The concept of Mindfulness has attracted the attention of some of the most recognizable corporate brands, such as Google, Target and General Mills, according to the Harvard Business Review.
In some ways, mindfulness is the antithesis of multitasking, though the concept is deeper:
“When was the last time you sat quietly at your desk and did nothing but think? How would you react if you observed a peer, employee, or manager doing so? Encouraging employees to slow down to focus on the present can seem at odds with a corporate culture of speed and goal attainment. But in today’s hyper-paced work environment, mindfulness practitioners know the importance of recharging in order to regain productivity. And mindfulness research is convincing many managers that investing in reflection, openness, and thoughtfulness will have a positive impact on employees and on the bottom line.”
It’s fitting then, and perhaps quite timely, social and otherwise, that mindfulness is extending itself to social media marketing.
What is Mindfulness?
Janet Fouts has recently published a new book – Mindful Social Marketing: How Authenticity and Generosity are Transforming Marketing – and provided me with a copy at no cost for review.
In her own words, Ms. Fouts writes, “Being mindful is about being present — right here, right now. Not thinking about the future or the past…Being in this exact moment without those distractions leads to a better focus on the issue at hand and deeper insights into what you are doing now.”
For marketers, amid a world of clutter and the perennial announcement of the next shiny big trend, she notes, “it helps us see issues more clearly and brings the focus to what matters.”
7 Takeaways from Mindful Social Media
The book itself is less than 100 pages and the Kindle version runs for about $5.00 on Amazon.com. Social media marketers will find it useful in-flight reading on your next business trip. Here are my takeaways from the book.
1. Anti-Multitasking. Masters of multi-tasking wear this grind on their sleeves, which much like sleep deprivation, has become a badge of honor despite science definitely demonstrating it’s counterproductive:
“Our minds flit back and forth from one thing to the other so fast that we don’t even realize it, but we are actually doing each task one at a time in fast succession. Often in our day-to-day work, we end up doing a lot of things mindlessly while we rush towards our goals.”
The answer, according to Ms. Fouts is uni-tasking – focusing on one task through to the finish line.
2. Active Listening. There’s a difference between hearing and listening. Active listening was all the rage among management books in the 90’s, but we seem to have lost the art amid the pace of technological innovation and workflow:
“Be present. Listen without rushing to judgment and pause before you respond. You’ll find you make fewer mistakes in your messages, and less impulsive and inaccurate responses.”
The answer Ms. Fouts espouses includes both a conscious effort and putting down those digital devices.
3. Interruption Marketing Aside. “Finding new ways, more clever ways to interrupt people doesn’t work,” in attracting customers notes Ms. Fouts, citing Seth Godin. Even as the persuasive arguments against interruption marketing takes a back seat to the debate over ad blocking, the concept is increasingly important in marketing.
“We use what we know about the needs and interests of our market to attract them to us with content that is particularly valuable or entertaining to them.”
“The days of ‘Yell and Sell’ are dwindling,” writes Ms. Fouts.
4. Secret Scale of Employees. The secret to scale in this era of content marketing and social media…is employees. Yet, “many companies that are fearful of social media put muzzles on their employees to control the social conversation,” according to Ted Rubin, a source interviewed for this book. “However, if you’re going to have a social presence at all, just the opposite needs to happen.”
Ms. Fouts succinctly drives home this point:
“Employees who are well informed and empowered have tremendous capacity to move your company forward, and you ignore them at your peril.”
She isn’t espousing a free-for-all, which can lead to disaster. Instead, she’s advocating a corporate culture, empowered by policy, disclosure and common sense.
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5. People, not markets. Automation in marketing can be a powerful, though the features for personalization are often overlooked. Every few years the term “personalization” comes back into the limelight, yet many companies miss the opportunity to address customers and prospects by name, as opposed to “Dear Valued Customer.” I believe it’s a direct reflection of the focus on marketing output, increasing the frequency and volume, and perhaps with diminishing returns.
The most significant difference in marketing today, especially on social media is, “It’s about people, not markets,” says Ms. Fouts.
“Customers want to be seen as people, not target markets. We want to know we have been heard and feel a connection through the messaging to the people behind it. Businesses today have to put the humanity back into marketing.”
Active listening, even technology-assisted listening, is a key component and common theme throughout the book.
6. Curation an Act of Generosity. Reciprocity is a term bantered around too easily in marketing, particularly in social media circles. It’s the right concept, but generosity is a better framework for thinking about it. “Effective social marketing is about sharing, compassion, kindness, and, most especially, generosity,” according to Ms. Fouts getting at the underlying theme.
“Sharing generously gives kudos to the other smart people in your universe. Sharing their thoughts aligns your stars with theirs and makes the world a better, warmer place for both of you. Generosity is always returned, often in ways you could never have foreseen.”
She advocates content curation as an act of generosity:
“Sharing news and information related to what you customers, cohorts, and even competitors need to know creates a trust relationship that you cannot buy.”
7. Social Media Influence. Influence in social media is a subjective topic. There’s a rash of algorithms that attempt to simplify the notion down to a single number. This has appeal, but it’s a shortcut, and sometimes mistakens popularity for influence.
Influence ought to center on action – the ability to influence a behavior – and engaging influencers is a “long game” Ms. Fouts suggests.
“An influencer who has a good relationship with you is likely to continue to support you down the road, whether as part of a campaign or not. You will share information useful to them and their network, as well as sharing their posts when they are relevant to your own network.”
* * *
The complete book addresses social selling, social media crisis including apologies, and is filled with statistics, case studies and links to other resources. If the Harvard article is any indications, she’s onto something. As the report concludes:
“Perhaps most importantly from a management perspective, mindfulness gives employees permission to think. Mindfulness is the essence of engagement. Being fully present — and allowing your team to be fully in the moment — will reap rewards on a personal and professional level.”
Readers interested in connecting with Janet Fouts can find her on a range of social media sites including Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and her business and personal blogs. She’s published several books in addition to Mindful Social Media Marketing.
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Photo credit: Instagram.com/frankstrong