Listen Empathically to Improve Social Media Interactions

What’s the difference between a bad listener and a good listener? A bad listener prepares his answer while listening. A good listener takes in and tries to understand the speaker’s real concerns regardless of how well they articulate themselves. Good listening is empathic listening.

While social media is an appropriate medium for interacting with your customers, it’s also where your business will be under a microscope within each microniche. People will have emotional reactions to how well you respond, which will be a reflection of how well you listen — and thereby of your brand.

So actually listening well, while not always a feature of many managerial structures, is particularly important when it comes to interacting with your customers online.

Good customer service is good listening

The best customer service is always responsive rather than reactive or unchanging. When people express wants or needs and you simply dismiss them, your brand takes a hit. If you miss the point of what someone is really saying, your brand takes a hit.

Mistakes will be made, but how you follow up your mistakes will determine whether your brand takes a hit or whether people feel more comfortable and confident in your brand.

Who decides on your brand’s listening skills?

Whether your brand listens empathically or not currently is not being decided by company policy or handbooks. It is probably being decided by hiring managers, your corporate culture, and by the assigning of work.

Hiring managers hire people. If they hire people who are bad listeners, who disregard what others are saying or try always to manipulate conversations for their own benefit, then no company policy is likely to change that. If your corporate culture rewards such manipulations and ruthlessness, that too will be reflected in your social media presence on some level.

Many organizations leave social media outreach and customer service to interns and low level employees. If you aren’t focusing on empathic listening in such assignments, it’s essentially a crap shoot about how well your brand interacts in the online world.

Making improvements to our listening

We can’t make other people listen better. But we can listen better ourselves. In doing so, we start to notice how well co-workers and employees listen. If we make this a primary focus of the modern, transparent organization, then we are well placed to be successful in social media outreach.

SOMETHING TO TRY: For the next week, be aware of how you listen. Are you trying to formulate a response? Or are you trying to understand? Take notes, make adjustments and try to improve your listening. We all have room to be better listeners.

[Featured image is from Flickr, courtesy Britt Reints]

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