It often takes an outsider’s perspective to learn about new opportunities, whether they take the form of flaws, bugs, or unique use cases. The most valuable opportunities often come from customers themselves — the people who are hands on with your product every day.

For those just starting-up, or starting to realize that your product and community teams could improve their communications, here are six reasons that your entire team needs to be listening to the conversation surrounding your brand.

1. Guiding your business strategy or product roadmap (pre and post-launch)

Many companies miss a huge opportunity by not building a community pre-launch, when the benefits are abundant. For one, you can gather intelligence around whether or not there’s a product-market fit.

Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt (which just joined Y Combinator) has talked about the benefits of transparency and building a product in the public, such as: increased buy in, early feedback to identify usability issues, and generating excitement around your product.

Another obvious reason is to build awareness early on. By building a relevant community around your product or service and getting people excited about it, the buzz is likely to spread from a more open start.

Give your community good reason to share your product. When you receive constructive feedback, incorporate it and let the source and the public know that your community helped improve your product. This creates genuine inclusion.

Below is a great visual representation of the many avenues available for community engagement and social listening:

2009 730x547 Learning to listen: 6 huge benefits of paying attention to your community
via Brian Solis and JESS3

How to build your community pre and post launch:

  • Identify where your community hangs out. Use a monitoring tool (like Mention) to track keywords related to your product, brand, or service, including competitors. Pay attention to where these conversations are happening.
  • Identify influencers and potential brand ambassadors. As you monitor these discussions, make note of who’s leading the conversation and sharing new ideas or products.
  • Reach out to potential early adopters. Do research on influencers (with tools like Riffle by CrowdRiff) and look for shared interests to start a dialogue. If they seem interested in your product, offer them a free trial. (They will likely enjoy being the first to try something new.)
  • Get them talking to each other. Ask your early adopters to join some sort of group — a hosted forum, Facebook Group, LinkedIn Group, etc. Pose relevant questions to the group and encourage conversation.

2. Quickly identify bugs & issues

Our data has shown that 31 perecnt of tweets with a company’s name don’t include their handle. By listening closely to what your customers are saying about your brand and product — whether or not they’re speaking directly to you — you’re able to answer questions and put out fires.

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More importantly, you’ll learn what customer questions are, allowing you to make the appropriate fixes or adjustments required. Some companies use this feedback to scale their support process by adding the questions and answers to their Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

By “scaling,” you’re streamlining a critical activity or finding more efficient and effective solutions to a problem. In this example, you’re limiting the number of incoming support tickets by making critical information more readily available.

Scaling processes is usually always a good thing, but I’ve found it really interesting how Buffer chooses not to scale its customer support. Instead, the team listens and reacts to every question until they find a solution. This way, they always have their fingers on the pulse of any issues or bugs or new development opportunities.

By going to the source — your customers online (via listening) — and making your support team readily available, you’re decreasing the time it takes to gather feedback and address the issue. This is also known as creating tighter feedback loops.

How to decrease feedback time:

  • Implement a listening program to capture the company mentions that don’t include your company handle or don’t come through email.
  • Assign someone or a team to respond to community queries.
  • Strive to answer questions within an hour or two. We strive for about 5 minutes or less. Untouched communications can quickly go awry.

Read more: Learning to listen: 6 huge benefits of paying attention to your community

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