This is a guest post by Allison Fine, an activist, social media revolutionary, and author of the new book Matterness: What Fearless Leaders Know About the Power and Promise of Social Media.
Social media have fundamentally upended traditional organizational communications because they are by nature multi-directional. Organizations use them to speak to the world — but the world uses them to speak back. This is very exciting for people like me who thrive in wide-open environments, but it can be disconcerting and disorienting for organizations accustomed to speaking at rather than with the people and the world.
When organizations are speaking with people they create a special sauce I call Matterness: a space where people and organizations come together and help one another, creating a more powerful system. Matterness is important because the alternative of continuing to stay at a distance from people, isn’t working so great. Unhappy customers (or donors or volunteers) used to tell twice as many people about a bad experience as their happy counterparts. But when they’re online, they tell four times as many people! Nearly 70% of complaints on Twitter go unanswered by companies and organizations.
Being in conversation with people begins by asking questions rather than broadcasting messages. Organizations can begin this process by using what I call Matterness questions. Here are a few starters:
- Do you feel like you matter to us? Do we make you feel like a person or an ATM machine? Do we feel interested in us or in you?
- Do we remember who you are, or do you feel new every time you engage with us?
- Do we reach out to you only when we need something?
- Do you have a sense of who our people are, what they do, and why they’re here?
- Have we gone over the cliff of automation, where it no longer feels like human beings are running our effort?
Being in conversation with people means letting go of what organizations can’t control anyway: what people think and do. It takes a lot of effort to reverse the easy slide into anti-Matterness, to quiet all of the internal noise, to intentionally take down the high walls that separate organizations from their own supporters and withstand the pressure to spend every minute of the day checking things off the every growing to-do list. But just because it is hard, doesn’t mean it isn’t possible or important. In the end, smart, generous, uncontrollable people matter the most to your cause, they always have and they always will!