Social Media-Listen First
Often when people start to get involved in social media they get so excited they dive in and start participating before they’ve had a chance to see the lay of the land. Usually this is harmless, and most social networks have a few “caretakers” who give the newbies clues on how to be good netizens if necessary. The thing is, you may be diving into networks or applications that aren’t really the best options for your particular needs.
This post by Liz Strauss addresses listening as one of the most important ways to participate, and this goes for any conversation, on-line or off. She says “Listening is participation. Great listeners are involved and thinking. That’s how we connect with other people’s ideas and values.” and I couldn’t agree more.
The amount of things you can learn by simply listening to the conversations and then following that up with your own research is endless, and prepares you to engage in the conversation in an intelligent way. Anybody can blurt out the first thing that comes to mind, but to be seen as an authority a considered opinion that engages the other participants may be more effective.
Whether you are new to networking or an old hand it’s a good idea to join a group and spend a little time listening first. Identify who the thought-leaders are, what the popular topics and positions are, before you dive in with your own point of view. Make your first posts inviting to discussion with the people who’s viewpoint you’ve enjoyed and engage them first.
I’m not saying you should tailor your responses to blend in with the group. Far from it. Posts that present a fresh perspective of a topic are almost always welcome and stimulate discussion. After having listened for a bit you can make better choices in language and tone to encourage further discussion rather than be abrasive or jarring.
With so many social media networks sprouting up hither and yon, listening is the best tool you can use to define what groups you want to participate in. Observe and listen for a bit before you join and you’ll save yourself time in the long run.
Liz has more links on her blog and she mentions Chris Brogan’s posts on the subject as well, and in this post he lists a number of ways to locate discussions you want to listen to, and so find people that you want to listen to as well.