As more and more companies, government offices and school districts realize that maintaining a social media presence (via Twitter, Facebook, etc.) is no longer a “nice to have,” but an obligation; websites like Mashable have all of a sudden become the Ms. Manners of modern day communication. Do you have bad Facebook manners? Ask Mashable! Feeling lonely on Twitter? Mashable can help you!
While we adults figure out how to mediate and moderate our online personal and professional personas, let us not forget to discuss online etiquette with our children. As this ad on Kitchen Cyberbullying painfully reminds us—“Think of the consequences of your text before you type it!”
Typing, texting and tweeting aside, as we learned in kindergarten, it takes two kinds of actions for a meaningful conversation to take place—talking and listening. The funny thing is that when it comes to social media these days, there is a lot of emphasis placed on how to talk and relatively little placed on what it means to listen.
How to listen to social media
In her recent paper, “Following you: Disciplines of listening in social media,” author and academic Kate Crawford “develops the concept of listening as a metaphor for paying attention online”. Using Twitter as a case study she defines three primary modes of listening to social media:
- Reciprocal listening—The act of hearing and responding meaningfully to comments and direct messages.
- Background listening—Scanning and skimming tweets and online commentary with little focus, attention or response.
- Delegated listening—Giving the responsibility of tracking and responding to tweets to a third party.
A simple framework, we have all engaged in each of the three modes above, but so what?
The value of listening
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize the value of “listening to” social media. By paying attention to and thinking about the texts and tweets that pass us by, we can gauge people’s awareness, opinions, rants and raves and even engage in just-in-time research. Despite this, many workplaces and schools are averse to letting employees and students read tweets on the job because 1) society still considers listening a “low value” form of online participation, 2) we lack standardized models for quantifying the value and benefits of listening and 3) we are still waiting for that rock star study to confirm when, how and what type of online listening mode to use.
How to hone your online listening skills
While people like Crawford try to make sense of our social media listening habits and the implications of being able to filter through social media noise, here are a few tips for honing your own online listening skills:
- Know your modes—Think about the types of information you need to be better at what you do. Target where that information comes from (Google News, Reuters, Twitter, etc.) and determine when, where and whether you need to engage in reciprocal, background or delegated listening. Be disciplined! If you try to take in everything, you will take in nothing!
- Filter—Use tools like TweepML, Twitter Search, Google Alerts and Gmail Priority Inbox to prioritize what passes your eyes by!
- Think—When was the last time you truly thought about a tweet or Facebook update? Before retweeting or giving a thumbs up, take a minute to really grapple with what you’ve read. Do you agree? Disagree? Connect what you’ve read to what you know. Think about how you feel. Ask a follow-up question. These are basic reading skills that often go the wayside when it comes to social media.
- Track—Keep a daily, weekly or monthly dairy of what you’ve learned via social media. If you are trying to listen to social media for your company, breakout a spreadsheet to track trends, clicks, responses and anything else that would be valuable to your team. Don’t just record the numbers, read the numbers! What do they mean?! If you are a teacher, get your students to do this. They will learn valuable listening, math and research skills!
Have other ideas?! I am all eyes and ears! Post a comment below or send us a tweet @bon_education.
Because listening is half of the conversation…
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(Image available under CC License by perpetualplum)