“Start By Listening” And Other Obvious Things Social Media Gurus Tell You

Filed in Social Media 101 by on March 17, 2010 1 Comment

Start by listening

What’s the advice most social media professionals give you when you are learning social media?

“Start by listening.”

It’s like all the social media “experts” out there just figured out conversation for the first time. Phrases like “conversations matter” and “social media is two-way communication” are trumpeted like they are profound discoveries.

If you are a marketing or PR professional you probably roll your eyes and say “since when has PR, marketing and communications NOT been about listening and community?”

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
~ Ecclesiastes 1:9

Radio stations had to build community

Long before the internet existed and this fancy new thing we call social media, people actually picked up a telephone and called other people. Radio stations got hip to this amazing technology and started holding contests, taking on air comments and even prank calling businesses and pizza shops….

Wait a minute. Radio stations still do that today.

Talk show hosts do the same. Well, minus the pranking part.

You get the idea right? Radio stations and the personalities on the air (Howard Stern, Rush Limbaugh, Rachel Maddow and a small army of DJs) directly communicate with their audience members, get feedback and make community connections.

What a novel idea! And this is what all those social media “experts” are telling you to do – except this time use Twitter and Facebook.

What it really takes to listen

Let’s get past my cynicism for a moment. I don’t want to insult your intelligence by suggesting you don’t know the importance of listening to your customers and prospects. But I do want to lay out a quick framework for what to do in social media if you want to optimize your listening powers.

Be present

You obviously have to have some sort of presence online to engage and listen. Sure you could use Tweetbeep or set up some Google Alerts. But the real power of listening is being INVOLVED with the community. This means you will actually have to set up a Twitter or Facebook account.

Also – don’t forget to meet people face to face. This is still the most powerful social interaction you will ever have.

Make connections

Connect with people who are already connected. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Just start by reaching out to people in social media who already have a sphere of influence. And don’t just pitch them on your business. Connect with them to learn and form a REAL relationship.

Don’t forget the power of email

It may seem old fashioned these days – but the truth is this…

Some of the businesses who are successful online may use various social media platforms, but ALL the successful businesses use email marketing. Having an email list that knows, likes and trusts you is critical for your social media success strategy.

And to listen? … simply encourage people to email you. Encourage them to reply to your messages and get instant, direct feedback. You can also use email to steer them to a Facebook page or specific Twitter post.

Action steps

First, understand that the social media “experts” mean well when they tell you to listen first. They are telling you the obvious, but it is still good for some people to hear the fundamentals. Don’t let this deter you from really focusing on what social media CAN do for your business.

Second, don’t panic. Look for simple improvements to your social media strategy. I recommend that you start with a good solid email marketing strategy before you dive into Facebook, Twitter, etc. Be sure to encourage feedback via email.

Third, make it easy for your clients, customers and prospects to actually give feedback on whatever social media platform you use. In other words,  make sure they know you will listen to their concerns. If you have a Facebook fan page, check it often to see if someone has asked a question or posted a comment. If I make a comment on your Facebook page, I want to see that you are listening to me.


Joel Mark Witt is the Publisher of Folk Media and author of 21 Days To Twitter Leadership. He is a producer, author, and speaker who consults with businesses and nonprofits on how to use social media in marketing and communications. Get more from Joel on Twitter or Google Buzz.


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*Photo by Gianfranco Chicco

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  1. rashmi23w says:

    So basically its pretty much the same advice as handling your girlfriend

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