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If your company is ready to dive into the social media waters, which tools such they examine first? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter? Wrong. Try Google Blog Search, Summize, and Technorati.

Before you can launch a successful social media strategy, you must begin monitoring existing conversations about your company. This has several advantages:
1 - It lets you be proactive in responding to complaints from customers. Want to impress a customer that's blogged about a problem they are having with your product? Leave a comment 15 mins after their post goes up, then follow up with an email attempting to help them with their problem.
2 - It helps create evangelists for your brand. See above. Often people that are complaining about your product can be converted into evangelists if you are proactive and sincere in your attempts to deal with their complaints.
3 - It increases your brand equity. By actively monitoring the blogosphere and other social sites, your company can develop a reputation of reaching out to and helping customers. Comcast is a great example of a company using Twitter to monitor conversations and provide customer service.
4 - It makes you more familiar with social media tools and sites. Once you begin monitoring the blogosphere, you'll begin to better understand how ideas spread in this space, and how blogs work. Same thing with monitoring talk on Twitter, it helps you better understand that space, and how your customers are using the site.
So before you start a social media strategy, lay the groundwork by putting tools in place that let you properly monitor these tools and sites so that you know what current and potential customers are saying about you. Some tools that you'll want to look into include Google Blog Search, Summize, TweetScan(Twitter), Technorati, and Plurk Lurker.
Bonus link, how to use these monitoring tools to Launch a Successful Blogger Outreach Program in One Day.

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image of Mack Collier

Mack Collier is a social-media strategist based in Alabama. He helps companies build programs and initiatives that let them better connect with their customers and advocates. His podcast, The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show, discusses ways that brands can turn customers into fans. His first book, Think Like a Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies That Turn Customers Into Fans, was published in April 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

Twitter: @MackCollier

LinkedIn: Mack Collier