How many of us, individuals, organizations, and small businesses, have shied away from getting involved with social media because we were not sure we had much to say? How many of us have quietly sublimated a sense of distrust of what we could contribute into an unwillingness to learn about social media? I have, for one. The open seas of social media can seem vast, rough, and uncharted (if not ‘unchartable’!), and from the seashore it can seem safer not wade in. Nevertheless, we have often posted on this blog ideas about how to dip a toe, then a leg, etc., into the ocean – get acclimated, then get writing with what you are comfortable sharing with a wide audience that can become wider still with some patience. But a recent blog posting from Neil Vidyarthi on SocialTimes.com cleverly points out that social media can, and should, be as much about reading/learning as it is about writing/teaching.
Mr. Vidyarthi’s focus is on small businesses (his example is a local auto-parts store) who often tacitly and sometimes explicitly fear “They think they are too small [and] they don’t think that they have anything interesting to share. In a broader sense they are asking ‘Would I even read about stuff that I’d write about?’” Instead, he retorts, consider a foray into social media as an opportunity to listen to customers who can join your Twitter/Facebook/Your-App-Here account. Invite them to do the talking, then you/your business can respond. “What is interesting is that in the act of listening, you are going to want to respond and that is the next thing.”
For nonprofits, charities, and neighborhood action groups, the opportunity to learn is probably greater still. People who join your social network are already won over to your general cause/ideals, so they are more than ready to start talking, asking, requesting, sharing. Your organization could thus quickly have a substantial foundation of followers who are talking at you for a bit. As you learn the issues and conventions (and perhaps even the terminology) of such exchange, you can join in. And hopefully expand the interest and readership and supporters. But as we have often explored, the rewards come with relationships, and relationships take time.
Quite recently we have had a fabulous example from a large company of how a commercial became a pop-cultural hit, a SM ‘viral’ phenomenon, and an opportunity for the large company to listen to its respondents. It all began withfeaturing Isaiah Mustafa as “The Old Spice Guy” and grew into a trading information, advice, even calls-to-action for some charities, via a Twitter account (with many submissions) and YouTube. Old Spice/Proctor and Gamble have garnered a wealth of good will (even from those of us who feel intimidated by the prospect of living up to the virility of Old Spice Guy each time we step out of the shower), in no small part because it took the time listen and respond to some of those who got involved.
Sure, Proctor and Gamble have resources beyond most of us. Even then, Old Spice Guy hardly responded to every tweet or homemade YouTube shout out. But remember: social media is all about scale. The Old Spice Guy talked to some his followers, and likely caught topics, jokes, and sentiments of many others not specifically named. No need to jump into the deep end, or admit defeat before starting out. There is plenty of opportunity in shallower water (at least to start!). One can even begin with listening for a while. Indeed, all relationships should be built on listening. So if you would like to see something covered on our blog that we have not yet (sufficiently) touched upon, or if you have a suggestion of who you would like to see interviewed on our “Perspectives” series, please reach out to us via the comments. We’ll be listening…