But, how many of us actually listen with our “ears”?
Setting up social media outposts and keyword searches isn’t listening. Doing a yearly survey to supporters isn’t listening. Checking Google Analytics and saying: “oh no, my web traffic went down” isn’t listening — it’s just hearing.
It’s a damn shame that most of us are such bad listeners. Like personal interactions, there are a million tiny signals that we can observe when we listen.
What if we applied the four steps of active listening to social media strategy?
This one is obvious. If we don’t understand analytics, track trends, or use free tools to gauge brand and audience interaction we’re S.O.L.
Getting out of the daily grind in order to empathize an audience is critical to active listening. Do you know your audience’s needs and daily routine? If your audience is comprised of school teachers, they’re probably strapped for time and in need of a pick-me-up. Don’t sell them a seven paragraph sob story and expect action. They live the sob story and they don’t need to spend time hearing about it from you. Writing an audience persona helps with the empathy process.
Asking and encouraging interaction with an audience helps provide a fuller picture of their needs. This process has to be genuine and ongoing. You know, like it would be if the person was sitting in front of you. Make it easy to get feedback from those you communicate with. Publish work emails (not the impersonal “contact@” email). People want to know there is a human on the other end of their conversation. And ask pointed questions that have a goal. People will donate their time if they see the purpose behind it.
Now this is where things can fall apart. We’ve heard our audience, we’ve empathized with them, we’ve asked questions and encouraged participation…then we keep doing what we always did. Real change in communications and services is the ultimate form of feedback. At the very least, tell them what you heard from them. Be open and transparent. But no one will really care unless we demonstrate how listening changed business practices.
I’ve never had someone get pissed when I listened to their opinion and actually gave a damn. The same can’t be said for the opposite approach.
By Matt Kinshella