Hound dog with earbuds

I am a bad date. BAD! Sure I can spin a yarn over some dinner or drinks. I have even been called a lil’ charmer. One time, an exceptional “conversationalist.” But to be honest – I dictate a conversation. When I’m not jabbering on and on, I fool you by keeping eye contact, tilting my head and maintaining the right body language so it looks like I am truly listening. But I’m so faking it. Now, I’m not a bad guy. More like a lazy one who is thinking more about what he is saying next then focusing on the important insights (I should be using) that my companion is happily sharing with me. Shame on me.

Ok T.M.I. – what does my dating deficiency confession have to do with anything? Well, if you’re doing the same thing – not listening – with your social media, than you’re a “bad date” too. You, like me, are talking non-stop. Never paying attention to anyone else and lacking self awareness, so much, you don’t even know you’re “that guy.”

Social media, like a dinner date, is a great way to develop kinship with someone, and listening – also known as social media monitoring – is as important as what you are saying. Listening is how you learn about someone, increase mutual understanding, uncover what they like to talk about and find important. It shows them real respect and helps create a real connection. It increases the chance of a possible second date.

Learn NOT to be “That Guy:”
1. Tune in. Listen, not just talk, to customers and find the most popular thought leaders.
2. Listen like an “open-minded” researcher, not a brand guardian.
3. Listen. Judge. Then respond.
4. Remove distractions. Never be in listening mode while creating and scheduling daily content.
5. Join conversations your audience is already talking about –Oscars, Super Bowl, popular TV shows, etc.
6. Ask open ended questions – especially if something lacks clarity.
7. Practice the “turn taking” signals in the flow of a conversation.
8. Listen to silence. If no one is talking, this also says something.
9. Respect your audience by never “fake” listening ever again.
10. Just added this to make it a even 10 items. (I have a touch of OCD as well.)

Today’s consumers on social media are telling each other what they want and what brands really are. We had better start listening. While I have been constantly jabbering on Facebook, what real insights am I missing out on to improve my company? Am I ignoring advocates? Are people “breaking up” with me?

I have a long way to go to be that perfect dinner date (and content marketer) who is smart, interesting, cool, irresistible – as well as a “great listener” that makes all of your friends green with envy. You know, “Mr. Right.” I’m not there yet, but unlike my last 10 or so first dates, “That Guy” has started listening a little more and was lucky enough to hear, “Yes, I’ll marry you” last Christmas.

Tell me about your listening tips and stories on Twitter (@thejohnnygwin) and as one of my favorite TV characters Fraiser Craneused to say: “I’m Listening.”

Note: This article appeared in the Mobile Chamber of Commerce Business View Magazine (Mar 2014). I will be a speaker at their upcoming Bloom in Mobile – 2014 State PRCA Conference with a gaggle of national and regional speakers addressing relevant topics to help promote today’s businesses. Join us March 30 – April 1, 2014 at The Riverview Plaza in Mobile, AL. Visit prcaonline.comfor more information.

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