I was at the grocery store Tuesday night and it was packed with people doing last-minute shopping for July fourth holiday. When I finally arrived at the check-out, I asked the checker how her night was going. She told me that it had been so busy she was called into work early and then she described how the hours flew by because of the frenzied activity. Then she stopped talking.
“I just wanted to thank you for asking about my night and listening. Nobody does that.”
That woman had a story to tell and no one to tell it to. Here’s a news flash: there are millions of people online in this exact predicament. There is a disparate amount of content being created for a limited number of consumers (or maybe more specifically a limited amount of attention). If you want evidence look through your Facebook feed and notice how many entries don’t get comments or even an obligatory Like. Look though Twitter to see how many tweets don’t get retweeted, consider how many links don’t get clicked (use bit.ly or goo.gl to track some if you don’t believe me). Many social media users are desperate to be heard: if you want to endear yourself or your brand to them simply listen to them.
It may be a very elementary insight but it’s valid. You have brands that are trying to advertise to people sometimes with ridiculous autoresponders, you have people who are accruing followers or friends for status with no intent to engage, and everyone has their own life to live outside of social media (I think?) – so the market for consuming content is much smaller than the market for creating it.
One of my favorite stories is the story of John Paul Jones, the former bass player for Led Zeppelin. After Led Zeppelin broke up, he faded into the background doing work with many musicians but rarely acknowledged. Led Zeppelin principles Robert Plant and Jimmy Page even reunited without him. A couple of years ago when Dave Grohl (of Foo Fighters and Nirvana fame) was considering putting together a new band, he approached John Paul Jones, then sixty-three years old, to join the band. Them Crooked Vultures is (arguably) the best post-Led Zeppelin project anyone in the group has created. In his mid-sixties, JPJ’s music was connecting with an audience of twenty-year-olds. Age didn’t matter, history didn’t matter – Dave Grohl simply took the time to see JPJ’s potential and created a sensational album due in large part to Jones. (They won a Grammy in 2011 for Hard Rock Performance by the way).
Everyone out there on social media doesn’t care or appreciate your attention, but there are people who do. And if you want to find them you need to forget about the optimal number of tweets or posts to send in a day, and whose feed you need to subscribe to or follow, get real and listen. You will connect with some amazing people that will be grateful for your ear and oftentimes have a lot to contribute if given the opportunity.