In many facets of life, the art of listening is a lost one. In conversations that are had in real life, we often spend most of the time thinking about what we are going to say next instead of truly listening and responding to what is being said to us. The same can be said for digital marketing, where many businesses treat their platforms as a one-way megaphone instead of a two-way communication tool.

If you truly want to get value out of the time you spend putting content and your message out on your platform, don’t forget about the other half of the communication equation. While algorithms and bots have certainly made it a little bit tricky to have meaningful interactions, all is not lost. Here are five places where you can listen and reply in ways that matter.

Track conversations: There are many social listening tools out there that can do things like measure the general sentiment or hot topics surrounding your brand, but nothing can replace authentic listening. Designate a point person on your team and have them “take a lap” around your social channels at least once a day to take a temperature check and delegate where follow-up may be needed.

Monitor comments: Not only is replying or engaging with comments important for engagement purposes, oftentimes this is your first interaction with potential customers or future clients. Be sure that questions are being responded to, compliments are shown gratitude, complaints are handled promptly and requests for more information are assigned to the correct team members. The important part here is to respond quickly before they move on to someone else.

Reply to DMs and private messages: A lot of business owners forget about the power of private messages but this is where the real magic happens. Yes, you’re likely going to have to sift through a bit of spam some days, but it’s worth it to show your real customers and future customers that you’re responsive and actively listening when they have a question. Don’t forget to actively go into your inbox instead of just relying on notifications. Messages may get stuck in the “requests” folder from people you aren’t yet following or vice versa and you could miss important opportunities while they sit in limbo.

Monitor hashtags: A fantastic way to keep an ear out for what is being said about your business is by following relevant hashtags. This is easy to do on Instagram, where you can search for a hashtag and click “follow” to have posts appear in your feed. Using this tactic is especially effective for hashtags that are event or business specific.

Reply to stories: When you’re tagged in someone’s Instagram story, you only have 24 hours to view it, reply to it and reshare it. While you will still receive the notification in your inbox after that point, you won’t be able to view the content and it can be awkward to know what to reply with when you can’t see the original story. Monitor these on a daily basis so the window of opportunity doesn’t close.

There are many great and effective ways to listen to your followers and customers. Whether you do all of these or have preferred strategies of your own, the important thing is to just do it. When you genuinely care about what is being said back to you on your social media channels, the messages you put out are going to have even more value. It’s a wonderful cycle to be in.

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