Two-way conversations come naturally between people. If not in person, friendships form online through talking and listening in particular.
Entrepreneurs face different challenges — or at least they think they do. They have to crack the nut of business-to-business and business-to-consumer communication.
Bryan Kramer contends that brand owners are thinking too hard rather than acting naturally. The keynote speaker and “coach of coaches” spells out his beliefs in his best-seller, “There is No B2B or B2C: it’s Human-to-Human.” He backs that up as CEO of H2H Companies, which specializes in coaching and workshops.
Kramer talked with digital marketing specialist Madalyn Sklar about H2H principles and how to become a good social listener.
For two-way conversation, Kramer suggested assorted ways brand owners should use to focus their communication:
- Identify your audience. Once you know who your audience is, you need to know where they are. A common misperception is that everyone is hanging out on the same social network.
- Create a listening strategy. Once you know which social networks are relevant to your audience, identify what words they’re likely to use in conversations. Create a list of keywords.
- Choose your technology. There are so many social media monitoring tools for both desktop and mobile.
- Appoint a savvy social media manager to be your designated listener. This is an important job. Big companies create teams of people to fulfill this role. You’ll also want to create a daily plan and regular schedule for monitoring.
- Create a response strategy. What are acceptable responses for different types of comments? Make a list. Ideally, your designated listener is authorized to respond so you don’t waste time with review and approval processes.
- Be accountable. Be sure the execs know what’s happening on social media. Give them a report, yes, but also advise them on how the company might need to adapt. Things can spiral out of control quickly in social networks.
It is a common misperception to think that everyone is on the same social network. So, brand owners seek customers there.
“The bands shouldn’t ever identify their preferred networks,” Kramer said. “Always go to where the customer already hangs out. The biggest challenge is that you speak to the network you are on. Each one is different.”
Know what to ask
A successful social listening strategy starts with questions.
“The best listeners ask the best questions,” Kramer said. “Don’t just talk to your audience. Listen. Pay attention. How will you engage effectively with them if you don’t know what they’re saying?
“To know what will resonate simply with your audience, put yourself in their shoes,” he said. “What’s the context of their world? If you were them, what would you like to hear? The message has to resonate with them – not necessarily with you – to be heard.”
Don’t hesitate, and cut to the chase.
“Whether you are reading this as a brand or a person, just get to the point,” Kramer said. “We’re all busy. We care about a lot of stuff. Do less talking and more listening. This applies to messaging, content, conversations — and relationships.”
Many social media monitoring tools will help brands figure out the market sentiment, although Kramer believes that’s not crucial.
“I don’t care about sentiment as much as I do engagement,” he said. “Engagement means they care. With engagement, your world as a brand opens up. Clicks and impressions are lower on the list for creating lifetime customer value.
“Sentiment allows us to see their social body language,” Krfamer said. “This is helpful. The tools are important but not as important as how you use the data to engage better. Everything should lead to better engagement.”
A good social listener has special characteristics. Brand owners might be tempted to have such designated listeners on their team.
“The simplicity of our favorite brands and products make us fall in love with them because they listened,” Kramer said. “It takes a lot of hard work to make something so complex look so easy. Some call it brilliance, but perhaps we should call it being human.
“Everyone just wants to be heard,” he said. “Embodying this same philosophy about interactions online will humanize you. Spare your brand from the wrecking ball by being active versus passive listener. Lean in and go beyond digital with empathy.”
The time that entrepreneurs spend thinking about how to reply is time wasted.
“In your responses, first reflect back to customers what they’re saying to make sure you understand,” Kramer said. “Social context is key. That said, start engaging immediately.
“By responding in a timely, relevant way, you’ll see your connections start to scale, and fans will move toward you knowing they matter,” he said. “By actively listening, you’ll create experiences worth sharing again and again with so many more people — so much farther than fearful silence could ever return.”
Things can quickly get out of hand on social media. Brands need to pick a level of engagement and stick to it, not lower themselves to levels of detractors.
“Sit down around a table in your office and practice scenarios out loud,” Kramer said. “If you can handle that, you can handle everything.”
Don’t paint yourself as an expert. Others might better fill that role.
“Not everyone is built to be social,” Kramer said. “Make sure you put the right people in place who can handle situations that might arise.
“Not everyone is a superstar at social,” he said. “It’s critical to teach your employees the benefits of the core human need to connect with others. That builds their confidence for those just-in-case moments.”