I thought to myself, "You could write about the importance of creating good content, or maybe talk about some great new tools that are available for businesses in social media, or better yet, you could write about some current events that have made a stink lately." Once I realized those had been covered thoroughly I changed game plans and just decided to write about something I've been thinking about a lot lately: Listening.
In The Land Of The Deaf, The One-Eared Man Is Van Gogh
Social media is great. I use it every day and my business is almost entirely fueled by it, but the simple fact of things is that we still don't know how to listen. Services such as SocialMention and sites such as Radian6 are a great start and vital to the listening practice, but just like having a phone and answering machine and keeping them in the basement, simply owning the tools aren't enough. You have to practically and purposefully use them.
So I'm adding an appendix to my How To Suck At Social Media series by showing you three ways to know you suck at listening to your audience.
1) The Grandparents Complex - This one we touched on briefly in the introduction, but simply owning the tools aren't good enough anymore. A couple of years ago, my father bought his parents a computer. It was meant with the best intentions, but the gesture has gone unappreciated to this day. The computer sits in the basement on an old table previously used to stack boxes of preserves with a broken wicker chair in front of it. It hasn't been turned on since the last time we were there and I used their dial-up to check my email.
The funny thing is though, that my grandparents tell all their friends that they have a computer as a sort of geriatric bragging right. If you have Google Alerts set up and Twitter searches funneling into your Google Reader, great. If you aren't consistently checking them for your customer's concerns and suggestions, you're sucking.
2) The Narcissist Syndrome - Social media, by it's very nature, gives you the opportunity to be narcissistic. With filling out profiles about yourself to promoting yourself online (which isn't the best strategy, but that's for another post), you end up talking a lot about you and what you're doing.
The problem comes in when you start interpreting what's coming in through your listening stations simply by what you want to be hearing.
"I hate my Maytag washer," says @RandomClient_1.
"Thanks," says @Maytaghelp, "we're honored you brought us into your home and feel good enough to Tweet about our products."
That sucks. If you're going to take the time you listen, you may as well take the time to hear the conversation too.
3) The React Reaction - We want to solve problems, it's human nature, but if being married has taught me anything, it's that sometimes the best thing to do is listen to the conversation and simply say "I'm sorry."
Social media gives companies the ability to immediately jump into any situation. Sometimes that's great, but other times it behooves you to step back and first understand why your customers are having an issue. Is it something you can address and solve right now or is it something you just need to acknowledge and apologize for?
We have the ability to go, go go, do, do, do but it takes disciple and understanding to sit back and work to understand the reasonings behind the conversations and what truly needs to be done in response.
Your turn. What benefits have you seen in your companies and experiences through listening? Or is it something you haven't fully grasped yet? Or maybe I'm just full of crap. What do you think?
Editor's note: Joey created the comics in this post by hand.