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Right Tool Right Job- Social Media

Right Tool Right Job- Social Media

I had this idea that I bet Leon and the others can riff on. Basically: there are plenty of tools out there for lots of aspects of life. Let’s make sure we propose the proper tool (or our take on a good tool) for the right job. From managing our tasks and priorities to determining how best to engage our communities, let’s all start looking around for the right tools.

My first swing at this: Social Media.

Blogs are a Platform

Use blogs to communicate with a community about what interests you. If you’re a corporate blogger, write about the good and the bad about your subjects. If you’re just writing about yourself and your passions, great, but try to make the posts relevent to people outside of yourself. Be real. Be fresh. Communicate in both directions. Enable comments. And write back to those who comment. (Disclaimer: as a blog is a very multi-purpose tool, some of you will disagree with me on this all- comment!)

Blogs can also be used as a knowledge base, but aren’t *as* good at that function, because that relies on updates, and/or edits to fix the problems. (my favorite knowledge base is a wiki- see below).

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I prefer WordPress (or hosted WordPress), but Blogger, Vox, and several others are equally good.

Wikis are Good for Knowledge Bases

Wikis are editable websites that permit multiple users to interact and easily edit details on a page. We used a wiki as the core organizing tool for PodCamp, our unconference about new media community tools. We used it for everything from posting up hotel deals for the area, to scheduling the sessions, to registration.

I prefer PBWiki and also Wikia, but there are tons out there.

Twitter is for Presence

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Lots of people have opinions in all directions about Twitter. Briefly, it’s a tool that lets you post 140 characters to a group of friends via SMS, the web, IM, or several 3rd party apps. The site officially asks the question: “What are you doing?,” but you can use the tool however you want.

Use Twitter to point out items of interest on your blog, on other people’s blogs, and in the world around you. Contribute to the larger conversation amongst your friends lists (Twitter works best when you add lots of friends). Use it to show you or your organization’s presence. (And if you want to add me, I’m chrisbrogan.)

Flickr is for Color and Vibrance

Using a photo sharing site like Flickr adds a visual appeal to your social media toolkit. If you’re an organization, take snaps of the people in the company. Take pictures at your social events. Post pictures from your public excursions. And/or take pictures of things that interest you specifically as a human working within that organization.

One of my all time favorite examples of this is following Dave Gray, CEO and founder of XPlane. His personal passions translate well into the nature of his business, which is a visual thinking practice (they help organizations explain complex things with clever visualizations).

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Other similar sites are Zooomr and Photobucket. There are plenty more.

Podcasts and Videoblogging are for Relationship

Building an audio podcast or a video product for your organization or yourself is a great way to bring even more humanity into the picture. Not unlike the pictures, a podcast adds another content experience, and also adds a voice (and better still a face) to the experience. Podcasts can be in the “how to” vein of using a product or service. They can be advice podcasts, which also build up your reputation as a thought leader in your space.

It’s hard to recommend tools here. There are lots of ways to skin this cat. The most important advice? Don’t spend a lot. Don’t buy some fancy solution from someone charging you thousands to make a podcast. You can do it for free or cheap, including hosting, by just looking around a little.

I recommend Odeo for the easiest audio recording experience. I recommend Blip.tv as a good hosting site for videoblogging/video podcasts (don’t get hung up on the names). If you want to edit things a bit, for audio, try Audacity. For video, use either the built-in Windows Media Maker or iMovie on a Mac before trying anything tricky and expensive.

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RSS Readers and Search Tools for Ego-Surfing

It’s great that you’re going to engage with all the tools above to reach out to people, but are you listening? If you’re lucky, there are lots of blogs and podcasts and other websites talking about you or your product or your service. Not everything is going to happen on your site. You’ve gotta find the conversations and engage people on their own turf.

Use a good RSS reader. These are tools to let you subscribe to blogs and podcasts such that you read lots of things from one website or application. (Talking further about RSS- Really Simple Syndication- would take up another 2000 words) I like Google Reader, or you can use Bloglines, or one of the built-in RSS readers. The better you get, the more you should demand from the reader.

To track what people are saying about you elsewhere, use sites like Technorati and Google Blogsearch. Both let you make RSS feeds from your searches, which you can then just throw into your RSS reader for “ego surfing.” This tool, more than any others, is vital to understanding how you or your brand or your product are perceived. Hint: if there’s nothing out there, you need more work promoting what you’re doing.

And Now, Your Take

What else have I missed? What other social media tools would you recommend to do the job right? Do you feel I’ve used these tools inappropriately? Jump into the comments section and let us know. That’s the beauty of it, after all.

Chris Brogan is co-founder of PodCamp, a free unconference about new media community tools. He keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com]

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

8 Simple Ways to Be a Better Listener

How would you feel if you were sharing a personal story and noticed that the person to whom you were speaking wasn’t really listening? You probably wouldn’t be too thrilled.

Unfortunately, that is the case for many people. Most individuals are not good listeners. They are good pretenders. The thing is, true listening requires work—more work than people are willing to invest. Quality conversation is about “give and take.” Most people, however, want to just give—their words, that is. Being on the receiving end as the listener may seem boring, but it’s essential.

When you are attending to someone and paying attention to what they’re saying, it’s a sign of caring and respect. The hitch is that attending requires an act of will, which sometimes goes against what our minds naturally do—roaming around aimlessly and thinking about whatnot, instead of listening—the greatest act of thoughtfulness.

Without active listening, people often feel unheard and unacknowledged. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn how to be a better listener.

What Makes People Poor Listeners?

Good listening skills can be learned, but first, let’s take a look at some of the things that you might be doing that makes you a poor listener.

1. You Want to Talk to Yourself

Well, who doesn’t? We all have something to say, right? But when you are looking at someone pretending to be listening while, all along, they’re mentally planning all the amazing things they’re going to say, it is a disservice to the speaker.

Yes, maybe what the other person is saying is not the most exciting thing in the world. Still, they deserve to be heard. You always have the ability to steer the conversation in another direction by asking questions.

It’s okay to want to talk. It’s normal, even. Keep in mind, however, that when your turn does come around, you’ll want someone to listen to you.

2. You Disagree With What Is Being Said

This is another thing that makes you an inadequate listener—hearing something with which you disagree with and immediately tuning out. Then, you lie in wait so you can tell the speaker how wrong they are. You’re eager to make your point and prove the speaker wrong. You think that once you speak your “truth,” others will know how mistaken the speaker is, thank you for setting them straight, and encourage you to elaborate on what you have to say. Dream on.

Disagreeing with your speaker, however frustrating that might be, is no reason to tune them out and ready yourself to spew your staggering rebuttal. By listening, you might actually glean an interesting nugget of information that you were previously unaware of.

3. You Are Doing Five Other Things While You’re “Listening”

It is impossible to listen to someone while you’re texting, reading, playing Sudoku, etc. But people do it all the time—I know I have.

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I’ve actually tried to balance my checkbook while pretending to listen to the person on the other line. It didn’t work. I had to keep asking, “what did you say?” I can only admit this now because I rarely do it anymore. With work, I’ve succeeded in becoming a better listener. It takes a great deal of concentration, but it’s certainly worth it.

If you’re truly going to listen, then you must: listen! M. Scott Peck, M.D., in his book The Road Less Travel, says, “you cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.” If you are too busy to actually listen, let the speaker know, and arrange for another time to talk. It’s simple as that!

4. You Appoint Yourself as Judge

While you’re “listening,” you decide that the speaker doesn’t know what they’re talking about. As the “expert,” you know more. So, what’s the point of even listening?

To you, the only sound you hear once you decide they’re wrong is, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah!” But before you bang that gavel, just know you may not have all the necessary information. To do that, you’d have to really listen, wouldn’t you? Also, make sure you don’t judge someone by their accent, the way they sound, or the structure of their sentences.

My dad is nearly 91. His English is sometimes a little broken and hard to understand. People wrongly assume that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about—they’re quite mistaken. My dad is a highly intelligent man who has English as his second language. He knows what he’s saying and understands the language perfectly.

Keep that in mind when listening to a foreigner, or someone who perhaps has a difficult time putting their thoughts into words.

Now, you know some of the things that make for an inferior listener. If none of the items above resonate with you, great! You’re a better listener than most.

How To Be a Better Listener

For conversation’s sake, though, let’s just say that maybe you need some work in the listening department, and after reading this article, you make the decision to improve. What, then, are some of the things you need to do to make that happen? How can you be a better listener?

1. Pay Attention

A good listener is attentive. They’re not looking at their watch, phone, or thinking about their dinner plans. They’re focused and paying attention to what the other person is saying. This is called active listening.

According to Skills You Need, “active listening involves listening with all senses. As well as giving full attention to the speaker, it is important that the ‘active listener’ is also ‘seen’ to be listening—otherwise, the speaker may conclude that what they are talking about is uninteresting to the listener.”[1]

As I mentioned, it’s normal for the mind to wander. We’re human, after all. But a good listener will rein those thoughts back in as soon as they notice their attention waning.

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I want to note here that you can also “listen” to bodily cues. You can assume that if someone keeps looking at their watch or over their shoulder, their focus isn’t on the conversation. The key is to just pay attention.

2. Use Positive Body Language

You can infer a lot from a person’s body language. Are they interested, bored, or anxious?

A good listener’s body language is open. They lean forward and express curiosity in what is being said. Their facial expression is either smiling, showing concern, conveying empathy, etc. They’re letting the speaker know that they’re being heard.

People say things for a reason—they want some type of feedback. For example, you tell your spouse, “I had a really rough day!” and your husband continues to check his newsfeed while nodding his head. Not a good response.

But what if your husband were to look up with questioning eyes, put his phone down, and say, “Oh, no. What happened?” How would feel, then? The answer is obvious.

According to Alan Gurney,[2]

“An active listener pays full attention to the speaker and ensures they understand the information being delivered. You can’t be distracted by an incoming call or a Facebook status update. You have to be present and in the moment.

Body language is an important tool to ensure you do this. The correct body language makes you a better active listener and therefore more ‘open’ and receptive to what the speaker is saying. At the same time, it indicates that you are listening to them.”

3. Avoid Interrupting the Speaker

I am certain you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a sentence only to see the other person holding up a finger or their mouth open, ready to step into your unfinished verbiage. It’s rude and causes anxiety. You would, more than likely, feel a need to rush what you’re saying just to finish your sentence.

Interrupting is a sign of disrespect. It is essentially saying, “what I have to say is much more important than what you’re saying.” When you interrupt the speaker, they feel frustrated, hurried, and unimportant.

Interrupting a speaker to agree, disagree, argue, etc., causes the speaker to lose track of what they are saying. It’s extremely frustrating. Whatever you have to say can wait until the other person is done.

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Be polite and wait your turn!

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions is one of the best ways to show you’re interested. If someone is telling you about their ski trip to Mammoth, don’t respond with, “that’s nice.” That would show a lack of interest and disrespect. Instead, you can ask, “how long have you been skiing?” “Did you find it difficult to learn?” “What was your favorite part of the trip?” etc. The person will think highly of you and consider you a great conversationalist just by you asking a few questions.

5. Just Listen

This may seem counterintuitive. When you’re conversing with someone, it’s usually back and forth. On occasion, all that is required of you is to listen, smile, or nod your head, and your speaker will feel like they’re really being heard and understood.

I once sat with a client for 45 minutes without saying a word. She came into my office in distress. I had her sit down, and then she started crying softly. I sat with her—that’s all I did. At the end of the session, she stood, told me she felt much better, and then left.

I have to admit that 45 minutes without saying a word was tough. But she didn’t need me to say anything. She needed a safe space in which she could emote without interruption, judgment, or me trying to “fix” something.

6. Remember and Follow Up

Part of being a great listener is remembering what the speaker has said to you, then following up with them.

For example, in a recent conversation you had with your co-worker Jacob, he told you that his wife had gotten a promotion and that they were contemplating moving to New York. The next time you run into Jacob, you may want to say, “Hey, Jacob! Whatever happened with your wife’s promotion?” At this point, Jacob will know you really heard what he said and that you’re interested to see how things turned out. What a gift!

According to new research, “people who ask questions, particularly follow-up questions, may become better managers, land better jobs, and even win second dates.”[3]

It’s so simple to show you care. Just remember a few facts and follow up on them. If you do this regularly, you will make more friends.

7. Keep Confidential Information Confidential

If you really want to be a better listener, listen with care. If what you’re hearing is confidential, keep it that way, no matter how tempting it might be to tell someone else, especially if you have friends in common. Being a good listener means being trustworthy and sensitive with shared information.

Whatever is told to you in confidence is not to be revealed. Assure your speaker that their information is safe with you. They will feel relieved that they have someone with whom they can share their burden without fear of it getting out.

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Keeping someone’s confidence helps to deepen your relationship. Also, “one of the most important elements of confidentiality is that it helps to build and develop trust. It potentially allows for the free flow of information between the client and worker and acknowledges that a client’s personal life and all the issues and problems that they have belong to them.”[4]

Be like a therapist: listen and withhold judgment.

NOTE: I must add here that while therapists keep everything in a session confidential, there are exceptions:

  1. If the client may be an immediate danger to himself or others.
  2. If the client is endangering a population that cannot protect itself, such as in the case of a child or elder abuse.

8. Maintain Eye Contact

When someone is talking, they are usually saying something they consider meaningful. They don’t want their listener reading a text, looking at their fingernails, or bending down to pet a pooch on the street. A speaker wants all eyes on them. It lets them know that what they’re saying has value.

Eye contact is very powerful. It can relay many things without anything being said. Currently, it’s more important than ever with the Covid-19 Pandemic. People can’t see your whole face, but they can definitely read your eyes.

By eye contact, I don’t mean a hard, creepy stare—just a gaze in the speaker’s direction will do. Make it a point the next time you’re in a conversation to maintain eye contact with your speaker. Avoid the temptation to look anywhere but at their face. I know it’s not easy, especially if you’re not interested in what they’re talking about. But as I said, you can redirect the conversation in a different direction or just let the person know you’ve got to get going.

Final Thoughts

Listening attentively will add to your connection with anyone in your life. Now, more than ever, when people are so disconnected due to smartphones and social media, listening skills are critical.

You can build better, more honest, and deeper relationships by simply being there, paying attention, and asking questions that make the speaker feel like what they have to say matters.

And isn’t that a great goal? To make people feel as if they matter? So, go out and start honing those listening skills. You’ve got two great ears. Now use them!

More Tips on How to Be a Better Listener

Featured photo credit: Joshua Rodriguez via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Skills You Need: Active Listening
[2] Filtered: Body language for active listening
[3] Forbes: People Will Like You More If You Start Asking Follow-up Questions
[4] TAFE NSW Sydney eLearning Moodle: Confidentiality

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