Dashboards are a popular tool among today’s small business marketers. By using dashboards to listen for and aggregate relevant conversations taking place on the internet, small business owners can quickly spot and take advantage of opportunities (and deal with threats) more quickly than they could in the past.

There are many free and paid services that will help you create online listening stations and dashboards. Here are 6 tools to consider adding to your DIY listening toolbox:

  1. Google alerts – allows you to save your search phrases and receive a notification any time there is a new search result for that phrase. You can choose to receive your notifications via email or RSS (great if you are using Google Reader).
  2. Twitter Search – By using Twitter’s advanced search function you can set-up very specific queries – including geographic details and sentiment. If you have not had the chance to use Twitter very much, starting with Twitter Search is a great way to explore and learn.
  3. tweetbeep.com – Think of TweetBeep as Google Alerts for twitter. Set-up search phrases and receive notification any time your phrases show up in twitter conversations.
  4. Social Mention – takes the idea of alerts even further by letting you search across, and receive alerts from,  a whole host of social media services.
  5. Boardtracker.com – believe it or not, bulletin boards are still very popular in some industries and can be a rich source of informative conversations. You will need to bookmark this site and go back to it later, because they are currently (11/13/12) undergoing a redesign.

What should you be using these tools to listen for? The answer is only limited by your imagination and creativity, but here is a short list to help get you started:

  • Your customer’s ongoing experience
  • Any brand/product/CEO mentions
  • Complaints about competing services
  • Inaccurate information about your organization
  • Thoughts and needs of journalists in your industry

Have you used on of the tools mentioned above to spot and seize an opportunity in your business? Leave a comment below, I ‘d love to learn about it.

Bill Brelsford Small Business Marketing Consultant