Empathy in Social Media

via Acts of Excellence Blog: http://actstraining.com/2011/04/communicating-for-understanding/

If you have read any social business articles, whitepapers or blogs lately you probably read that you need to have a plan, deploy the technology and engage the users.  Such advice barely scratches the surface.  It fails to advise how to plan, how to deploy and how to engage.  It is like describing the ingredients to a gourmet dessert but failing to explain how to make a mousse.

What guides successful planning, deployment and engagement is something much fuzzier and difficult to nail down: empathy.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in the shoes of someone else and get a sense of what they’re feeling, experiencing and desiring.

Successful social engagement systems rely on empathy.  What separates successful Facebook contests from failures is the ability to anticipate and deliver a chance at a coveted experience or prize.  Similarly, some QR Code campaigns work and others bomb because the successful ones correctly anticipate the context and desire of the person scanning the code.  The failures simply splash a code on some packaging.  Successful internal social business systems gain adoption by anticipating and delivering relevant content to employees.

Did you notice the key words in those answers?  They were “anticipate”, “coveted”, “context”, and “relevant”.  These beg the question of How do you accurately anticipate? And How do you know what is coveted, contextual and relevant?  The only way is to hone your sense of empathy.

What will a suburban mother of 3 working part-time covet?  It will be different than the thing coveted by the urban hipster.  Which group are you targeting in your social marketing Facebook campaign? Which are you serving with your internal social business system?

Understanding your prospect’s context requires empathy.  A person willing to visit your business’s Facebook page that they saw at the bottom of a magazine ad while on a plane headed to 10,000 ft is in a different context than either the mother or hipster described above.  Your Facebook page (or tab) should respect and reflect that they are a traveler, away from home and have limited time.  Your social media campaign should tie your product or service to a sense of adventure (empathy with traveler), comfort (empathy with away from home) and convenience (empathy with limited time).

A person willing to scan a QR code in a store is doing other things as well.  They are away from a desktop or laptop computer, they’re on a mobile phone, they’re looking for a reason to buy.  This kind of empathic understanding should govern what your QR campaign actually does.  They’re on their iPhone and looking for a reason to buy?  Deliver a mobile only website with persuasive buy-it-now messaging. 

Thinking about those internal social business systems ask yourself, “Are all my colleagues/employees the same? “ Why would you think that simply deploying a social technology platform will secure adoption?  Platforms don’t meet the needs of end users.  They are foundations upon which solutions may be constructed.  Too many hyperbolic sales-pitches from big platform vendors ignore, omit or hide this fact.  So empathize with your different employee teams.  Who needs easier access to old email archives?  Who needs to find an “expert” in the company who they don’t already know?  Who needs to see the campus map?  Who needs to combine support call info with sales pipeline info with appointment scheduling?  When you identify real needs through empathizing with people you can start to craft solutions on that platform you bought.  Until then you’re going to suffer from adoption drain.

The answers to these empathy-driven questions will serve you well as you follow the ubiquitous but pedestrian advice to have a plan, deploy the technology and engage your audience.

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