While I was watching Evo do his weekly Social Media Triage yesterday morning, I got to thinking about how much of social media is about listening. It’s a message that came up several times during the video and I think it’s a skill that’s rather underrated when it comes to social media.
Back when I was living in Chicago in 1995 I worked at a company that got a “team work” bug in their bonnet. They shipped out a number of employees, including myself, to one of those team build retreats. You know one where we did trust falls and other team building exercises. I have to admit I was paying attention more to mock the retreat then to learn something, then the person leading this said ten words that altered my life:
“The opposite of speaking is not listening, it’s waiting to speak.”
He went on to explain that, more often then not, when people are in a discussion, they’re not waiting. They are formulating their response, or they’re waiting for whoever’s talking to take a second to inhale, so they can jump in and get the floor again. We all do this to some degree, but it’s worse in tense situations. When this happens to me, I catch myself these days I often catch myself and force myself to listen.
So, what does this have to do with Social Networking? In Evo’s presentation, he sited that one problem with social media is that people often jump in before understanding the community and often breach etiquette. He also brought up that not paying attention to the wants and needs of the people in your network have be problematic. At the end of the day, both these problems have the same root cause: not listening before speaking.
This isn’t a new problem on the internet. How often has someone posted a comment on Friendfeed, Digg or Slashdot based on an article title without reading the article? Or, actually, how often does someone read the article before posting might be a better question. Another symptom of speaking without listening.
Warning Major Stereotyping Ahead
There are 2 types of tweeters that I don’t understand, folks that follow 10 tweeps and folks that follow 30,000 tweeps. Neither of these people can effectively be listening. The former has no one to listen to, and the latter has too much coming at him to effectively drink from the firehost.
If you watch the person with 10 followees, they tend to embody the twitter stereotype :
- “10:10 putting bread in the toaster”
- “10:13 spreading strawberry jam on toast”
- “10:14 had my first bite of toast”
The 30,000 followees person tends to try and contribute but tends not to be able to follow the conversation because there’s so much scrolling on his screen. If his name isn’t @scobleizer, there’s no way he can (Scoble is superhuman, and I’m pretty sure he’s alpha testing a neural implant of some sort, “Robbie Mnemonic”).
In closing, I’d like you to think about slowing down and learning to listen, it will probably build you a stronger presence.