Social Media and the Power of Listening



I’ll be the first to say it: if you’re getting on social media because you want to open the sales floodgates for your business, you’re probably going to be disappointed.

At least in the short-term, that’s not what social media is best at. It can absolutely be used for sales and recruiting–we use it in that capacity, quite successfully, for many of our clients. But it’s not like getting on social media flips a switch that will make people all of a sudden start buying what you’re selling if they weren’t already interested before. That part of the process takes time.

One of my favorite uses for social media–one that doesn’t completely ignore sales, but instead places it a little bit off to the side–is listening. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no better place in the world for figuring out what people have to say about something than Twitter and Facebook (yes, in that order).

Stepping back from sales for a moment, which, as I mentioned earlier, can come with time and some dedication, I’d like to urge all business (and even personal) social media users to start thinking about how they can use social media to get to know their customers and their business better

Because here’s the thing: new media is not like old media. Old media was one-way, and in the hands of a relatively small number of companies. New media is just the opposite. It’s two-way–there’s real interaction taking place!–and it’s in the hands of the people who use it every day. That’s created an environment where everyone has a channel to say what they’re thinking. Can that be a bad thing? Certainly. But it also gives you something you’ve probably never had access to before: an unfiltered stream of all your customers’ thoughts. And yes, that’s true for both B2B and B2C businesses.

As Norb Vonnegut notes in his discussion of social media for wealth management, “there’s nothing like a raw stream of unfiltered dialogue to unearth what people think about a topic.” And similarly, for one of the wealth managers he talked to, social media gave him an outlet to tweet “third-party content that contributes to capital markets transparency and investor expertise.” That’s strategy, as Vonnegut notes. Not volume. Whether you’re managing billion-dollar investments or machining parts for aircraft, there’s no doubt that this sort of tweeting has value (it’s what we do here every day). But the real power play as I see it is the listening power that social media gives you.

These days, it’s the best-connected businesses that come out on top. That’s generally always been the case, but the difference now is that some people understand the power that social media can give them and others don’t. If your goal is to know your customer base as well as possible, that means you want to absorb as much unfiltered information about those customers as you can. You’d be crazy not to use social media for that purpose.

The next time (or first time) you get on social media for your business, don’t just think about yourself. You should tweet good things, yes, but there’s much more to it than that. With the right approach and a bit of time spent simply watching what other people are saying, you can learn new things about your business that you probably would’ve never learned otherwise. Social media is so much more than a tool for broadcasting your business outward. It’s also immensely useful for looking inward and learning more about your business’ priorities and where exactly your value comes from. Those are tough questions, but social media can help you find new answers.

In an era when everyone has the right to speak and can do so in ways never possible before, too many people (and businesses) spend their time on social media doing just that: talking. Perhaps it’s time that businesses start becoming better listeners. And I’d argue that nothing is better for that than our dear friend social media.

Reprinted by permission

Image credit: CC by Martin Fisch

About the author: John Darwin

John is a recent college graduate from Creighton University. He earned his B.A. in English, specializing in British Literature, and is currently working as an editor at Social Media Contractors.

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