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  • Writer's pictureGrace Anne Alfiero

Ready to Listen?

By Tatiana Bacchus

Be honest. Did you come here thinking, listen? How do you listen to social media? Maybe not. Maybe you’re already really savvy and are just kicking tires on this post, but if you’re not and you’re honestly curious about what it means to listen on social media, stick around. The water’s nice and it could change how you think about what you share with your audience.

As I work on this series about social media engagement, I find myself checking the pulse of my own accounts. If I’m being honest, I’ve been a bit of a social media hermit lately. Life’s been a bit rocky and I find that I don’t have the capacity to authentically engage with other people’s curiosity about my life and work. It’s a problem! At the moment, most of my accounts that have any activity going are my personal accounts. Now I may be in a different category because as a creative I have multiple pages and accounts to manage. 

When I say multiple, I mean…more than four Facebook pages, one and a half Instagram accounts, two YouTube pages, and when I get over to it, my LinkedIn profile. When I’m doing it well I’m using a social media dashboard tool like Hootsuite (we’ll discuss it in a later post,) and when I’m not…I’m just not. In my current state of mind and affairs, I am not prepared to listen. I offer myself grace in realizing that I have a ton going on and, unfortunately at the moment, social media has fallen to the back burner. It happens. That’s why I’m asking you to do a fair and honest assessment of where you are.

Could I hire someone to take over my social media? Sure…but you have to find them, train them, supervise them, and make sure they understand your brand voice. For some, it’s not that hard because they have the capacity. I currently don’t. For some, it’s hard because they are not used to trusting people to be the voice of their organization or brand. The reality is that if you’re an outward-facing organization of size or are planning on growing, you have to consider having social media support. In this day and age, it’s a must. I know it and will get there, hopefully, sooner than later. In the interim, I’m here with you where the water is chill. 

Let me tell you a story as a way to illuminate how you can listen on social media. A connection of mine, David Wilcots, is a paleontologist who has a website for kids. My company planned a shoot with him for an original children’s concept. Since we had plenty of footage I made him a video that he could use on his website. This was seven years ago. I uploaded the video to my YouTube channel, which I predominantly used to share private videos with clients for feedback. There isn’t that much on my channel. I expected that he would proof the video and then, if happy, he would download it and then finally upload it to his website. That’s not what happened.

Image: David and kids searching the rocks on a hill. The fossil site in Jermyn, Pennsylvania.

Instead of what I expected, Dave embedded the video we created into his website. Neither of us thought anything of it. I expected his circle of admirers and colleagues, which I admittedly and falsely thought was small, would watch the video and that would be the end of it. If you nudged me to tell you what I really thought - it would be that the video would max out at about 300 views. I expected zero engagement. Okay, maybe a positive comment or two from one of his connections but that’s it. Instead, when I went looking for something on the page a few years later I noticed that it had over 30,000 views and dozens of comments. Unanswered comments. 

These weren’t my comments. They were comments for Dave about things specific to paleontology. I checked the video while preparing to write this post and we have over 50,000 views and new comments from a few months ago. Still unanswered. I offer myself grace on that one because I let Dave know that they were there and invited him to engage with his audience on my page. Thankfully the audience is very engaged and some of them have begun chatting it up with each other and answering questions in our absence. 

In this case, I was not ready to listen to this audience because I never expected them, and then when they arrived, I realized I didn’t have the expertise to engage with them. Hopefully, for you, you are in a position to read the comments that are shared in response to your posts. All of them. The other part of listening comes in when you also follow the conversations that are happening in the comments section. Sometimes you’ll find people complaining about products and services, which should be triaged as you would a customer service inquiry. Other times you’ll see how wild, robust, witty, and caring the people behind the profiles can be. 

What listening to the conversation on my YouTube page illuminated for me, was that there is a voracious audience wanting content and conversation around fossil hunting. As it’s not my area of expertise, before I post anything else in this arena, I am going to make sure I am prepared. Prepared to listen to what the audience is interested in, to have the capacity to engage meaningfully in the conversation (myself or a surrogate social media person), and to process the information shared in a way that informs future content. Listening to you will mean something different, but it should mean spending time on the platforms you inhabit and getting to know who is there, what they like and dislike, and trying to understand how you can be of service to them. 


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