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Be careful what and who you listen to in social media

I have been concentrating on listening lately. Part of it is because I work with Trackur, an online listening tool for corporations. Another part of it is because I am trying to simply improve at it in my own life. Communication is a two-way street but in the world today it is more often than not a one-way street that is led by an innocent enough egomaniac with a bullhorn disguised as a Twitter or Facebook account. It’s that last point that makes listening even more important. Why you ask? Why even listen to the masses scream and pound their chests in the social space? Well, that is a very good question. One that is answered with another one, “Do we need to listen to everyone all the time?”

The obvious answer is no because that would be impossible, Even with automation it is still impossible and impractical to give credence to everyone and everything. Impossible and impractical aside it’s also not smart.

As evidenced by the recent hijacking of the Twitter accounts of the AP, 60 Minutes and more, we have to be intelligent enough to realize that even ‘trusted’ sources should be held at arms’ length on a good day and even further on the bad ones.

Why? Because this idea that everyone has a voice (which they do) is not the same as “Everyone’s voice is equal or even important or even remotely valid.” Oh you say that isn’t nice. Everyone deserves to be heard. OK, I guess they do but not by everyone, only those who care or believe in what that person is saying. In social media we tend to swing very left in our approach where it sounds nice to say “Everyone has a voice and should be heard” but then reality comes crashing down, and we come to the realization that most voices, if we give ourselves enough time and patience to filter them, are shrill, ego-centric and quite useless.

You may not like this tone but in business it’s critical to adopt it. If we listen to everyone and act as if even the most ridiculous statements are equal to others we are heading down a rabbit hole that will have no return route.

The bottom line is that we need to make sure that when we listen, particularly in social media, that we do it with the most discerning of ears. Depending in the size of your organization, if you adopt the “everyone is equal” mantra you will waste incredible amounts of time being a nice guy but getting nowhere fast. You will be buried in busy work.

So what should you do?

Be discerning – Use filters and time to decide what is really important. Not every crazed social media user is nearly as important as you think. Engaging them could be your worst nightmare.

Be selective – Who do you engage with? After you have decided who is worthy of your time based on how they can truly impact your business you have to go through a second level of paring down the pool of who you really listen to and possibly respond to.

Be smart – Don’t engage everyone. I know this is counter to what many believe but there is a fine line between recognition and engagement. Unreasonable social media and Internet users are easy to spot for just about everyone who has any sense. A simple nod that they were heard and recognized is enough. Don’t fight them. You’ll look worse than your supposed dismissal of them.

Be careful – News flash. Not everything on the Internet is true. That holds true for your brand and its supporters and detractors as well. Not everyone is telling the truth and not everyone is who they claim to be. If you don’t think an unscrupulous competitor won’t act like someone who is mad at your brand, then you need a new line of work. We are in desperate times and desperate measures often follow.

Be succinct – I am a very wordy person. I need to stop it. So do you. Say enough and no more. Move on.

Be teflon – Don’t take everything personally. If you do, you’ll never survive. People can be mean. People can be idiots. It’s a simple fact of life. Let it slide. Let them be miserable. They are not your responsibility.

As always there is more. Any thoughts? Agree with what I have written or disagree? Feel free to chime in. I will be exercising good listening habits :-).

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