Why You Need To Stop Talking And Start Listening

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Last night while having dinner at a hotel in Atlanta, I was listening in on a woman who was talking about the new Twitter account she had just set up. It was a personal story that she wanted to share with the dinner table. The only problem was that nobody at the table had any idea what she was talking about, and they didn’t really care. They didn’t understand Twitter but funny enough, neither did she. She said she had posted a few updates but that was about it because she didn’t completely understand what to do. While they may not have been the most “social media savvy” individuals, that’s not the main point of the story.

People Want To Talk About Themselves, Let Them

The woman who’s conversation I was listening in on at dinner may not have known what to do with Twitter but she was most definitely off to the wrong start. She created an account, started posting updates, and then told her friends about it. While she didn’t say all of her tweets were about herself, it’s pretty clear that they probably were. I would even go out on a limb and suggest that her mention about her Twitter account was an attempt at getting someone at the dinner table to start following her.

In the short span of her Twitter conversation (which was killed because nobody wanted to hear her talk about herself), this random woman was violating one of the most important laws of success: listen to what others are saying. Dale Carnegie has a number of rules related to this in his book, “How To Win Friends and Influence People”. The most relevant ones are as follows:

1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
2. Remember that a man’s Name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
3. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
4. Talk in the terms of the other man’s interest.
5. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Rather than talking about yourself (which I’ve made the mistake of doing on a number of occasions), first spend time learning about the people you are speaking with. I should emphasize that you cannot fake sincerity. If you are not really interested in somebody else, this will come off during your conversation. Alright, I think you get the point … you’re not talking about yourself anymore but why does this matter?

The Market Speaks, So Listen To It

If you hang out with the same type of people that I do, then there is rarely a day when another business idea is being passed by you. I know I personally come up with tons of ideas and I have a lot of friends that do as well. While the most important component is execution, the ideation (please excuse the marketing buzzword) process is also pretty important. While we come up with great ideas all the time, the best people to come up with ideas is the end consumer!

While that may sound pretty obvious, I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to where they decide to build out a product without ever speaking to the customers. The end result is that the product and the demands of the customer become two separate things and a sale is never made. Most recently, my best piece of advice has been to stop building and start selling.

In other words, try to get the customer to put cash in your pocket before you even have something you can give them. Offer it to them anyways and then once they give you the cash, do one of two things: deliver or give back the money. If you got someone to give you cash then you know you have a product that will sell. Now you’ve really listened to the market!

5 Ways To Improve Your Social Media Listening Skills

I think you’ve got the idea by now: spend less time talking and more time listening. This probably isn’t the first time you’ve heard this though which is why I want to share with you five ways this can be applied to social media:

  1. Write a response post and link back – In the world of the real-time web, link backs to articles have become even more rare. Instead users post about article they’re reading on Facebook and Twitter because they don’t have the time to write full-length articles. As you probably know, one of the best ways to let someone know you’re listening is by repeating what they said to you. Write a blog post is response to an article of theirs that inspired you, and there will be no mistaking that you are indeed listening.
  2. @ reply regularly, don’t just retweet – While retweeting a person is a great way of stroking their ego with very little effort, providing a custom response is even greater. If somebody says something interesting that you like, send them an @ reply on Twitter to let them know. If you can manage, try to fit a thoughtful response into 140 characters.
  3. Send an email or even pick up the phone (GASP!) – This one must be truly going over the edge for many! While this strategy doesn’t work with those that already receive a lot of attention (since they’re probably overwhelmed), sending an email or giving someone a phone call is a great way to let them know that you’re listening. I should actually rephrase that … it’s a great way to let them know that you care. In order to let them know that you’re listening, make a reference to a statement of theirs which was posted on Facebook or Twitter.
  4. Post a thoughtful blog comment – We all know the standard comments that people make on blogs and elsewhere. If you want to stand out from the crowd and don’t have enough time to write an entire blog post, write a thoughtful comment instead. Say something that let’s them know you are listening.
  5. Use search tools to find new people – The best part about social media is that you don’t need to just listen to people that you know. Using the numerous search tools that are currently available you can find people that are interested in the things which you are most passionate about. Find new people using tools like Twitter search and Facebook search. Then send an @reply or comment to let those people know you are listening.

So what other suggestions do you have for listening more effectively in social media? Are there certain strategies that you use to ensure that people are listening to you?

This post was inspired by Mark Goulston’s new book titled “Just Listen” which fell in my lap the other day, right when I needed it. I’ve also incorporated “Listening” as one of the four activities in the “social media marketing framework” that I’ve used in our social media marketing course.