to take on more than one strategy. Start at one strategy that best serves your needs and grow from there. You may be surprised where your customers lead you. None of these strategies include buying a service or an app. We have outlined how to do it at no cost.  When it comes time to streamline you can cross that bridge when you get there.

Depending on your personality and approach, you may choose to start at Strategy 1, Starting Social Monitoring, Or Strategy 6, Social Listening: Detailing your clients personas and preferences. Those that start at Strategy 1 want to get an overall sense of things before diving in. Those at Strategy 6 want to outline the details and target from the start. Either is correct.

Strategy 1: Digital Monitoring Step 1: Starting Digital and Social Monitoring

If you only have a small bit of time and are just starting out, then the first step is to set up some listening and automatic notifications. Whether or not you have active social media accounts set up there are still third party sites where folks could be commenting.

Google Alerts  – Setting up Google Alerts is relatively easy. Set up a search for each term or name you wish to follow. To enter multiple items at once just separate each term with a comma. The ‘more options’ button opens the following window and you can be more specific about what you wish to see. To start, change the ‘how many’ field to ‘All Results’.

Google alerts work the same way as searches so if you want to search more specifically then you can search using “” for specific terms and other search shortcuts.  For example, you can search Calgary Top Restaurants for a broader search or “Calgary Top Restaurants” for more specific searches.  Include variances of your company name, your name and maybe your top keywords.

Google Alert Set Up

Search to Find Your Listings

Google your business name and find out what accounts already exist. You might need to search “Your Company Name” as well as Your Company Name. You may be surprised to see a Yelp Profile, Tripadvisor Page, Homestars review, Service Rating Sites like RateMDs, Google Business Profile and others on client review sites. Write down the list and take steps to claim ownership of these accounts and set up notifications on each.  You may or may not like the details and descriptions posted. Read the existing information and reviews and look at each photo.

To Claim a tripadvisor Listing –

Google Business Page:



If you have a Twitter account associated with your business, then set up Notifications on Twitter. To check and update your notifications click on your image in the top right corner to open your options and click on ‘Settings and Privacy’. On the left side you will see a list of items.

Click on ‘Email Notifications’

Select the options in “activity related to you and your tweets’. And save changes.

Activity Related to your Tweets
The section below allows you to select what is sent to you so check off what you think and adjust as you go.


If you have a Facebook account associated with your business, then set up notifications on Facebook.

Facebook notifications are different depending on how your account or page is set up. To access your notifications on a business account click on that little bell shape in the top right that alerts you to new events. In the box that opens, there is a small ‘settings’ link in the top right corner. Click on that and go through and adjust as needed.

For personal accounts go to settings and then notifications. A quick access link:

You can set text notifications or download the app on your phone and set it up however it works best for you. Just don’t miss someone commenting or asking a question on your page if you have one.

If you have a blog or any comment method on your website double check that moderation is turned on. Don’t allow spammers or crazy comments to show up on your website.

The goal of this strategy is that your email will trigger you if something is happening when you do not have time to check your accounts.

Strategy 2: Digital Monitoring Step 2: The Daily Check-In

Once things are set up and traffic and conversations increase, it may be time for the daily check in. Your speed of engagement is very important so if folks are sending messages with questions they expect a speedy answer. This is one of the reasons it is important to take things in pieces.

Setting up 5 social media accounts at once without understanding how they work will lead to frustration. Start with the one that best speaks to your customer base and go from there. Then you will have time to log in daily and check on things.

If you have no idea where to start then strategy 5 may be the best place to start. As you get more comfortable with social media and have a sense of how folks are interacting with you, it is time to make it a part of your daily marketing routine. Set some time aside to complete a check in for each account and start thinking of ways you may want to engage more directly.

You might look at relevant groups in your market to monitor or grow with for instance. The biggest challenge is distraction. Keep a list of tasks and stay focused. The next step is posting yourself. There is a bit of learning before diving in, but start with an extension of your current marketing and keep a daily check on how it is received. You may receive feedback you might never have heard by just sending out a mailing promotion.

Strategy 3: Beginning of Digital and Social Listening. Identify those clients or online users that promote you and influence others.

These are folks that talk about you, mention you on social media or positively like or comment on your marketing campaigns and posts. You might have done nothing online and there’s Ms. Smith posting how happy she was with the flower arrangement sent to her mom for her birthday.  There’s a picture of your latest dinner promotion on a Yelp review.

As you regularly check in to your accounts and note likes and mentions, you may notice a trend that some customers are more vocal than the rest. Keep an eye on these folks. They could be your best promoters.

Consider finding a way to connect to let them know they are appreciated.

Develop a strategy for negative reviews.

Strategy 4: Digital and Social Listening: Start looking at numbers and analytics in detail

At this point you are tracking mentions and notifications across platforms and putting some organization and thought behind the data. We are huge fans of real data when making business decisions.

A lesson learned that I must pass on is “be careful what you measure”.

What you measure is what you focus on so put some thought into this beyond likes and follows.

Sometimes measuring followers seems great. But what if you have 20,000 followers but no improved sales. Time to change strategy. Start looking at actions. How many took your preferred action? This could be engaging with specific content, calling you, asking for directions and other indicators. How many times was your online promocode used in store?  Are your promotions and information in line with your sales strategy?

Sometimes attention in itself is what we are targeting, but at some point we move from folks learning about your business to becoming a customer.

Google Business

If you have a Google Business Page, you will automatically receive a monthly email updating you on activity such as how many folks asked for directions or visited your website or how many folks called you.  For more detailed information login to your Google Business Page and click on ‘Insights’ in the left column. Google My Business Data Example Facebook

Facebook and Instagram are great examples of the analytics available. Yes, there are tools out there to consolidate multiple channels, but if you are just looking at one business then the free tools on each social media channel are a great place to start.

Login to your Facebook page and click on “Insights” in the top bar.

Depending on your traffic you will see various information and trends. The upper info is detailed whether you post or not. Below is more information about engagement with your posted content.

An interesting one is “When Your Fans are Online”. You might want to target posting times around your followers most active periods. You may also want to schedule your time to answer any questions or messages after this period of time daily to respond quickly. Beside “When Your Fans are Online” is also “Post Types”. It isn’t an obvious heading, but when you click you will see what kinds of posts you have created and how the different formats have performed compared to each other.

At the bottom is often a link to view “All Posts Published”. Click on this to see all of your posts and compare their reach, engagement and associated promotions.

Strategy 5: Start listening to industry terms and your competitors. Are there industry trends to watch?

You are comfortable checking on your accounts. Now, what are you competitors doing? The first step is identifying your industry and main competitors. Look them up.

Do they have an online presence? What do their social media channels look like? How much engagement can you see? An interesting free online Google tool to try out is Google Trends. It relates to all searches, not just social.  I use this quite a bit and it is sometimes boring and sometimes crazy telling. Say you are a Game shop owner. Wouldn’t you want to watch the trend of various consoles and games?

This is the trend for Fortnite. Not shocking if you have a teen son.

Fornite Google Trend Map

The other great use is seasonal items. This is an example of a search for Patio Furniture. To understand peak search times allows you to time promotions to reach the maximum number of potential clients.

Seasonality of Search Google Trend Map

Strategy 6: Social Listening: Detailing your clients personas and preferences

This could easily be your first step, but it’s sometimes hard to do this task when you are sitting alone in your office staring at a screen. It is a little easier after testing the waters a bit and checking out what’s online and how it works.

Once you are comfortable with social monitoring and have an idea of some of the general trends and how the social media platforms work, it is time to get specific. This one takes a bit more work to set up but can have very specific rewards.

First, define your client persona. What does that mean? Think about who your main preferred clients are and what they like, where they live and some major characteristics. Consider their age and lifestyle.  What social media platforms are they most likely to use?

Start testing out your theory and listen to what folks have to say. How do you listen to your client persona? I usually like to think in terms of real examples so think of real customers and write yourself some notes about each. Based on their gender, demographics and interests they may be on different platforms.

If you are a game shop owner then Instagram or Youtube would be a first starting point due to demographics and use numbers.

If you are an orthodontist office where most of the decision makers are women over 30 then Facebook would be a great first step.

Don’t worry about being perfect. Just give yourself some base ideas so you have a starting point. Start somewhere. It is better than standing still.

What’s Next?

If you have taken on all 6 strategies, you may want to start looking at tools to streamline the process and some of the tasks. We aren’t recommending any specific tool as it all depends on your needs, but we are here to help if you want some guidance. Get in Touch. We can help you manage your own monitoring and listening strategy or we can do it all for you. We would love to hear your feedback and ideas to contribute to this list so we invite you to contribute. Social media is ever changing. We are always learning and looking for new ways to look at our world.

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