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Are You Listening?

Wayne Turmel has an excellent post about the power of using social media for listening. The post summarizes his podcast interview with Jim Kouzes, author of several books on leadership, who says that  the intersection of social media and strong leadership lies in the opportunities for listening that social media provides:

“Social media is a great opportunity to get input from your people and let them feel listened to and heard- if it’s used effectively”.

That effectiveness is demonstrated by not only gathering feedback, but responding to it and displaying it for all the world to see, even when it’s not flattering. Then (and here’s the hard part) taking actual action based on that feedback.

The importance of listening with social media is echoed in this article on what separates social media rookies from veterans. SmartBrief and Summus Limited asked the readers of various SmartBrief newsletters to complete a survey about their businesses’ use of social media. They heard back from about 6,500 readers. One of the key findings was that veterans were more likely to listen than rookies:

The rookies are about as likely to say they use social media to put out news releases (38.7% of veterans compared with 39.3% of rookies) and maintain active fan pages (39.5% of rookies compared with 36% of veterans). But when it comes to listening, engaging, soliciting feedback and other activities that involve having a more open, fluid relationship with customers, the veterans lead the way in every category.

In talking to both organizations and individuals about using social media, I find that the listening component is seriously under-valued. There's a focus on what you should say, how you should say it and which channels are the most effective for getting out that message. But both leading and learning require us to listen, too.

It's the listening that gives you actionable information and feedback that can help you shape your interactions. It tells you what stakeholders are worried about or find challenging or value so you can engage with them in a more authentic way. Listening helps you really understand what's going on with people and provides you with the best opportunities for bringing them value.

Some Listening Resources

If you want to start listening more, here are some resources to get you started:

  • 8 Stages of Listening--this is a good first step to determine where you are in your listening behavior. 
  • Creating a Social Media Listening Dashboard--This is a webinar and resource page that I did for a network of organizations serving youth in Pennsylvania. It includes lots of links to other articles and presentations.

What do you think? What role does listening play in your use of social media? What advice do you have for becoming a better listener?


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Thanks for a great post. I try to be a good listener, but I know I have a lot more work to do. The 8 Stages of Listening article is food for thought.

Thanks, Kelly--listening can be a challenge for me, too, but it's something I've been trying to do more of, both on and off-line. And I find it's easy to get sucked into broadcast mode online. It's all a work in progress, right?

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