Understanding Other People Through Social Media
I attended the HiMA 2012 Interactive Strategies Psych! Conference a few weeks ago, which focused on human psychology and how to it relates to communication. The session that really stood out to me was Understanding Other People: The Five Secrets to Persuasion by "The Confidence Coach" Beverly Flaxington. Just as the title indicates, the talk focused on how to understand other people and how to use that information to influence. For me though, the secrets really boiled down to one point: you must listen and understand your audience and their behavior to effectively communicate and inspire action. Understanding other people is a crucial part of communications. Who is my audience? What are they thinking? What motivates them to act? All of these questions (and many more) have to be considered. Flaxington emphasized active listening in connecting with audiences and directing messages to what interests and motivates them to action. Active listening is engaging the speaker and repeating what was heard with the goal of coming to a mutual agreement of what has been communicated. It’s not taking the first explanation at face value. Active listening is about going deeper to find the intentions, goals and experiences that shape the other party’s reasoning. People can interpret words and their delivery very differently, which makes it all the more important to be sure you’re on the same page. This clip from Seinfeld is a good example of how your words, and how they’re delivered, could have multiple interpretations. Social media is an excellent tool for discovering more about your audience. When it’s used for maximum effectiveness, social media platforms can become a conversation between a brand and its consumers. During that dialogue, marketers must listen to the community and gauge their responses. Tweets, comments, and posts are easily identifiable feedback (in terms of identifying what a person is asking for), but more passive approval or disapproval such as “likes,” retweets and favorites can also be telling about what the community wants or doesn’t want to see. You can determine what kind of content and messaging plays well with your community by the amount and type of engagement on posts. So the next time your Facebook post gets an above or below average amount of likes and comments, break it down, and figure out how to capitalize on that. Was it the content itself, or how it was delivered (e.g. photo, video, or text)? Maybe your community loves to see cat humor, so you incorporate messaging into cat pictures when appropriate. Maybe they really responded positively to the work you did for a nonprofit, so you decide to participate in and share more of that work. When you truly understand what a person thinks and how they’re motivated, it makes the challenge of persuasion much easier. It’s easy and tempting to use your own lense to reach a conclusion about a situation, but we, as communicators, must be able to put ourselves in our audiences shoes better connect with them and achieve our business objectives.