Dale Carnegie’s Principles in Social Media: Be A Good Listener

In online communications today, everyone makes a big deal of how to correctly use social media to interact effectively with their prospects and clients. If I didn’t know better, I would venture that everyone sees social media as an independent communication strategy.

However, social media is simply a new channel that allows human beings to communicate and share information with other human beings in new ways.

And that’s the key. If we look at social media as a way to communicate with a “market”, then yes we may have to create some new rules to govern our usage. However, if we look at social media as a way to communicate with other human beings, then the old human relations principles still apply.

When I look at all of the rules and strategies for using social media put forth by the gurus, I often find myself saying, “You know, we talked about this same behavior in one of our Dale Carnegie sessions”.

Take this example here outlined by AG Salesworks on Social Prospecting.

The interaction is between an organization and a “possible prospect”. An organization’s rep mentions a publication from an author and the author responds by thanking the organization and makes an offer to help in the future.

The organization’s rep responds back by offering a demo of their product. The author summarily calls out the rep for first not getting to know the author and then for not connecting with him on Twitter before making his sales pitch.

The important principle here is to listen to your audience first before making requests or offering a solution.

Since the early 1990’s, one of the biggest complaints from customers about their vendor’s sales teams was that their sales reps weren’t listening to them. Customers felt that the sales reps were simply “pushing product”. We had to go back to school and learn how to be sensitive to our prospects’ wants and needs.

We saw similar behavior from sales reps in their early networking activities. Today, if you listen to any of the networking consultants, they encourage you NOT to sell your product or service in the initial meeting, but to communicate with your potential client and get to know them first.

In our Dale Carnegie sessions, we coach people to use the 7th human relations principle: Be a good listener and to encourage other people to talk about themselves. After all, you can’t talk to someone about a solution until you first get them talking about their problems. You can’t sell something to someone until you first arouse in them an eager want to buy what you have to sell.

The creator of the post, AG Salesworks, went through great pains to mask out the organization because he didn’t want to call out any particular company for poor social media behavior.

However, I’ve seen similar behavior scattered across the Twitterverse from a number of companies, both large and small. Chances are good that we are all guilty to some degree of making requests similar to the one listed by AG Salesworks in their post.

We need to remain cognizant of our interactions with our audience regularly if we are to succeed in the online forums. This means:

1. Listening to your audience – Part 1: On social networks like Twitter, you need to monitor your audience and respond appropriately to their requests.

2. Listening to your audience – Part 2: Watch the output from your audience and understanding what concerns them.

3. Listen to understand, not for the comeback: This means you stop talking, stop listening for the “zinger”, and really listen to what your audience is saying. I first heard about the “zinger” in NLP doing couples’ therapy. In those particular situations, both members listened to the their partner just enough to come up with a sharp retort to support their side and shut the conversation down.

4. Responding to your audience: This means putting your ego aside and responding accordingly to your audience’s requests. If they are looking for information, you provide the information, not, “oh, we have an app for that”.

In creating our social media networks, as with creating our networks or building a relationship for sales, begin by being a good listener and encouraging your audience to talk, tweet, or communicate about themselves. They will tell you everything you need to know to move the relationship forward.

Larry Prevost
Dale Carnegie Instructor, Social Media Evangelist
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