As part of a project to mark the tenth anniversary of the seminal social media book The Cluetrain Manifesto, Keith McArthur organized a project to have different people blog about each of the 95 theses within the manifesto.
I'm writing about thesis number five. For context, here are the four preceding these:
- Markets are conversations. (Christopher Locke)
- Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors. (Simon Kendrick)
- Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice. (Keith McArthur)
- Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived. (Shel Holtz, A Shel of my Former Self)
5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice
Listen. Engage. Develop.
These three steps provide a simple way for organizations to dip their toes into social media. Of those, the first - listen - is the easiest, the most risk-free and potentially the most rewarding.
It is listening that provides the learning; that shows organizations the lay of the land; that pushes companies to adapt and that enables them to head in the right direction.
It is listening that enables companies to participate in online conversations, not as faceless, message-driven entities but as people within an organization. By listening to what people are saying and adapting communication accordingly, you become an active listener rather than a passive one.
Because people generally don't want relationships with companies or organizations. They don't want to talk to Skittles, or to Ford, or to Garmin. They want to talk to people within those companies. They want to talk to people with a face and with a personality.
Openness is a core part of a company's social media presence. In fact, you should do a "culture check" on your organization before moving deeper into social media. If you're planning to do anything misleading, don't really want to hear disagreement or don't really want to engage with your customers, then step away before you drag your organization down with an ill-advised initiative.
Company employees, when acting online, can and should remember that they represent their organization at all times. However, there's a balance to be struck between rigid on-message formality (no-one wants to be messaged) and off-target communication that, at its worst, can damage companies' reputations.
Most people don't:
- Constantly try to sell you thing
- Talk in bureaucratese
- Treat other people as a statistic
If you approach these tools through active listening and engaging in a way that puts a personality and perhaps a face on the organization, expect an evolution in the way people respond to you as people identify with those on your side of the fence.
People recognize other people by the sound of their voices. If you sound like a robot, expect to be treated like one.
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