Many people are poor listeners. Quite often we meet people who like the sound of their own voice and can seem compelled to share that pleasure with others. They update us on everything they do, no matter how unimpressive and irrelevant to our own lives and interests. To be honest, most people do not have much to say that could not be improved by considering its relevance to others before open their mouth.
Remember the boring drunk at a party: they are always the one who will not stop talking. They go on and on, as if everyone within earshot deserves their pearls of wisdom. In fact, they are just tiresome. After the humour has worn thin, they move quickly from fun to dull and then become really quite annoying, and all because they refuse to shut up. The same can be said for many brands.
There is too much chatter on social media channels. Facebook, Twitter and the others are crammed with people sharing their every thought or move. More often than not, these updates are pretty dull and do not add anything to the sender or the recipient. Quite often, public replies are strung into a conversation that would be better placed in a private message but, either through laziness or ego, they prefer to say it out loud for everyone to hear.
Brands can be just as inappropriate with their use of social media. Even some pretty big names can clog up their Twitter stream with low impact updates that do not drive sales, increase brand affinity or enhance personality. The urge to share is too great and they let rip with witty asides and product news that would not normally warrant sharing. Brands say that they want to be part of the conversation when what they really need to do is listen. Shut up for a moment and listen to what their customers and competitors are saying.
So many brands and businesses have rushed to jump on the social media bandwagon without giving any consideration to the actual relevance or benefits to their brand. They can be so afraid to miss out on the trend that they sign up to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube and expect their business to improve immediately. Many even start their own blogs to sit alongside or even replace their website, without actually thinking first about what they might have to say.
If brands and marketers would take a step back to listen before rushing in to talk, they would learn far more about what people actually think about their product or service, and they would be able to better react to their (potential) customers. But it would seem that this key stage of the process is often bypassed in their haste to share. As with any other communications channel or marketing tool, in social media one size does not fit all.
Consumers are quite savvy. Indeed, many are better acquainted with social media than most marketers and they can see through fake attitude and brand posturing. They also quake at being bombarded with unsolicited sales messages, even if they are disguised as social media messages. Just because they signed on to a brand’s Twitter account or ‘liked’ its Facebook page does not mean that they want to receive incessant ad chatter. They want to associate with these brands, but they do not want to be overpowered in that relationship. It is a very thin line.
What can often be overlooked is that, just by listening to what is being said, social media can be a fast and effective form of market research. If marketers monitor the conversations that are going on about their brands and products, they can get first-hand feedback. The clever ones can then act on this information with a speed that was previously not practical. But to do that, they need to listen. Listen first, then speak later.
Many of us are familiar with the well-known saying ‘You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion’. It would be encouraging if we could all remember that message and use it wisely when switching on our computers or smartphones. There is already too much chatter online and brands can contribute more than their fair share.