Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs - Courtesy of iPlay

The room spins as you march in a circle, laughing to a lively tune. As your mind wanders from dizzy repetition, you return to reality with a start: The music has STOPPED! Throwing yourself backward toward a chair, you meet the ground with a rude thud. With a sheepish grin, you slowly look up to see satisfied smiles on either side of you. Game over: You’ve lost. You weren’t listening. You took your seat one beat too late and two feet too low.

The rise of social media has morphed modern business into a grand game of “Musical Chairs.” And when the music stops, there will be business functions that no longer have a seat in the circle. The teams that are still welcome will be those that took the time to listen with care.

In Musical Chairs, listening is the difference between a lengthy run and an early exit. Some may ask, “ What does this have to do with ME? I’m a writer, not a listener!” True enough: Listening may NOT be a job requirement for a pure “writer.” But are we on Team Techcomm truly only writers? Have we not grown into communicators? And is it NOT essential that a “communicator” to be a GREAT LISTENER? Surely we can all recall a time we’ve been cornered by one who only talked and who wouldn’t anyone get a word in? Would we call that person a good communicator? Certainly not. In fact, I could argue that listening is at least half of communication, and it just may be the better half.

Since the rise of Web 2.0, our customers have been speaking: all day, every day. The time has come for us to listen. They are expressing their opinions in blogs and on social networks. They are asking specific questions about how to use our products. They are documenting our products on user-generated content forums.

We have a chance to remain in the dance. There is still an empty chair, one yet unclaimed, and it can be ours. So if you’re so inclined, here are a few free social listening tools you can use to get in the game. I’d LOVE to know of others, so if you have suggestions, please share them in the comments.

8 Responses to “Musical Chairs”

  1. Thanks for reminding us of the critical role of listening! If I don’t listen, I have nothing to write…and the better listener I am, the better writer I can be. Social media are giving our customers more ways to let us know how well we are — or are not — meeting their needs. Many of these outlets are giving writers far greater opportunities than ever before to have contact with, and a greater understanding of, our customers and their work. These outlets provide great opportunities — and challenges! Good listening skills can help us meet the challenges and help create successful outcomes for all.

  2. What a great metaphor for the social networking movement. I’ve been fortunate; I was assigned one of the first products my company released with a huge social media foundation. This is the first time ever where I’ve had direct customer contact.

    Agree completely; listening is the most important skill. I began my social networking research with Google Alerts so I could see who and where people were talking about the products I document.

    Great post.

    • I’m grateful for your kind words, Patty. What a cool assignment you’ve been given! I also use Google Alerts, and I’m adding other tools all the time. I was glad to learn of the #SocialID tag from your RT, and plan to attend the next session.

  3. Dear Tristan,

    Great post!
    Very important listening-is true.
    To communicate correctly and to understand a situation, or a person, you must Listen first. You can not fake listening. Caring about solving problems is also about first listening and understanding . Respect is an important matter, I think if you respect someone you listen each other, business or personal life is the same case.

    all the best,

  4. Listening, and doing so well, breeds trust within the person you’re listening to. If they trust you, then they’re more likely to listen to what you have to say in return. True communication has always been about the back and forth rather than messages flowing one way and one way only, and social media only heightens that.

    If you read and respond to someone’s tweets, chances are they’re going to respond to you in return. If all you do is type statements that you expect people to read and take in, then you’re not going to get anywhere. One-way messaging is not engaging communication; only two-way messaging is.

    • And so, in blissful irony, I happen upon your blog comment TWO months too late. Many apologies Matthew, don’t know how that slipped by.

      And you’re entirely right – It’s about the dialogue, not the monologue! I’ve enjoyed ours on Twitter. Technical communication will increasingly be about interaction.

      You’re spot on, as usual!


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