Social Media Reality Check: Get Off Your High Horse Already

Social Media Reality Check: Get Off Your High Horse Already
Jamie Lee Wallace - Thu Aug 06, 2009 @ 09:44AM
Comments: 53

How often do you witness behavior that makes you ask yourself, "Who the hell does he think he is?!?"

Though I've just come off writing three guest posts for Mark W. Schaefer's eight-part series about measuring social media impact, this post is the first of a five-part series about giving yourself (and your company!) a social media reality check. Today's topic is HUMILITY.

Just to be sure we're all on the same page, I'm not talking about humiliation. Though that's often an element of social media, it's a whole different can of worms which I'll save for a personal blog post. What I'm talking about is humility, or simply - being humble.

Social media tools have opened the way to a new type of relationship between companies and consumers. We have dozens of new ways to push information out into the marketplace. From blogs and twitter to eBooks, viral video, and beyond; the array of options can make even a seasoned marketer a bit giddy.

As we all mature in our understanding of how to operate successfully in the social media arena, strategic concepts like "listen first" are becoming givens instead of epiphanies. More and more companies are accepting the fact that they need to hear what's being said around the Web before they attempt to initiate any engagement.

That's great, but - like many girlfriends have said to their boyfriends - there's a difference between hearing and listening.

Hearing is the physical act of auditory perception. Listening is the active process of focusing with intention on what you're hearing so that you can respond appropriately instead of just saying, "Uh-huh." Hearing someone is a start, but it's how you listen that really matters. Listening requires a great deal of humility because you have to do something that most people find extremely difficult - you have to prioritize someone else's thoughts over yours.

Next time you're engaged in a conversation with someone, consciously keep track of what your brain is doing while you're supposedly listening to the other person. I'm willing to bet that, if you're honest, you'll find that 90% of the time your brain is simply processing what its hearing as quickly as possible so that it can move on to formulating what you're going to say next. This is not listening.

To make the most of social media efforts, you need to be willing to develop true listening skills. This means learning how to avoid pitfalls like projecting your own preconceptions and assumptions onto what you're hearing. This means making the commitment to react only after you've heard the other party out completely instead of trying to manipulate their points to meet your own agenda. This means getting off your high horse and letting someone else - your customers - take the reins.

What do you think? Are you really listening, or just hearing?

Image by shyuhan.

Oh - and in case you're curious, here's an Associated Content page about the origins of the saying "get off your high horse."

More posts by Jamie.

Comments: 53


1. Kathy Tito  |  my website   |   Fri Aug 07, 2009 @ 03:27AM

Great start - I want the rest of this article! I would like to read a piece about how even the most established business owners - you know, the ones who have "private" profiles on LinkedIn - the ones who think social media is a fad for B2C companies, can actually leverage social media. Let them know the following:

1. It's not a fad - it's a free marketing platform that your competitors are likely using
2. It's not time consuming - just ask for a jump start from someone in your network (the network you are keeping in a rolodex - not LinkedIn - YET)
3. You can target new prospects with laser focus
4. You can outshine your competitors with some strong content/thought leadership
5. If you don't have time, yes, you can outsource many aspects of social media
6. Maybe social media can help ease your investment in other tools, like direct mail or tradeshows

I wonder if these were some of the same people who were late to launch a corporate website?

I suggest that the laggards give it a try to six month - and see if you feel it's worthwhile. You have nothing to lose.

Kathy Tito
Call Center Services

2. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Mon Aug 10, 2009 @ 04:53AM

@Kathy Tito - Thanks for the comment. I'm glad you enjoyed the post and are looking fwd to more. I agree that there is a lot of opportunity for social media folks to help transition the "late bloomers" into a well-tailored social media solution. One of the best things about social media is you can (and should!) enter into it iteratively - testing the waters with one tactic or venue and then building upon that - always optimizing your tools and message. For most businesses, I think that the risk involved with test driving social media is much less than that of, say, a traditional print or TV campaign. However, there is SOME investment in terms of time and labor. You also have to be sure to set expectations around how long it will take to see trends, never mind results ... but I'll get to that in a later post. ;)

3. steve dodd  |  my website   |   Mon Aug 10, 2009 @ 06:25AM

It's really interesting but we all tend to see new things as something revolutionary and everybody jumps on the bandwagon to promote the next big thing (ie:Socia Media). But, the fundamentals of effective communication have not changed. The platform may be new, but the basic foundations for success are still the same.
You title is so very appropriate. Thanks for sharing!

4. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Mon Aug 17, 2009 @ 05:47AM

@Steve - You are SO on the mark. Marketers need to think about things more holistically. Segmenting our efforts based on communication channels is only going to hinder progress. Leveraging fundamental communication tactics across multiple, appropriate venues is a much more effective way to get your message out there. Thanks for the two cents! :)

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