A few days ago a friend of mine posted (on Google+) that nobody is listening on Twitter anymore. He offered his specific help to promote someone’ blog post there but got no answer. Obviously, because the other part wasn’t even listening. This story made me think about how people are consuming social media.

Nobody will question that the biggest trend is to be a “broadcaster”. Use social media to promote your business, to enhance your brand, to increase sales. That’s what everybody and their mothers are teaching you nowadays. There’s so much noise in this area that it’s almost impossible to discern useful information from gibberish. That’s why many people entering in social media have really overwhelming experiences.

I’ve been there too. I had my fair share of learning “how to influence people using social media“. But after having enough, a new trend in consuming this type of interaction emerged. Namely, I became a listener. And it took me only a few weeks to realize that the benefits of being an honest listener instead of an obsessed broadcaster are far more interesting than I thought.

For instance, I can easily get access to trends. I gave up TV a few years ago and I don’t consume news in the traditional media form. But my need to stay informed didn’t disappear, on the contrary, so I just use social media to see what are the directions, who are taking the lead and what other people are saying about that.

Also, by constantly perusing my social media stream I grow what I like to call ”my filtering muscles“. I learned how to easily identify what is important from what is just meaningless repetition. And that proved to be extremely beneficial in other areas too, like casual social conversation. I can easily spot a lazy conversational partner and sparkle the interaction, if need will be. People seldom get bored while talking to me. Or so the rumor goes, anyway…

But maybe the most important benefit of being a listener is that you get access to a lot of actionable information in your field. Promotions, events, new groups or things like these can be easily spotted and taken advantage of if you’re constantly keeping your eyes on the right streams. All you have to do is listen.

So, how can you become an effective social media listener?

1. Organize Your Broadcasters In Groups, Circles Or Lists

Pretty much every important social media platform has this feature nowadays. You can organize your stream in smaller chunks. If you have a really big social media window, it will take some time to put it into ”folders“. But in my experience this will really pay off in the long run.

Also, as you grow the list of people you follow, do take the time to add them to their specific group, circle or list too. In time, their messages will become more consistent and it will also be a way for you to identify if that area really benefits you or not.

2. Assign Specific Times For Perusing Each Group

Don’t do it everywhere, anytime. It’s not working. I know, because I used to do it like this: on the computer, in my backyard looking at my iPhone or on the couch, scratching my iPad. The message will get diluted and the initial thrill of interacting will rapidly fade away.

Instead, schedule some time for some specific list or topic and then drill down all the way to where you were last time you checked it. Dive in, immerse and try to get the most of it. Don’t give in to the thrill of interaction instantly, Just follow a fixed routine and let the results grow slowly.

3. Respond

This is not action. This is interaction: you’ll send a powerful message that you’re there, that you’re listening and that what the other part says is important to you. Also, be careful what you respond, with whom you’re engaging in and what do you really expect out of this.

Sometimes it will just be a casual information, but most of the time, after I started a thoughtful conversation on social media with somebody I was looking forward to do it for a long time, well, it ended with at least a constant and solid relationship, if not with some real life business stuff too.

4. Follow Up

Do this on requests, events or just facts. Ask around if there’s any change or if everything will go as planned. If somebody plans a launch, be there and help but also clearly state your implication in that project. If there will be a meetup, confirm your presence and the logistical details.

That activity will prove that you’re there. That you’re alive and you’re having at least some simple synapses. People hate talking to robots, you know. So just by showing that you’re there and you’re interested in something, chances that you’ll ignite a solid interaction will grow exponentially.

5. Take Notes

I know this sounds utterly unproductive, but it isn’t. At least in the beginning. Do a daily writeup, sketch something in your journal or draw a mind map. Again, do this at least in the beginning. As your interactions will grow both in numbers and depth, you will find less and less useful to write down what happened.

But, as any other journaling activity, it will help you understand not only what is really going on out there (for instance, are they only posting boring links or stupid cats videos?) but also what are your real expectations. Are you happy with the time spent there? Just be honest.

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If you really take the time to look around, you’ll realize that social media is not just a noisy marketplace where you got to strive to make your voice heard at any price. It’s also a space of information, discovery and inspiration.

In the end, like in any other area of life, it all depends on what you really want to make out of it.

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