The most basic and powerful way to connect to your audience is to listen

The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words. ~ RACHEL NAOMI REMEN

Listening is one of the most attractive traits in a fellow human being. Interest is sexy, and shows that you want to see into the other person. Learning another’s likes, favorites and passions transforms the relationship into one of transparency and intimacy. A classic rephrasing of intimacy is In-To-Me-See.

In the world of social media marketing, listening is a critical element to the humanization of a brand, the discovery of key influencers, communities and conversations where your product or service has an audience. There are loads of tools for listening, all with different slants on the art and science of gathering intelligence. But a critical aspect of this equation is the EQ (emotional intelligence) of the analyst looking at the data (even if the tool has already performed some intuitive filtering).

To use a dating metaphor: when your date really listens to you, he/she will be tying his/her chosen topics into what you are saying, weaving the two hearts at the table, on the blanket, or on the beach together. This weaving of hearts is just as important in social media marketing, where community managers and small business owners have the mandate to engage in one-one dialogues with customers or segmented niches. Such dialogues are not simply about opening up and letting things go on a natural course. As Charlene Li says in her latest book, Open Leadership, “Being open requires more —not less—rigor and effort than being in control.” The best relationships are ACTIVE!

Listening IS Invitation

Active listening has long been a practice amongst psychologists and psychotherapists, and is no less important in the realm of social networking. To actively listen one might consider the following important actions (adapted from the Council Circle tradition of co-listening):

1) Maintain eye contact with the person speaking (In cyber-space, this means using the filters in the listening tools in an intuitive manner so as to properly segment your audience based on keywords, keyphrases AND other verticals that are attractive to that niche. sCRM is all about this CONNECTION of information from databases to extract precise lists of keywords relevant AND resonant to your audience).

2) Be relaxed but present. (Check out Jet Blue’s twitter account. Their staff are interacting with customers in an uplifting, humorous manner).

3) Be still.

4) Listen from the heart. (The heart is THE most important muscle in social media marketing!)

5) Allow the story to unfold. (The Nestle Facebook fiasco is a classic example of a Community Manager rushing in prior to thinking the consequences through).

6) Listen carefully and the person speaking will always tell you what they need.

7) It’s not your job to “fix” the person who’s working.

8) Common mistakes to avoid:

DON’T give advice (unless asked for). (In social networking, Community Managers/Business owners have the mandate to be problem solvers. To truly solve a problem one must listen first. The key distinction between an Advice-Giver and a Problem-Solver is ACTION!)
DON’T “swap stories” to reassure the person who is speaking
DON’T interpret the meaning of his feelings
DON’T interrupt discharge of emotion (laughter, tears, etc.)
DON’T talk very much
DON’T ask questions for your own information
ONLY ask questions to lead the person deeper into feelings & his own re/solutions.

The most common mistake: Trying to show the person speaking what a good, understanding, perceptive, kind, helpful … person, counselor, leader … you are.

Listen, listen, listen! (That’s really what we all need!)

To return to the weaving metaphor, when one weaves strands of past subjects into the current conversation, a common point of reference is established. The social fabric of the internet is one of the most dynamic environments humanity has EVER engaged in…having the tools to listen is critical (science), knowing how to listen is an art that takes practice or comes naturally. Good community managers are EXCELLENT listeners who hear the heart of their audience and give the customer what he/she wants. And that is what makes GREAT customer-centric business, the current HOT method of marketing.

David Deida, the relationship author, writes, “Who we trust in a business situation is based on how open we are. Openness is bodily openness, muscular relaxation, heart openness as opposed to hiding behind some emotional wall, and spiritual openness, which is actually feeling so fully into the moment that there’s no separation between you and the entire moment.” Openess, feeling and intuition are INHERENT traits of the successful social media marketer/networker.

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