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Enhancing communication with effective listening in cyber communities

Sep 03. 2015
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IN THIS AGE, when we have developed and expanded numerous forms of communication via the Internet and various social media, many new marketing channels have been created for us.

As these new developments arise, this has led to the creation of new tools and applications that allow us to communicate and receive information almost instantaneously all the time.

This is why many people are able to express their feelings easily and continuously, or share a variety of news. This also means that people can post complaints, make queries or offer advice in real time, as there are many knowledgeable people and even more curious people who collectively form small communities on the Internet.

The creation of these cyber-communities should be regarded as good opportunities not only for marketing executives, but also for human-resources managers and product developers, who can tap into these networks and listen to various viewpoints to understand the thoughts and feelings of people in those communities.

Showing that one’s company creates products that respond to people in these communities can lead to them forming strong bonds with the brands.

Psychologist Mark Goulston listed nine principles for talking to anyone in his book “Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone”, which can be successfully adapted to communicating with people in social-media networks. This is due to the two-way marketing communications style today, which encourages and allows marketers to listen to the feelings and exchange views with their target customers and employees.

The book states that the most important of all the nine principles is to listen effectively, learn and understand the people we are conversing with and show that we value their thoughts and feelings.

Doing so makes those people let down their defences and open up to listen to information that we have to share with them. Our ability to influence and persuade people is heightened by the bonds that are formed when people feel that we are good listeners who know how to listen and can logically evaluate the content.

However, we will often discover that we are unable to get into the hearts of consumers because we listen and analyse everything according to our own views and use our own set of logic to influence other people – sometimes to the point of pressuring others to do what we want or understand what we want them to do.

But this approach is a variation of old-school marketing based on communicating what we have analysed and want others to follow. This old-fashioned approach can often backfire when people resist and refuse to listen to what we want to share with them.

Therefore, successful marketers today have to be effective in communicating with people by knowing how to listen and pose questions that will let the other side reflect upon their own feelings and express their innermost thoughts.

In gathering information, we marketers then have to be able to evaluate and build a relationship by demonstrating that we understand their needs so they trust us enough to be open to and accepting of our messages conveyed in a language that they find attractive and interesting.

In our society today, we should all learn to listen more effectively, as there is a lot of news and information that is continuously sent to us in great quantities. Therefore it is important to know how to listen and evaluate information with an open mind and without prejudice before making decisions – rather than making decisions purely on the basis of our moods and feelings.

This is a difficult process that can only be achieved with practice, and it requires us to develop ourselves to be more effective at work and improve the quality of our own personal lives.

Vittakarn Chandavimol is chief marketing officer of AP (Thailand).

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