Stop talking, start listening

by Jeremy Hodge on August 31, 2012

Ironically, I discovered a great blog post on Twitter from Luis Suarez titled “Twitter is Where Conversations go to Die” which echoes a lot my frustrations with social media. In his post, he touches on a number of issues with Twitter including the recent changes to their API guidelines, which snubs third party developers (the same ones who have really made Twitter successful). But the following point is what really struck a chord with me…

…we are just now far too busy with ourselves with our key, important messages, that we would want to blast out to our networks thinking we know better than them what they need, even if we haven’t asked them first about it!, because we all feel conversations are just that: sharing your messages never mind everyone else’s.

I couldn’t agree more with this statement, it expresses the frustrations I’ve had with Twitter and a lot of social media for quite some time. I believe in social media and the power of these tools, but so many of them have been bastardized by over-publishing and our inability to shut up and listen!

It has become so easy to create, that we’ve gotten a bit trigger happy with these capabilities. We went from blogs, to short-form blogging (Tumblr), to 140 characters (Twitter) and even just images (Pinterest). With all of these opportunities to publish and such a low barrier to entry, we’ve forgotten how to listen and have become lazy with what we put out there. And listening isn’t just scanning and seeing what others are saying, it means taking in another point of view, processing it and reacting.

I think this problem is especially true with Twitter. I’m all for brevity; writing short and concise isn’t easy. But it’s tough to fully flesh out an idea and have a meaningful back and forth with someone with only that much space to write. There’s something to be said for doing some light research, writing a bit more long form and building out an idea. I’ve tried taking a tweet and turnings it into a full blog post, only to realize the initial statement I made on Twitter didn’t have much backing to it once I tried to flesh it out.

We’ve also completely bastardized the word “conversation.” A bunch of employees taking a bunch of prepackaged Tweets and reposting them on Twitter is not conversation, it’s obnoxious noise. I’m all for talking about and promoting your company, but add your own voice! There are plenty of company evangelists out there who create great content about their company and do so in a way that is actually personable (Luis is one of them). I tried this recently about a dementia diagnosis technology from IBM Research and I intend to do more.

We have such amazing tools to create and consume that we’ve gotten lazy with how we use them. It has come to a point where everyone is shouting over one another saying absolutely nothing. It’s time to slow down on the publishing, do a bit more listening and converse. We need to be OK with silence. In the words of Mark Twain; “If you have nothing to say, say nothing.”

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