4 Free Web Apps to Listen to the Conversation

Posted By Joe Pulizzi on September 12, 2008

Whether your target customer or prospect is interested in music or metallurgy, you need to constantly monitor and survey their needs, wants and behaviors. Outside of traditional methods, there are a variety of free online applications that can help you set up “listening posts” to better understand your target customer, including how they are behaving, engaging in conversations, and what they think about your brand. The purpose – by understanding their informational interests, you can better develop content yourself to satisfy those interests and engage in the conversations.

Here are some free tools that you need to be aware of in order to be “a part” of your customer’s conversation.

Google Alerts

It’s amazing the number of people that still do not actively use Google Alerts. It works like this – just type in your content phrases (i.e., San Francisco music scene) or your brand name (i.e., Guitar Center) into Google Alerts. Google will then monitor those words/phrases and send you an email when that phrase is used on the Internet.

You can be notified as it happens, or once per week…it’s up to you. Most companies use this service for reputation management (find out who’s talking about them), but you should also use it to find out which sites/bloggers are talking about the things that are important to your customers. Once you do that, you can actively get involved in the conversation by commenting on those sites/blogs, or by creating web information that speaks to that issue.


Technorati is a blog search tool that monitors nearly every blog in existence. Use Technorati to find out what bloggers are talking about, and the buzz going on regarding different issues/topics. The service will also show you how often a particular word/phrase is used per day/month. Bloggers are ranked in “authority” by how many blog reactions they have (people who have talked about them or linked back to them). Depending on your specific niche, you may want to follow the authority bloggers in your field.

Also try Google Blog Search.


Well, you have websites, news releases and blogs covered, but what about forums and communities. No problem, Boardreader monitors the top forums from around the web to find out who’s talking about what.

Twitter Search

For those of you not familiar with Twitter, it’s a micro-blogging service that asks people just one question, “What are you doing?” Millions of users later and Twitter is a dominant force. Answering the question and submitting it to your “followers” is called a tweet (i.e., I just read this great article on branded entertainment, LINK).

Outside your following group, Twitter can be hard to follow, which is why Twitter Search was created. Just type in any phrase or brand name and you’ll get all the times it was mentioned in the last few months. Invaluable tool to find out what people really think about your brand, service or industry.

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