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Guest

Three Ways You Suck at Listening to Your Audience

By: Guest | April 12, 2011 | 
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Joey Strawn is a blogger, husband, and President of Empty Jar Marketing.

Spin Sucks Header Comic

I’m honored to be guest posting again on Spin Sucks and as soon as Gini Dietrich said we were a go, I started thinking what would be most beneficial for you.

I thought to myself, “You could write about the importance of creating good content, or maybe talk about some great new tools that are available for businesses in social media, or better yet, you could write about some current events that have made a stink lately.” Once I realized those had been covered thoroughly I changed game plans and just decided to write about something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately: Listening.

In The Land Of The Deaf, The One-Eared Man Is Van Gogh

Social media is great. I use it every day and my business is almost entirely fueled by it, but the simple fact of things is that we still don’t know how to listen. Services such as SocialMention and sites such as Radian6 are a great start and vital to the listening practice, but just like having a phone and answering machine and keeping them in the basement, simply owning the tools aren’t enough. You have to practically and purposefully use them.

So I’m adding an appendix to my How To Suck At Social Media series by showing you three ways to know you suck at listening to your audience.

1) The Grandparents Complex – This one we touched on briefly in the introduction, but simply owning the tools aren’t good enough anymore. A couple of years ago, my father bought his parents a computer. It was meant with the best intentions, but the gesture has gone unappreciated to this day. The computer sits in the basement on an old table previously used to stack boxes of preserves with a broken wicker chair in front of it. It hasn’t been turned on since the last time we were there and I used their dial-up to check my email.

The funny thing is though, that my grandparents tell all their friends that they have a computer as a sort of geriatric bragging right. If you have Google Alerts set up and Twitter searches funneling into your  Google Reader, great. If you aren’t consistently checking them for your customer’s concerns and suggestions, you’re sucking.

Closet Comic

2) The Narcissist Syndrome – Social media, by it’s very nature, gives you the opportunity to be narcissistic. With filling out profiles about yourself to promoting yourself online (which isn’t the best strategy, but that’s for another post), you end up talking a lot about you and what you’re doing.

The problem comes in when you start interpreting what’s coming in through your listening stations simply by what you want to be hearing.

“I hate my Maytag washer,” says @RandomClient_1.

“Thanks,” says @Maytaghelp, “we’re honored you brought us into your home and feel good enough to Tweet about our products.”

That sucks. If you’re going to take the time you listen, you may as well take the time to hear the conversation too.

Me Comic

3) The React Reaction – We want to solve problems, it’s human nature, but if being married has taught me anything, it’s that sometimes the best thing to do is listen to the conversation and simply say “I’m sorry.”

Social media gives companies the ability to immediately jump into any situation. Sometimes that’s great, but other times it behooves you to step back and first understand why your customers are having an issue. Is it something you can address and solve right now or is it something you just need to acknowledge and apologize for?

We have the ability to go, go go, do, do, do but it takes disciple and understanding to sit back and work to understand the reasonings behind the conversations and what truly needs to be done in response.

Cheetah-Tank

Your turn. What benefits have you seen in your companies and experiences through listening? Or is it something you haven’t fully grasped yet? Or maybe I’m just full of crap. What do you think?

I’m listening.

: )

Joey Strawn is a blogger, husband, and animal lover. He is President of Empty Jar Marketing and has been called “smart”, “engaging”, and “adorable” by people you know and trust.

Editor’s note: Joey created the comics in this post by hand.

51 comments
NancyM.
NancyM.

Social networks use for businesses and marketing can be easy if you learn to think like the customers you are trying to reach. Of course owning a twitter account and not using it to interact with your customers is pointless. I unfollow a ton of these twitter accounts everyday. It is all about interacting with your customers on a personal level.

hire a java programmer
hire a java programmer

Having been simply browsing for pertinent blog posts intended for a project research and My partner and i happened to stumble on yours. Many thanks for the useful information!

Ragnarok
Ragnarok

You really bring out a lot of good points I have a habit of not following my tweets and same thing with my RSS feeds I find email is the easiest thing to check often but I've been slacking on everything else so I guess you could say I really suck right now. But I'll take this wonderful post to heart and try to apply some of it so I don't suck as much.

skywardjason
skywardjason

Joey, I love that show "undercover boss" because it really draws out the same principles you've taught here. Oftentimes we really don't listen to our clients...either because we're "too busy" or because we (Jack NIcholson voice) "Can't handle the truth!" What's great about social media is that it makes it very obvious who's really listening and who's not. Loved it man!.....nice meeting ya!

Wes Towers
Wes Towers

Hi, Joey. Great stuff you have here. I agree with you. Listening is very imperative in business. It is how you know what your customers really want instead of what you think they want. In graphic and web design, it is very hard not to listen. If we don't listen, then we would never be able to accomplish the requirements needed by our clients and would risk of them going to the competition in case future projects arise. Fortunately, I realised this early on. In fact, I can say that I may be a better listener than I am a talker. ;)

bryanwillmert
bryanwillmert

Great post! Too often we talk like a guy who loves to hear his own voice through a microphone! Love it!

MiChmski
MiChmski

<!-- p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 18.0px; font: 12.0px Arial; color: #333233} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; line-height: 18.0px; font: 12.0px Arial; color: #333233; min-height: 14.0px} span.s1 {background-color: #eff2f8} -->
<p>HUGE! Nice post, Joey. There is so much that can be done with social media monitoring ! I especially liked #3 because sometimes "engagement" means simply listening or passing the message internally or letting other people respond rather than try to answer every single person talking about your brand. Listening and understanding doesn't always mean responding in the same way. We work with Orange Telecom, for example, at Synthesio and they found out through listening that in many forums, people that have been participating for a long time answer most questions about their products -- just because they want to. The Orange community managers, then, respect these different community interactions and let them happen as they were, only intervening when a question can't be answered. </p>
<p> </p>
<p>Michelle synthesio. </p>
<p> </p>

lindasaffell
lindasaffell

Listening is HUGE. I volunteer in animal welfare work, and people are just so hungry for being heard, having what they say actually acknowledged and maybe repeated in someone else's words. Also, when we listen, often what people say at first: "I need to get rid of my pet" turns out to really mean, "I am not sure what to do for my dog's/cat's itching/biting/high energy/etc." And if we really hear them, we can help these people to KEEP their pet and to be smarter, better owners. We also have to listen to one another -- and THAT can be a bigger challenge sometimes!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

When I speak, I always tell my Hertz/Avis story. For my entire career, I've been an Avis customer. I rent an average of three cars a week. I was in their Princess Platinum Club. I was headed to Denver, already had a car reserved, and needed it a couple of days early. They were out of cars at the airport. So we asked if they'd send a car from a different location, being Princess Platinum and all. The customer service rep told Patti to tell me "to take a cab."

So, being a prolific tweeter, I went on Twitter to see if they had a handle. Guess what!? They do! It's wetryharder.

So I tweet, "Having a problem in Denver. Can you help?"

Nothing.

But Hertz tweeted me, rented me a car, and gave me 20 percent off. After I got back, they tweeted me again and told me, if I rented from them a second time, I'd get their Gold membership for free. I've not rented from Avis again.

Three months later, I received a letter in the mail (SNAIL MAIL) asking what it would take to get my business back.

They never answered my tweet.

chaoskitten82
chaoskitten82

I've recently tried verbal mirroring as a listening tactic...it's hard...and some ppl think I'm crazy. But you wouldn't believe how much it helps.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

Another sucky post @joey_strawn , love it. And the cartoons. I'm guilty of the #1 a little.. I have the analytics set up but don't look into them nearly as much for myself as clients; my bad.

On #2 I get a new follower or five every day and see nothing but a self-promotional, SEO keyword loaded stream w/ no replies, no engagement and just think "you're doing it wrong." Your Maytag example is probably some preprogrammed, automated response. So I'll add to both #2 and #3: the Selective Listener. The one who hears only what they want, reacts only to what they like (or attacks what they don't); the one who reads, RTs the praise but ignores or slams the sometimes positive, constructive criticism. FWIW.

jenzings
jenzings

Fix the underlying processes. If Y x 100 people are complaining about a company's tech not showing up on time, responding to those individuals--even fixing those individual issues--is not enough. Go back to the root of the problem and FIX THAT. The conspiracy theorist in me is starting to believe that companies are intentionally ignoring this, so they can keep responding on Twitter, etc. Well, not really. But still, you'd think after the 1,000-th Tweet that some process stinks, the company would change the process.

bdorman264
bdorman264

Excuse me, I'm talking here..............

Listening on the business and personal level is so hard to do; you are formulating your reply before you really hear everything (or anything).

I (me me me me) am making a conscious effort to be better; ie in a crowded room not let my eyes wander but lock into who I'm speaking with and give them 100% of my attention. That's tough for me to do because most of the time I will know a lot of the people there, and I'm a talker.

I hear what you are saying brother; I mean I'm really listening now..........

Thanks for sharing and I'll echo Dino's comments on the drawings; just my style.

ArveyColumbus
ArveyColumbus

I am representing my little city corner of the world within my global company with a local Twitter account. By listening and participating I find if you are consistent with your actions and reactions, people will not only come back to you again for help, but will recommend that others look you up as well. Engagement can and does translate into additional business.

Al Smith
Al Smith

Great post Joey. Listening is one of my favorite topics. It is so hard to do. Our egos always want to talk and hear about "us". The BEST way to connect to another person is to LISTEN. Listening shows we value the other person and that we CARE: Communicate, Appreciate, Respect, Encourage.

You are so right about just listening and saying "I'm Sorry". It reminds of a great quote I heard recently:

"Never miss the opportunity to shut the hell up" Love it. Thanks again.

Al

sydcon_mktg
sydcon_mktg

Great guest piece, Joey! All the points are great! I think what goes along with #2 a bit is when companies blast the same message, word for word from all their social networks, and have them linked so if you put it on facebook, it shows up everywhere else at exactly the same time!

Or, when you create a video or blog, they for weeks to months on end constantly retweet it (now I dont mean promoting a new entry at various times throughout a day, with a new catchy tag line), just constant repetion is just like tweeting "Blah,Blah,Blah" at your followers. Seriously, take a minute to check and make sure your message is that great that you need to keep pushing it at people!

Your cartoons crack me up!! I love that you did them by hand and scanned them in, ads to the authenticity!

marianne.worley
marianne.worley

You are spot on with these points. I've seen companies set up accounts on multiple social media platforms, and then completely ignore all of the incoming comments. There are many companies still obsessed with themselves ("We've been around for a million years and we are so great, blah, blah.") that they completely overlook customer needs. I've personally experienced the 3rd point when I've had a product problem and received the hard sell on a newer, more expensive item! Love the cartoons too.

dinodogan
dinodogan

Hey Joey. I must admit. I've seen your name around (and most recently on Triberr) but havent had a chance to read any of your stuff. Great writing style. There are few lines in this post that could easily double as the headline.

In The Land Of The Deaf, The One-Eared Man Is Van Gogh for example and the "geriatric bragging right" line killed me...I LMAO :-)

Anyways...are you doing the cartoons yourself? They are awesome :-)

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@skywardjason Right back at ya! I've watched that show a couple of times and I love the same thing about it. It forces people and CEOs to listen. Thanks for the comment!

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

Thanks, Bryan. I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@lindasaffell Thanks a GREAT example outside of social media and a perfect way to show these principles work in everyday life and business as well. Thanks for the comment!

KyleHenderick
KyleHenderick

@ginidietrich

I love this story and something that makes me wonder is the irony behind some of these company Twitter handles. For your example @Aviswetryharder they said say they try harder, but in reality they didn’t actually try harder. For me in particular @ComcastCares really makes me wonder, I know it originally started as just Bill Gerth, but when internet is out 5 days and Comcast can’t send a Tech over is that really caring? Just because you say it doesn’t make it true, it’s all in the execution, in this example well played Hertz…well played :)

John Falchetto
John Falchetto

@ginidietrich Wow! This really shows that the tool in the right hands can break or make you. If your customer service sucks, SM will only amplify how much you are bad at it. They were better off not being present on Twitter at all...

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@ginidietrich Wow, that has officially become one of my favorite social media/real life stories ever. Amazing. It baffles me sometimes why companies are so confused that they are failing.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@ginidietrich Wow, that's quite a story and hat tip to Hertz for listening, acting, thinking in the now, using SM effectively. It's tricky doing customer service via social media (recently read this http://bit.ly/fvRY2R shared with me by @jgombita ) but it's not going to go away any time soon. Listening isn't enough. Think in the end, people will take their issues online no matter what so you need to have to have a plan to listen and respond. FWIW.

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@chaoskitten82 Is that where you mirror their tone and speed and pitch, etc. or where you repeat what they say back to them?

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@jenzings Well, you'd think they they'd at least take a harder look at the process after that. Thanks for the commet!

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@bdorman264 I agree totally. Listening and understanding are two different things but it's so much easier to undersand and connect when you actively listen as opposed to, as @3HatsComm eloquently put it, waiting for your turn to speak.

Thanks for the great comment!

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@bdorman264 I call that waiting for your turn to speak vs. actually listening. And yes it sucks, as does ignoring what people are saying.

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@sydcon_mktg Thanks! I couldn't agree more about your additional point. I don't have a name for that syndrome, but I can imagine it would be something like the Web (or Chain) or Crap Condition. : )

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@marianne.worley Thanks Marianne! It's funny that this got posted today, because over on Brass Tack Thinking, they have a similar idea about how simply counting isn't the same as measuring success. I have a little different focus here (and they don't have cartoons) but the points are the same. You can set up as many listening stations as you want, but if you aren't using them, they're benefitting no one.

Cheers!

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@dinodogan Dino, thanks. I'm familiar with your writing as well and also through Triberr (great stuff, BTW).

I appreciate the compliments and am definitely happy you got a laugh form the article. Yeah, all the cartoons are hand-drawn by me and scanned into the computer. I'm old-school. It's actually how I do every single ne of the UnReviews on my blog. If you like cartoons and silly book reviews, you should definitely check those out.

: )

jenzings
jenzings

@John Falchetto @MiChmski ....and, this gets right to the point I made previously. Listening, and even listening and responding, aren't enough. If there is consistent complaining about something...say, customer service, or the way the bill is constructed, etc., then the company needs to use the social media data to go back to the root of the problem and FIX THAT, whatever it is. Responding in social media means little if the complaints continue. What does it mean when Comcast Cares wins kudos in social media response, yet still wins "worst company of the year" from Consumerist?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@John Falchetto Exactly! And that's what I say when I speak - if you're going to have a presence, you can't ignore it. That's worse than not having one at all.

FrankDickinson
FrankDickinson

@joey_strawn @ginidietrich This has been a topic of conversation several times now - WTH is wrong with some businesses these days? Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way!

chaoskitten82
chaoskitten82

@joey_strawn repeat what they say. makes you focus on their words, not wait to talk. when you make yourself think you have to memorize what they say, it forces you to pay better attention!

bdorman264
bdorman264

@joey_strawn @3HatsComm And what do you do when you have incredibly intelligent, witty banter to add and you know you will never get a word in? That's another art in being able to 'control' a conversation in a group and make sure every single person is 'engaged'.

joey_strawn
joey_strawn

@MiChmski @John Falchetto I agree. I think you bring up an important point and the others have touched on more ideas as well. It's not a matter of being perfect, but as long as your honestly trying, most people will give you the benefit of the doubt while you look at underlying issues.

3HatsComm
3HatsComm

@bdorman264 @joey_strawn I have much practice with this w/ my family. My solution ... hang out with duller, dumber, slower people? JK. There is art to conversation to be sure, making sure everyone feels included, gets their turn; I've been to a few panels which had great moderators that really kept the discussion moving forward and let everyone have their say too.

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