One of the advantages of social over face-to-face interaction is that it can take some of the inherent nervousness out of the listening process. Digital conversations allow for the type of measured, detailed responses that are rarely possible in a face-to-face setting.

We’ve all been there at one time or another. You have an important conversation with someone and leave feeling as if you didn’t make your point clearly enough. Later, when you’re driving back to your office, you think of the joke, anecdote or example that would have framed your point perfectly.

With social, you can listen without having to worry about committing rapid-fire facts to memory. The information you need to listen effectively is already compiled—the person’s name, profile and a documented account of their question or comment is just a click away. Take advantage of those things! Consider reading the information that your connections share in their profile. Look at the pictures they post and the links they share. You can take the time to learn about them and the context of their inquiry, and demonstrate that knowledge when you answer.

As a young salesman, I was taught to find out as much as possible about my contact prior to meeting with them. A great way to do that was to look around their office (if you were lucky enough to have a minute or two before they arrived). You could see diplomas on the wall, pictures, trophies—anything to get a sense of who this person was. Did they like to golf? Fish? Did they have kids? Where did they go to college? It was a great way to find commonalities and bring personal context into the conversation: “Oh, I see you went to school near Park City, Utah. I love to ski! When was the last time you were there?”

The great thing about social is that you can do this even while you’re chatting with the customer in real time. If you’re unfamiliar with them, you can visit their profile and brush up on important details. If you’re unfamiliar with something related to the topic at hand, you can conduct a quick search and find the relevant facts while you’re chatting.

On the flip side of the coin, you should make sure your social profiles share enough about you that others will also be able to connect quickly and easily. For instance, use your real name (and a smiling photo) in your personal profile. Provide a description that offers people ways to relate to you personally, and include a link to your website. Don’t force people to dig around to find out who you really are. The important thing is to be real—not perfect.

Start Looking People in the Eye Digitally. 

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