Community Building Breakthroughs: 4 Ways to Listen (and Understand)

by Jill Foster on October 8, 2009


Marketers who listen gain valuable information regarding the perception and authority of their brand. As such, sophisticated tools have emerged to give marketers a premium seat at the water cooler. Google the words “listening” and “social media” and you’ll get hundreds of search results relevant to the topic. From tips on how to listen, to what to listen to, to optimal times to listen, conversations focusing on listening to the social media space are ubiquitous.

Often missing are conversations focusing on conversational listening.

Conversational listening transcends traditional information gathering/”ear to the ground” work to focus intently on not just hearing, but understanding the other party. Conversational listening requires less focus on the business and more attention on the customer.

As marketers in the web 2.0 world, we must hone our skills as conversational listeners. We must focus intently on ensuring that customers feel seen, known and heard. And we must listen, not just to hear, but to also understand.

Listening to understand builds stamina in the following areas:

  • Powerful questioning.
    Listening to understand creates an entry way for asking powerful questions. And as we seek to understand, our questions become more provocative, creative and relevant. As we strive to reveal how things work or what makes people tick, our inquiries become much more inquisitive. This enables us to experience customers on a deeper level and allow us to really get a true sense of how they perceive our brand. What powerful question, that if asked, would create a breakthrough for your business?
  • Trying on a new perspective.
    Listening to understand allows us to experience life as perceived by those who we are in relationship with. As a result, we begin to walk in their shoes, see things as they see them and experience life from a different angle. What customer experience has not been explored due to inside/outside thinking?
  • Expressing empathy.
    When businesses listen to understand, they send the messages, “You are important to us. Your opinion matters. We care about your experience with our company.” This builds a sense of empathy among both parties. And where there is empathy, there is a high comfort level for sharing freely, voluntarily and proactively. People are transparent, real and honest. How are you expressing empathy in your day-to-day interactions with customers?
  • Hearing what isn’t being said.
    Attitudes, perceptions and beliefs not always articulated in words. When we listen to understand we become better at intuitive and environmental listening. We begin to hear things that aren’t being said. We read between the lines. What isn’t being said about your company and what would you love to hear?

Powerful questioning. A new perspective. Empathy. Hearing what cannot be articulated in words.

When businesses listen to understand they can effortlessly create a community of enthusiasts around their brand, products and services.

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Guest contributor Terri Holley writes our series “Community Building Breakthroughs and Social Media.” She is the owner of Creative Blog Solutions and a social media strategist, plus a certified life/business coach. A forward-thinker and relationship-centric gal, Terri supports small businesses who understand the value of using social technologies to build deeper relationships with prospects and customers.

(Image Road Conversations by Alex Barth, Creative Commons)

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