If you do any sort of social media maketing, or even if you don’t, you really need to be able to listen. Listen to what people are saying about you and your brand, your competition, and your employees. This is the only way that you can effectively position yourself and company to better take advantage of consumer sentiment within your market.

Google Reader is a great (and free) way to listen to activity in social media and market accordingly. There are some great paid applications by the way, but if you have the time and you’re not Coca Cola, then Google Reader can work just fine. Here are a few tips to getting the most out of your Reader.

When setting up your RSS feeds, you’ll obviously want to include brand, competitor, and employee names and terms. But, consider adding what we like to call “Intent” phrases. These are longer tail keywords like…

  • I love Digital C4
  • I need a new SEO provider
  • I hate Digital C4 (gasp!… but still important to search this phrase)

There may be quite a few of these to add into your Reader feed, but you’ll discover over time which ones you may want to discard and which you may want to keep.

Feedly – To help layout your feeds better you might want to try Feedly.  It will arrange your feeds much like a magazine, adding viewable images to the interface, to help identify articles and feeds more easily.  Feedly also makes it convenient to share socially right from the Feedly interface.

Trends – Many Google Reader accounts have large numbers of feeds, which is both good and bad. Good in that there’s a ton of information being made available, but also bad because there can be redundancy and difficulty keeping up with all that information. Google Reader has a nifty little tool call “Trends” located in the upper-left corner of the screen. Click on it and you’ll see a ton of stats that can help you decipher which feeds you click on a lot and which ones you do not. You can also see which feeds are updated frequently and which ones aren’t. This allows you to remove those feeds that aren’t garnering attention making your Reader experience more productive.

Page2RSS – If you frequently visit a website, but it does not have a feed, you can use Page2RSSto turn any web page into a subscribe-able RSS feed for you. Something I run into quite often.

Sort by Magic – A personalized ranking feature called Sort by Magic re-orders the items in your unread feed based on your own past reading history and overall activity inside Reader. It gives you a view of your feeds informed by what you’ve liked and shared in the past. To turn on the personalized ranking view, go to the Feed or Folder settings dropdown in the feed or folder you’re viewing and select the “Sort by magic” setting.

Keyboard Shortcuts – If you use Reader a lot, the following keyboard shortcuts (thanks Mashable) can help you navigate faster and more efficiently.

j/k – selects the next/previous item in the list
space/shift-space – moves the page down/up
n/p – in list view, selects the next item without opening it
o – in list view, expands or collapses the selected item
enter – in list view, expands or collapses the selected item
s – stars the selected item
shift-s – shares the selected item
m – switches the read state of the selected item
t – opens the tagging field for the selected item
v – opens the original source for this article in a new window
shift-a – marks all items in the current view as read
1 – displays the subscription as expanded items
2 – displays the subscription as a list of headlines
r – refreshes the unread counts in the navigation
shift-n/p – selects the next/previous subscription or folder in the navigation
shift-x – expand or collapse a folder selected in the navigation
shift-o – opens the item currently selected in the navigation
gh – goes to the Google Reader homepage
ga – goes to the “All items” view
gs – goes to the “Starred items” view
gt – allows you to navigate to a tag by entering the tag name
gu – allows you to navigate to a subscription by entering the subscription name
u – hides and shows the list of subscriptions
? – displays a quick guide to all of Reader’s shortcuts

These are just a few tips for getting the most out of your Google Reader. There are more out there I’m sure. The bottom line… if you plan any sort of social media marketing, you need to be sure able to listen. Listening before your social media marketing efforts can help you determine a proper course of action. Listening after your social media marketing efforts can help you redirect (or optimize) your course of action. Listen! Listen! Listen!