Metaphors are a crucial part of how we relate to the digital world. They are crucial in one sense as the low-level languages that computers use are incomprehensible to humans. All our spangly, shiny Powerpoint presentations and music libraries are streams of hexidecimal or binary digits to our processors and disk drives. Unless you’re very special these low-level digital streams are gobbledygook and even if you are special enough to make sense of them they’re certainly not anything like the files most of us expect to see or listen to.
With the invention of the graphical user interface (GUI) metaphor became a much more explicit part of our computing experience. A host of analogies were launched upon us in a rush, windows, scrolling, dragging, trash and even document. These terms were needed to help us cope with this new world and GUIs were crucial in the spread of computing from the lab to the wider world.
This may well be true but I believe that this is due to the users rather than the medium. Social media provides excellent opportunities for listening and discovery. Just like in a real-world social gathering it is wise to listen first and then to speak. Those who seek the warm balm of easy attention generally find it short lived. Just like the salesman who works the room at a conference with the line, “Hi, I’m Bob, my company is the best supplier of widgets ever. Here’s my card. See ya,” blatant self promotion is empty and quickly dismissed online.
Social media makes listening easy and provides some very useful tools for doing so effectively. Twitter and FriendFeed provide the ability to save search terms and even provides RSS feeds for saved searches. These searches are updated in real-time.
The most common use of this is to monitor mentions of, your own name, your brands or your clients. This is a powerful tool but this is just the beginning of the potential of listening to social media. This monitoring allows you to react quickly to any mentions of your business. Imagine the power of offering the solution to a problem to a user of your products who has not even contacted you to complain yet. That’s customer service almost indistinguishable from magic. Continue reading Using Social Media: Don’t Forget to Listen