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Learn how to use social media for business advantage from the big guys. Rather than shouting at the top of their lungs, “We’re the best!” to anyone who’s nearby, many Fortune 500 companies have representatives listening to what’s said about them. They search for questions about their products or services and provide helpful answers. They listen to complainers and try to turn them into cheerleaders by resolving their issues. They listen for feedback on the current product and look for opportunities to improve and innovate.

Three recent cases come to mind:  A few months ago, I had a Kohler sink that cracked—a tiny 2-inch hairline crack. I contacted Kohler’s customer service department from their website and asked what they’d do about it. They responded within a few hours with a clearly written, customized apology, asking for photos and a receipt. I sent the photos, but had no receipt because I’d had the sink since the house was built—four or five years earlier. Kohler promptly sent a second email, with a letter for me to take to the local retailer for a replacement sink. I was so amazed at the prompt, no-hassle response that I wrote a blog about it, which rolled up to my Facebook profile, to my LinkedIn profile, my Twitter feed, and my Author Central profile on Amazon.com.

Second case:  Brainshark “listened” to me blog about poorly designed visuals and offer principles to improve presentation structure and design. They offered to let me try out their multimedia tool to build learning content and presentations. As a result, last weekend, among a group of about 100 entrepreneurs looking for such a tool, I had occasion to pass on their name.

A third case:  In the same meeting of business owners, a CEO commented on the Sears brand and guarantee of satisfaction, giving his personal experience about Sears listening on the internet and replacing his defective refrigerator.

Does listening rather than shouting your message pay off?  You be the judge.

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