How do you use social technology to listen?

Ear close upThe social web often seems like a huge cocktail party where everyone is shouting and no one is listening. We all want to be found, and followed, and heard. How can we make real connections that lead to offline friendships and business relationships?

Listening with genuine interest is the key to engaging people. Like anything else, developing this skill requires a great deal of practice.

Platforms like blogs, Twitter and Facebook are not well suited for broadcast communications. If you are not paying attention when a post appears, it’s gone.

I am experimenting with asking questions in various ways.

I am digging into Twitter Search to find interesting conversations and engage people with @replies and questions.

Facebook feels more constrictive to me. I am trying different ways to converse, exploring groups and Pages. Some people like guitarist Ken Rosser, have a knack for using Facebook conversationally. He is always interesting, and each post seems to result in an active conversation.

How are you using social communication tools to really listen? What’s working for you?

Generosity is the Emotion, Content is the Currency

Creating Effective Social Media Engagement: Generosity is the Emotion, Content is the Currency

Authentic, trusting relationships are fueled by generosity and empathy. While online networks can seem abstract compared to connections in the ‘real world’, the same principles hold true.

Web 2.0 is a conversational environment, not a broadcast channel. This is still confusing for some musicians who use Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc. to talk about themselves (“Oh, did I mention MY gig this weekend, here are some new pictures of ME, I wrote a new song…” etc. etc.). When I get a Linked In or Facebook friend request from a complete stranger asking me to listen to their music or come to a gig I am always amazed. What are they thinking? Eventually I tune out even good friends who I am very interested in, when the only communication from them is pushed PR blasts.

The power of social media is it’s potential for building communities and sincere relationships. The way to do this is to pay attention to everyone else, what their passions are and what they need. Ask yourself what you can share to make their lives a little more wonderful. On the web, the obvious gift to give is interesting content. This could be a helpful blog post or link, some compelling video you have created, a piece of music or a recommendation or referral. The important thing is that you are passionate about what you are sharing and you genuinely want to help your followers.

A great example of this generosity is the blog created by musician Danny Barnes. He has written a number of funny, articulate pieces that are essential reading for any professional musician or anyone with even a passing interest in what it means to be a musician. He has shared many practical insights on how to make a living in music, how to be a successful sideman, how to listen and much more. There is great value and generosity here without a hint of self-promotion. A teacher and fellow musician told me the other day he reads Danny’s posts to his classes!

Check out Danny’s blog and spread the word…

What gifts are you giving to your fans, followers and customers? What’s working for you?

Quote Of The Day: from Clay Shirky’s ‘Cognitive Surplus’

“The dramatically reduced cost of public address, and the dramatically increased size of the population wired together, means that we can now turn massive aggregations of small contributions into things of lasting value.” -Clay Shirky, “Cognitive Surplus” p. 161

Web 2.0 and The Thank You Economy

I had the opportunity to hear Gary Vaynerchuk yesterday, at a Drucker Business Forum event.

Vaynerchuck is a social media expert, entrepreneur, and bestselling author of Crush It! – Why Now Is The Time To Cash In On Your Passion, and The Thank You Economy. He is a regular speaker at events such as the TED conference and SXSW and consults on social media with companies like Johnson & Johnson, Disney, Pepsi, and Google.

He is best known for building a huge online wine business with his irreverent WineLibraryTV video blog and extensive use of Web 2.0 technologies. Gary is in the top 100 of people followed on Twitter. He is funny, intense, competitive, and has a ridiculous work ethic.

In The Thank You Economy he passionately advocates for the humanization of business by strengthening authentic relationships with customers using Web 2.0 tools and old-fashioned generosity and consideration.

Building strong relationships with customers is a long-term play. Established businesses, particularly public companies, resist investing in this kind of culture shift because they are focused on short-term profits and have difficulty computing the ROI on  Web 2.0 engagement.

Vaynerchuk insists that this is the future of business and if companies don’t start caring about their customers and employees they will not survive.

As passionate as this guy is about people, his focus is on making money. He believes that building generous and sincere long-term relationships is the key to success, not because he is Mother Teresa, but because he is driven to compete and create wealth. Many people dabble in social media, but they are not really sure what they are doing or why. After some experimentation they give up. Without a clear business model and a solid understanding of your potential market, tools like Twitter seem scattered and decentralized compared to old-school top down marketing channels like television, print media and radio.

People have a tendency to use social media as a ‘push’ PR broadcast channel, which it is not. I see this all the time with musicians advertising gigs and their latest accomplishments on Twitter and Facebook. This amounts to random electronic direct mail. When I see this kind of communication I immediately tune out.

Twitter and related tools are like a giant cocktail party. This is a medium for listening and conversation. How many times have you heard someone say, “I don’t get Twitter. Why do I care what so and so had for breakfast?” People are discussing their passions online. Facebook, Twitter, and mobile phones have become the new barber shop. Listen and learn. We are instinctively afraid to engage with strangers, but stepping into that conversation opens a new door.

The bottom line for business is this: Customers are talking about you every day, whether you like it or not, the good, the bad, and the ugly. You have the opportunity to join that conversation and build genuine, caring relationships. Vaynerchuk believes that unless businesses do just that they will be run over by the empowered consumer and the competition. I think he is probably right..

    Rethinking Music Pts. 1 and 2 – Creativity, Commerce and Policy

    Check out these two excellent podcasts in preparation for the upcoming Rethink Music conference coming up this April in Boston.

    Radio Berkman #168 Rethinking Music Pt. 1
    Radio Berkman #173 Rethinking Music Pt. 2 – The Portrait of the Self-Published Artist

    C-SCAPE: Curation, Consumers, Convergence, Content

    “”How do you get people who can talk about anything to talk about you? The answer is to offer them something new and interesting to say – to chat about, blog about, tweet about, and spread the word about in all media, new and old and in between.”
    – Larry Kramer, C-SCAPE

    Veteran media executive Larry Kramer’s book on the influence of social media and the Internet postulates that today, all businesses are in the media business. He identifies four key trends; the convergence of consumers and media producers, the increasing power of consumers, the need for trusted curators, and the importance of content. These ideas have been explored in depth in many other books (such as the Groundswell series) but I find his writing concise and actionable. His enthusiasm is contagious and many of these ideas are directly applicable by musicians reinventing themselves in this massively disrupted industry.

    Social Media Marketing: Is This Really a Conversation?

    Social media is hyped as a powerful tool for ‘connecting’ with your audience. While the technology creates this potential, my experience has been that most social media usage is essentially one-way, direct mail. 
    There are many people I have relationships with in the ‘real’ world whose communications with me via Facebook, email, Twitter, etc. are unsolicited self-promotion, certainly not a ‘conversation’. This can be annoying, and the net effect is to reduce the level of trust and credibility. When I receive unsolicited promotional material from strangers I immediately cross them off the list.
    When we opt-in we intentionally agree to accept ongoing promotional blasts but we can always unsubscribe if these communications don’t add value. 
    An authentic conversation adds value in both directions. The real question to ask yourself is, “How can I help you?” 
    If a band or artist I follow comments on a post of mine it means something, and of course it works the other way around. 
    Before you hit the ‘Send’ button think about what you are really giving to your audience.