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Listen Up for the Best Social Media Strategy

Ready to hear the strategy?

You already did. The article title is the strategy: listen up. It’s the best social strategy.

In other words, stop doing this:

Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

And start doing this:

Start listening and give yourself a competitive advantage.

On social media, mouths run overtime while ears hang around idly. That makes listening more of a competitive advantage than ever. Market insights—on customers, employees, and competitors—are there for the taking if we’ll just stop and listen.

Flex your Auricular Muscles

Flex your auricular muscles and listen!

Those are the muscles that move your ears. Dogs can really work them. People not so much, but that’s beside the point. While we can’t physically aim our ears towards an incoming message, we can turn our attention in that direction. We can intentionally build active listening skills by:

  • Focusing on what’s being said—instead of just formulating a response
  • Making sure we understand—typically by asking questions
  • Restraining knee-jerk (or just jerk) reactions
  • Responding respectfully or, in some cases, holding our tongues

If you’re just intentional about building these skills, you will train yourself to be a stronger listener and start picking up weightier insights. And you never know, you might learn to wiggle your ears, too.

Hear the Rhythm

Ron Swanson bobbing his head to the sound of his headphones.

Listen for the beat—for patterns and repetitions. Management consultant Jack Rosenblum put it this way:

If one person tells you you're a horse, they are crazy. If three people tell you you're a horse, there's conspiracy afoot. If ten people tell you you're a horse, it's time to buy a saddle.

Picking up on repeated messages makes us more self-aware and objective. An outside consensus can help to shatter rose-colored or just-plain-wrong views we may have of our companies, products, and services.

It also helps us know what to do next. If enough people suggest the same feature or ask the same question, we should get the message. What they’re asking for should inform our product development and marketing.

So, if lots of people say, “I wish your product came in red,” then we should seriously consider painting it red and running ads about the new color. Yes, that’s a red-iculously simplified example (sorry), but it’s the sort of market info you can easily get from social media if you’re listening.

Give Yourself an Earache

Covered ears to block out complaints and criticism.

Listen to what hurts: complaints and criticism. There’s usually a healthy kernel of truth in the pain; at least, there is if it keeps coming up and won’t go away. Like the nagging of an actual earache, the pain signals that something has gone wrong and needs fixed. So if customers keep complaining that, “Your new red color is too pink,” check your paint formula.

In our main line of work—truck driver recruiting—we hear several repeat complaints, but the most common is about driver pay. A company will advertise its rates, and drivers will comment...well, colorfully.

  • Your pay is a joke.
  • I wouldn’t get out of bed for that.
  • How do you expect anyone to make a living on 1970s wages?
  • Time for a strike!

And so on. When we hear these sorts of responses, we don’t just ignore them or mutter comebacks under our breath. Instead, we know something needs diagnosed and corrected.

Sometimes, the problem really is the pay—it’s too low and has to be raised to recruit drivers. But more often, the issue isn’t the money, but how it’s been communicated or what’s been left out. Driver compensation typically includes several components—a base mileage rate, performance incentives, benefits, etc. We need to be sure to know and communicate them all, so drivers get a full picture of their potential earnings. We work to get that message right from the start, but if we don’t, critical feedback lets us know and make corrections.

Of course, so does silence.

A chirping cricket, heard in the silence.

It may not sting like a complaint, but it’s still a dull ache to hear nothing. To get no response. But lack of response is a response. One that means your product or message just isn’t resonating and needs attention.

Follow Your Un-Friends

Walter White telling Jesse to keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.

Today, you don’t have to engage in corporate espionage to see what your competition is up to. Just jump on their social media feeds. You probably won’t discover any trade secrets (not usually), but you can glean lots of valuable market info—their current selling points, answers about products and services, and interactions with customers.

Those things about them can tell you a good deal about yourself—where you’re competitive or not—just by monitoring what rivals are saying. Unfortunately, many companies simply aren’t listening.

Again, we see this in the trucking world. A company will think they have the best of something:

  • Top pay per mile
  • Best trucks on the road
  • Most home time for drivers

But a quick trip to a competitor’s Facebook page would undeceive them. They’d discover that another company—or sometimes, lots of other companies—are making similar or the very same claims. And they can’t all be true.

This sort of realization is never fun. It hurts to find out we’re less special than we thought, but at the same time, it’s really, really good for us. Like listening to criticism, paying attention to competitors can jolt us back to reality. And the real world is the right place to build and strengthen your market position. Being competitive starts with being real.

Consider Getting a Hearing Aid

The old man from UP turning down his hearing aid.

This aid can come in at least two forms. The first is a software tool—or set of tools, actually. There’s a whole industry of apps and services made for social listening. That’s the (kind of creepy) process of keeping tabs on internet conversations—social media, blogs, news sites, etc.

When someone mentions your company or something relevant to your business, these services notify you and let you instantly beam yourself into the conversation.

We’re not going to get into specific social listening tools in this article (you can Google them if you want), but we do want to offer two legitimate reasons to consider them. First, voyeurism aside, they let you listen for more opportunities to help people—to answer questions, correct misconceptions, or even just to thank someone for saying something nice about you. Those are good things.

Second, they give you a better idea of how your company is actually perceived. These tools monitor what people are saying about you, not just to you. That means they’re being more candid, and that can give you a more honest assessment of your current verdict in the court of public opinion.

That said, social listening is still kind of creepy...

The second form of hearing aid is an actual aid.

The Kool-Aid Man, Pitcher thing, whatever, dancing to music from headphones.

Yeah, not that kind of aid. We're talking about a helper, and we serve in this capacity with some clients. We work with them to post, listen, and respond well.

The disclaimer here is that this only works if it’s a partnership. Through common sense and experience, we know it’s a bad idea to just outsource your social media—the talking or listening. Having a qualified partner like Ramsey Mediaworks (wink, wink) can help you look and listen better, but ultimately, people need to hear your voice and catch your ear.

If you’d like help or want to talk, we’re all ears.

A man with huge, oversized ears dancing.

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