Listening, The Cure for Twurrets Syndrome

I declare 2010 the year I commit to really listening. I’ve always been told I’m a good listener. It’s my job to listen, to absorb, and to understand. But sometimes, I just can’t resist the urge to talk. Just talk. Probably much more than I should. It’s so comforting to hear myself ramble on about something or another. Sometimes listening to other people can be so damned uncomfortable. I always want to give advice. I try to think of something to say to make myself look smart, or find a way to make a connection with statements like, “I do that too.” An old colleague of mine Joe Dessie used to have a poster in his office that said it all.

I run in a relatively tech-savvy circle. It is San Francisco after all. But recently, I’ve been surprised by how many of my friends just “don’t see the point of Twitter.” (And I thought I was the Luddite in the crowd.) I say, thank God they’re not bulking up the Twitosphere with everyone else. I often find myself compelled to explain (because now I have a reason to talk) that Twitter is a really valuable listening and learning tool. It’s an awesome way to stay up-to-date on the latest trends and news about things I’m most interested in. Hell, I got up-to-speed on the whole CSR thing in about a week just by following a few leaders in the space. And, if I’ve got nothing to contribute to the conversation, I say nadda. Amazing for me but a really important rule to live by if for no other reason than to keep a clutter-free Twitter space. I’ll let my Facebook friends absorb my urges to spew inane comments about my dog’s talent, my latest granola-making successes, or my extreme Bionicle assembly skills.

This week BBC’s Peter Horrocks learned an embarrassing lesson on how not to use Twitter by accidentally publicly tweeting the confirmation of new multimedia division section heads prior to announcing them privately. He then went on to attempt to publicly right the wrong. Of course rival paper “The Sun” picked it up and used it against him. Oh the horrors of instant, free-wheeling, social expression. And now it’s mentioned here on my blog too. Wow, that’s like 40 more people who will hear about this including my mom.

Great as it is for conversation, you have to remember this is a free tool and you’re reliant on their technology not to balls it up; there have already been cases of direct Twitter messages being accidentally made public. Keep all your discussion open, and if you can’t – save it for offline.From

A few weeks ago, on a stay-at-home Saturday night, I watched in amazement as another not so famous tweeter who positions himself as a blogging expert waxed on about masturbation. According to the frantic tweet stream that ensued, his followers were dropping off like crazy. After a long frantic evening attempting to dig himself out of his own hole, his wife finally told him to “shut up and go to bed.” (I gleaned this all watching his Twitter stream between episodes of Rome). I mean really, this stuff is worse than a bad reality TV show. Go embarrass yourself on your own blog like the rest of us if you’ve got time to ramble.

As Chris Brogan points out, listening on Twitter is one of the most powerful things a company can do. For some great tips on how to use Twitter search, check out his article.

So many of us really don’t ask ourselves what we want to learn more about. We just think that projection of our personality, screaming about our products, and generally trying to get attention is where the value is. Knowledge is power and listening builds knowledge. As Brian Solis points out, listening is the first step of a successful social media strategy. Sure, it may be the first you take but it should always be the priority.

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One thought on “Listening, The Cure for Twurrets Syndrome

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