Does Your Company Want Social Media Followers – or Listeners?

Want to know the secret sauce to increasing your company’s social media likes, followers, friends, tweets, pins, etc.? Want that one ‘trick’ that few if any social media experts recommend but, over time, will work miracles for your organization? The answer (drum roll please)….


No, I mean that’s the answer, “listen.” And I don’t mean using sophisticated social media listening software (that’s good stuff, but here I’m referring to the outreach efforts, the attempts to build a social audience).

The Greek Stoic Epictitus famously noted that we humans “have two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Yet social media seems geared – at least in the minds of modern marketers – toward the mouth only. Which means we’re missing two-thirds of the opportunity.

Google something like “twitter best practices” and you’ll receive an avalanche of advice on how to increase your followers. But here’s the catch: Those ‘followers’ aren’t really listening. It’s just a numbers game and quite often they’ll only follow you if you follow them back.

Where is the value in that kind of relationship?

Marketing: An Information Exchange

A big part of marketing is communication which, by definition, implies knowledge sharing. I tell you something, you tell me something, information is exchanged and, in theory, we’re both the better for it. Furthermore, there is a great body of evidence to suggest we benefit far more when we listen – indeed, our jobs may depend on it.

I am in the business of researching, interviewing, and writing for corporate customers. The key to success is not merely to listen to my clients, but also to their industry’s thought leaders, bloggers, competition, media types – even those operating on the periphery (e.g. nonprofit think tanks, educational organizations, etc.). The more I listen, the greater the nuance, context, and Big Picture perspective I can apply to the client’s story.

If, on the other hand, I limited myself only to my customer’s story, I’d be trapped in the same internal script that so often limits any of us: We read our own press clippings and forget there’s a big, dynamic, ever-changing world out there.

So my social media advice? Use those tools as devices to listen and learn, to connect, to engage. Don’t build your strategy around collecting likes, friends, retweets, followers, etc. Build it around listening, learning, and knowledge development.

Your powers of engagement, of intelligent participation in social conversations will increase exponentially. You’ll have something to say within a much broader context and, by extension, people will want to follow you – and listen.

(P.S. I just finished reading a terrific post that speaks to much the same topic. You can read it here.)


Want more doug food? Doug Rekenthaler Jr.

I specialize in creative, compelling, informative content for organizations of all kinds. White papers, blogs, newsletters, Web content, marketing collateral, media articles and more.

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