As we get into a discussion of active listening and social media, I will try to avoid the well worn prescriptions around monitoring and speak to issues of perception and competitive advantage. Sure, monitoring what is being said about your company is important and you have probably been urged to set up a digital monitoring system, or have already done so. But listening, in the real sense of the word, implies understanding why people are talking about you and your industry and also being able to grasp why they might be right to feel the way they do.
All this talk about listening to people’s feelings might sound hoaky to you but it is, in fact, behavior that your online peers expect of you even if you are an all powerful corporation or public institution. It comes back to the interactive DNA of social media. If you do not truly listen to those you are trying to engage, it will come out sooner or later that you are not taking your audience seriously. You may then be challenged publicly for your lack of empathy or, what’s worse, be dismissed altogether.
So if listening is a currency of online influence it is also a key to gaining some important competitive assets. All this recent talk of crowdsourcing is not just hype. Though we all know that many things cannot be solved by commitee, there is a potential to make huge leaps in policy and strategic design by sourcing answers from your peers and building upon their input. The trick is inviting input on the right areas, elements of your products and operations that are under reconsideration and flexible enough to include new ideas.
It this interests you, I suggest you read the works of Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. In their award winning title, Macrowikinomics, they present some compelling business cases for ‘open innovation’ using the wisdom of crowds. Leading global corporations are investing heavily in this and you might consider jumping on the bandwagon as well before your competitors do!
One thing is certain. Listening to your stakeholders’ concerns and involving them in collective problem solving are sure fire ways to build an extremely loyal and cooperative online following.
Here is the complete chapter text from the #Social Survival Manifesto:
Principle for Survival #5:
LEARN TO LISTEN… OR ELSE
Your detractors online presuppose that you don’t listen to them and that, if you did, you would not give a rat’s ass for what they think. Is this true?
If you are not listening to what others are saying, you have no right to participate in online discussions, even if they concern you. Listening is the entry pass to this new world and it is non-negotiable.
Have you ever really listened to your consumers and stakeholders? By this I mean not listening with the goal of defending against what they have to say but listening as though there were hidden gems in every comment sent to you, just waiting to be discovered.
Dig in and try it. Not only will this kind of listening bring greater empathy and help you better leverage your messaging, you might actually learn something about how to improve your product or business practices!
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