Social media and the art of being interested

Social Media

Social media and the art of being interested

Are you one of those people who has a hard time remembering names when you meet someone new? I was, too – and then I learned what the problem was: I’m a jerk.

It turns out that how well you can remember names has nothing to do with your brain or memory and everything to do with whether or not you’re actually interested in that person.

“Some people, perhaps those who are more socially aware, are just more interested in people, more interested in relationships,” says Kansas State University professor of psychology Richard Harris. “They would be more motivated to remember somebody’s name.”

And most of us, let’s face it, aren’t that interested in the people around us. We’re interested in ourselves.

I'm mildly interested in keeping you mildly interested in me.

It’s incredibly rare – and becoming more so – to find someone who’s truly interested in others.

Social media has a lot to do with this. We’re becoming conditioned to tell the world what we’re doing and what we’re thinking about all the time.

When “share” becomes just another way to say “let me tell you more about me,” it’s clear social media has begun to show us something about ourselves: We really want someone to listen to us. Our thoughts. Our opinions. Our experiences.

In fact, some surveys of Internet use that show that as many as 80% of posts on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are only “announcements about one’s own immediate experience.”

And we suddenly have more places to talk about ourselves than ever before.

Social Media Explained

But if everyone wants to be noticed, be heard, have their opinions validated, who is doing the listening? While we’re all trying to be interesting, who is interested?

Study after study shows brands consistently fail to respond to complaints, questions from customer or even their own social media mentions. We’re just not interested, and we’re blowing it with social media.

If you’re only using social media to broadcast, you’re not making the most of its potential.

If you’re only using social media to guard your online reputation, you’re not getting your time and money’s worth.

If you’re only using social media to answer questions asked and thank people who mention you, you’re not taking it far enough.

Social media was built on a foundation of connection: discovering people, building contacts, and maintaining relationships. Not just responding to questions and complaints but actually working to create relationships – with those who love your brand, who want to know your brand, who are talking about the same things you like to talk about.

This isn’t sales. This is genuinely being useful, helpful, likeable, conversational.

You can’t automate it. You can’t scale it – it has to happen at human level. But done right, it’s guaranteed to bring you real relationships that lead to:

  • More shares
  • A bigger, better community
  • More authority in your field
  • Speaking opportunities
  • Press opportunities
  • Free focus group
  • Better products and services
  • New links
  • New leads
  • New customers

Tools can help, but only you can make it happen. Change your brain. Remember the name. Be interested.

The above is a riff on a presentation I give of the same name. Check out the slides below.

Courtney Seiter wrangled a smart, savvy community of Internet marketers as Raven's first Community Manager. She moved on from Raven in January 2014, but her social media and writing advice stands the test of time.

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