Listen up, people.
Do you have a sec? I’d like to discuss something with you.
No seriously. Stop talking…for just one second. I want to tell you something…
I think most companies using social media today are really bad listeners.
And I think that they’ve made a strategic decision to be that way.
Great. Thanks. I’ll be brief.
I’m not talking about the “social media monitoring” kind of listening here (the passive kind). I’m talking about the “I ask you how you are doing, and then sit and pause to allow you to answer before I tell you about how I am,” kind of listening (the conversational kind).
This is a subject pretty much unaddressed in anything I read about social media strategy. And I’ve yet to read a social media case study that begins with a company asking themselves, “what do people want us to say to them?”
Most social media strategies assume an inherent control and ownership of the conversation on the part of the company entering the social space.
“What do WE (on high, the “producers”) want to tell YOU (down there, the “consumers”)?”
Social media strategy, in this context, simply becomes a matter of determining…
- The message we’d like to convey in social media.
- The channels we’d like to convey them in.
- How we will respond if people don’t like what we are saying.
- How we will optimize the whole kit and kaboodle.
Us, us, us.
Talk, talk, talk.
Noise, noise noise.
Seriously, shut it already.
Conversations are TWO sided. (Yep, always have been, go ask your mother, she’ll totally back me up on this.). You don’t actually own them…you never have.
And the ones that happen in social media are no different.
- That real pretty soapbox you’ve built and are hauling out onto the social media street corner? Someone’s just dying to knock you off it.
- That detailed content strategy you’ve crafting? It’s not going to come in handy when someone simply strolls up online and says, “I really hate you guys.”
- Those aggregation and syndication plans dancing in your head like sugarplums? Not going to matter when your front line communicators are unable to both stay on brand AND talk like a human.
When it comes to “media” – social, interactive, broadcast — the rules have, quite simply, changed. And that means our strategy needs to change too.
When people were given the opportunity to talk back (they weren’t waiting for our permission), we immediately switched from an environment that we could navigate with a carefully constructed strategy, to one that we must negotiate with a sense of grace and adventure.
In social media, we must be both strategic and flexible — hold on and let go — and that’s no small feat. (No wonder all of us are struggling to write a game plan for it.)
While we weren’t looking, our “consumers” redefined their role on the playing field — Clay Shirky calls them, “the people formerly known as the audience.”
And, if that’s true, then perhaps that makes us “the people formerly known as marketers.”
If the people have changed, them maybe that means our job need to change too.
What if our job as marketers isn’t to get people to want the things we have?
What if our job as marketers is to help people have the things they want?
What if people have been telling us that this is what our job was for some time now, but we were too busy talking to listen?