Some of the best people you know are the ones who are good listeners. They lend you a sincere ear and make the effort to take in what you have to say then empathetically process it for the purpose of helping you the best they can.
Is there someone in your life that you know like this? A parent? Your best friend? Your spouse or significant other?
We can all agree that being genuine and open in a conversation makes you good company. But what about in business? As it turns out, the same applies. A good company listens too.
That should be the goal of every social marketer, manager, strategist and even CMO and CEO. Unfortunately, listening often plays second fiddle to talking on social media. Too often, marketers lean in heavily on what they want to say to the world and away from what the world has to say to them.
When it comes to online content, we need to flip the status quo. We need a listening-first approach. Here’s how and why the best social marketers on the planet do far more listening than talking:
Why listening matters
What gets lost in the world of screens, software and interconnectivity is that humans invented the internet. No matter how much technology plays a role in the online world, we must remember that people are the main beneficiaries of its use.
Biologically, we’re hardwired to make decisions via our emotions. We evolved to act upon the way we feel. Evolution and DNA play a massive role in the way we interact, online or in person. And because of this, our innate draw to entities that make us feel something-- happiness, anger, envy, inspiration, admiration and curiosity-- drive our behavior online.
Subconsciously, we associate groups or individuals with certain feelings. Think back to the people you know who are the best listeners. You have a positive feeling towards them; they’ve earned trust with you. This exact scenario plays out when people encounter brands online. It doesn’t show itself as obviously as it does with a friend or family member you trust, but the cognitive science works in the same respect.
The brands that listen garner a trust with people that can’t be replaced with coupons or contests. It creates real, genuine connections that lead to coveted customer behavior such as brand loyalty and advocacy.
People may not have a personal relationship with a company, but psychologically, a relationship still exists. It’s up to brands to nurture these relationships. The best way to do so is by becoming a powerhouse listener.
Learn from the best
The brands that listen the best let the audience’s interaction and engagement dictate what they do with their social content.
When Wendy’s discovered a fan asking how many retweets he would need to get for his Twitter post in order to receive a year’s supply of chicken nuggets, it became the most viral post in the history of the channel, superseding Ellen Degeneres’ famed all-star selfie pic from the 2014 Academy Awards. And even though it didn’t reach the 18-million retweet benchmark set by Wendy’s social folks, the guy still got his nuggs.
The buzz this story created online was not a fly-by-night, shot-in-the-dark coincidence. In fact, it was calculated and based on the principle that if you put the customer experience at the forefront of your strategy, you’ll win every time.
Wendy’s novel approach to social is rooted in putting listening first. They create content based on the pulse of the community, rather than trying to control the pulse themselves.
Hashtag campaigns, promotions, branded contests and CTA-driven posts all have their place. The pie-in-the sky creative campaigns and wacky social media stunts can be useful. But if you move your focus away from them and hone in on a listening-first approach to your social media marketing, your content performance and brand growth can reach new levels.
Listen with Purpose
Just as a patient at the doctor’s office or a job-seeker visiting with a career coach, the people who interact with you online have needs, wants, passions, interests, problems, concerns, fears, goals and aspirations.
How can you best meet these needs? By proactively seeking them out and hearing what it is they say about them. Sifting through comments on social posts or responding to every direct message is a great start. The way to excel is to be ahead of those interactions and listening to the audience before they reach out to you directly.
Businesses that rock at 21st century marketing do so by proving they provide value to the people they want to reach. Know who your target customers are and be there for them at the onset.
By meeting their needs and giving the solutions to their problems, addressing their fears and concerns, and intriguing and entertaining them, you’ll already be one step ahead of those who sit back and wait.
The best part? Technology advancements have made listening easier and more precise than ever. Today, brands are positioned to be top-tier listeners. Now is the time to take advantage.
Proceed with Care
In the end, it’s the marketers who place more emphasis on analyzing what the community has to say and then allowing that conversation to guide their strategy, that will win. Implementing social listening is the way to go.
Today’s marketing is about establishing real connections with real people, not surface level messaging designed to overtly sell. You can’t possibly convert leads, impact sales, develop a loyal base of fans or any of the exciting things you hear social media has the power to do unless you let the audience captain the ship.
Savvy marketers know that the way to build a high-quality following and base of promoters and brand loyalists is to listen. By getting to know your audience backwards and forwards, you can start to truly cultivate relationships that lead to business.
The more authentic and genuine you are, the better off you will be. There’s no substitute for actually caring about people. And that’s why the best listeners are the best people in our lives… and the best brands at social media.