Tag Archives: marketing

The Art of Listening

It is well documented that social media is a conversational medium. However, the aren’t too many brands out there you would want to have a conversation with. Why? Because they don’t listen.

There is a pretence of listening, whenever you shout loud enough but you get the feeling they aren’t listening but rather waiting for the next opportunity to tell you more about themselves. They come across as superior egocentrics who would drop you if someone more interesting enters their field of view. The novelty of having brands reply to us is wearing off. We want to converse as equals now.

I often compare social platforms to parties. If you put your brand on Facebook you have just walked in to the party. Sure you can have flashy lights and look interesting but ultimately you need to be of interest , relevance or entertaining to the people there or they won’t engage.They may hang around for a while but when they have a choice to make they will not have loyalty to your brand.

Have you ever entered a room and just started talking? No listening to what is being said, just walk into somewhere and gone, “hey everyone, look at me” . If you have, you are either a stand up comedian or have no friends…or both. We all listen first in any conversation. That is the first thing to do in your social engagements…listen.

What are people talking about? What is trending? What is current? What is relevant in that place at that time? The more listening you do the more you will be able to understand your customer and your own voice.

Don’t just listen for your brand name. That’s like Googling yourself ( I only did it the once honest). Listen to everything relevant to you. Your industry , your consumer , your competitor – listen to the lot and find the conversations you are relevant in.

Listening should be at the core of your company. It should dictate strategic approach, how customer services should communicate, marketing, sales and product. All of the information you need is out there and searchable at the click of a button.

I had a flatmate come home with a black eye one night and his explanation should serve as a warning to brands nowadays, ” I was talking when I should have been listening” .

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Why indeed?

Why is the least asked question in social media right now. No one in our industry wants to tackle that one for a client. If a client says they want to be on Facebook and have 100,000 Likes, most agencies don’t question it. They just say yes.

I don’t blame them. Times are tough. Why risk a certain spend by asking a question that could potentially unravel the whole thing? It is not just agencies either. A social media manager will rarely ask why. If their employer wants to pay them to make the brand active on social media, why risk your job?

Why is the key question. Why is the first step on any social media strategy. Why gets to the heart of the business decisions and cuts through all the hip and cool social media jargon out there. It is the ultimate KPI finder.

Ultimately, a business will say they want to earn more revenue. Of course they do, that’s not an answer as to why use social media, that’s an answer to why be in business at all or why have a Marketing and Sales department.

Why use Social Media? Because nowadays consumers have a voice. That is the fundamental change and that is the why.

In my radio days, a sales manager used to liken our station to being a big loudspeaker, sitting on top of a nearby hill that the whole city could hear. Clients had the opportunity to shout their message into that loudspeaker for all to hear. Now, the rest of us can shout back. We may not have a big a speaker but the people that listen to us, really do listen and really do care what we say. Each person is now their own media company.

Big Brands were not ready for this. If you wanted more sales, the marketing 1.0 approach was shout louder, more often. This just meant there was more noise to shout over for the next guy. No one was listening. No one was conversing.

“Ah but what about our customer service team” , I hear them cry! Are these the people who have a script? Who have crafted answers for queries? That doesn’t sound like listening to me! That sounds like the bear minimum of interaction you could possibly do.

Companies, in general, are not structured for this new phase in Marketing so why should they change? Why should they invest in social media?

Because the relationship with the consumer has changed now on every front. the individual is more powerful than they once were by way of the fact that they have a voice. Powerful, not only in PR terms but also in terms of communicating what they actually want to the brand. Companies now have the opportunity to see what people are really talking about, not what the slick advertising exec says they are talking about. Real conversations, that the brand can listen to or join with.

Why social? Because social will be the first point of marketing. It will be the core. The owned media. Any brand will converse with its group of brand mavens and friends first before marketing via paid media. They will converse with their group of followers, get them involved with the new product – it’s design, it’s pricing, its launch. It will then incentivise their friends to spread the word to their connections and help them sell product. This first step should and will be the start of a products life. Paid media will fill in the holes and drive niche boosts to sales.

Why social? Because for social to work for a brand it will need to be integrated into the very core of the brands DNA. Product, consumer research, customer service, HR, Marketing, PR and more will have direct touch points with social data and technologies.

Marketing Directors today have a massive challenge. They have to throw away everything that has described Marketing success for the last fifty years and integrate new thinking right through the heart of their company. This will not be easy. Social thinkers and leaders, agencies and consultants all need to draw a deep breath and start asking the question of specifically why for each client now.

Why social? You cannot afford not to.

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