My friend and colleague Doug Fleener once described the possible downside of Twitter as being like a “Chamber of Commerce meeting where everyone is selling and no one is buying.” It’s great to have friends as smart as Doug because they force you to think about things differently. Ever since Doug shared his observation, I’ve been looking at Twitter, social networking, and business communication quite differently. Let’s focus on the Tweet….
Most people I know who use Twitter desire a large base of followers. In fact, I heard a presenter on social networking emphasize that “you should do whatever it takes to get as many followers as possible.” She went on to offer various tools including fee-for-service products where I could pay about $150 dollars and be guaranteed 3,500 new followers by morning. It led me to ask the presenter if the objective for Twitter, is to be the person who “bought the most followers.” Now you see why I am typically a presenter and not a student in class.
Really, who are those 3,500 people that you can pay to have follow you? I could create 4,000 false Twitter accounts (all I would need was 4,000 different email addresses and an active imagination when it comes to generating names). Then I could set-up a website charging $139.99 and guarantee you 4000 newly purchased admirers. Think of the money that would save you!
All of this begs the question, who is listening in a world where everyone is expected to “lifecast” or “market their message on line?” Who are these people who specialize in my area of expertise with hundreds of thousands of followers (and I have somehow never heard anything about them – until their Twitter page popped-up)? How many search engine optimization, direct marketing, leadership,and motivational gurus are there? Hopefully, your brain does not work like mine and you don’t actually wonder about such things.
But what does it mean to “win at Twitter or in the social media space?” I think Doug Fleener implied the answer in his keen metaphoric example. The person who wins when everyone is talking – is the person who listens effectively. The greatest success, I have gained from Twitter or most business communications is the opportunity to listen to the few voices that have compelling things to say and then leverage that listening to inspire me to do things differently.
Thanks to Doug, I do things differently. I tweet less, filter who I listen to better, elect not to follow everyone who follows me, and let my follower count take care of itself. I also go into networking settings (like Chamber of Commerce mixers) with the mindset that I will not join the herd of people who are simply there to sell something. Isn’t it great that by “listening” we grow personally and professionally, and by constantly talking, tweeting, and marketing we end up getting what we hunt for – large follower counts of people who aren’t listening.
So here’s my challenge,
Where should you be talking less and listening more?
Who is really listening to you?
What message do you want heard and by whom?
By the way, did I mention I’d be glad to sell you 4,000 followers for $139.99. Somehow, I suspect you just stopped listening.