Are You There Marketers? It’s Me, The Consumer.

In a recent interview with Sascha Pfeiffer, Social Media Manager for Expert (one of the largest consumer electronic retailers in Europe), I asked him what he thought to be the most valuable tool within social media today.

His answer? Dialogue.

It was so simple, and I had heard it so many times in my research for how to run a successful social media campaign. I had even written about it in my own guest posts for how to manage an online business community. But this time, I was struck forcefully with an entirely new realization.

Before, when I had considered what it meant to “communicate” with social media consumers, I emphasized the quality of the content I was providing. Be a trusted source of information: educate and entertain. I by no means deviate from the importance of this aspect of social community interaction. However, something fundamental was lacking in my approach.

If we think about what it means to have real, face-to-face dialogue there are two components that make for a conversation you would wish to have again. One, you provide information that means something to you and the person with whom you are speaking. Two, you listen.

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The concept is so intuitive that it is dangerously easy to get off track when it comes to business. It would be far-fetched to find to a marketer who didn’t understand the necessity of listening to the needs of the market: before you respond to the demands of your audience and offer them high-quality solutions, you have to first be in tune with what they are saying about you, your competitors, social media news that relates to your profession. Indeed, I spent hours every day reading posts and following the people and ideas that I could implement in my strategy and communication. I have been listening, but I wasn’t getting the results I wanted. Then Sascha’s comment finally dawned on me: I wasn’t listening in the way I hoped to be listened to in return.

Most of us know that are two types of listeners. (If this is news to you, pay close attention.) There are those that thoughtfully intake what you have to say; and there are those that appear to be hearing you, but are actually formulating their next “brilliant” point. Within our social media dialogues, it is all too easy to become consumed in taking in information we can use for our own benefit – spewing our next most helpful tips or revelation without truly listening to the demands of our audience. This is a fatal mistake.

Being an active listener is essential in creating a meaningful dialogue. The important question we must ask ourselves then is not, “Are you listening?” but how well. 

For those of you trying to connect with the new media consumer generation of smart phone and tablet users, don’t underestimate the value of content that you provide. But also be aware that the bright and speedy generation who cannot be defined by any particular age, gender, income or nationality – want to be heard, and they can tell whether or not -and how well- you are actually listening.

You might just be surprised by what you hear.

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