Stifle the Social Network Yawns

Author Bill Zehme once asked Frank Sinatra, “What should a man never do in the presence of a woman?”

Sinatra’s reply: “Yawn.”

It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, actually. Having someone yawn in your face just plain makes you feel bad. I had (notice the “had”) a friend who used to do this constantly, to me and to others that I knew. A recent Forbes piece, “It’s Time Brands Started Acting More Like People,” got me thinking about this old friend. Perhaps he would yawn because I kept rambling on about the same subjects, and he’d heard it all before. Maybe there wasn’t anything I said to him that wasn’t old news. Maybe I spoke in a deadly, droning monotone.

Then I remembered that he would yawn almost immediately after I would begin speaking—it didn’t matter what the subject was or how it was delivered. I saw him do it to other people as well—people who had different obsessions, interests, tones of voice and styles of delivery. The only time he wouldn’t yawn when somebody spoke, I finally remembered, was when he was asked a direct question. Then he was all ears.

Britt Peterson, in her Forbes article, makes the point that “just being in social media doesn’t make you sociable.” Brands need to be sociable in the same sense that an individual is sociable. A truly sociable individual knows people and understands his or her role in relation to those people. Any brand that is clueless about its “likes” on Facebook or followers on Twitter is not, by definition, sociable, and is ultimately floundering and wasting opportunities and time.

These brands that lack sociability are blasting out information and messages and, despite their many followers, are drawing big, fat yawns.

Imagine your likes and followers to be like my old friend (only not as rude): Unless they are asked a direct question—unless you show genuine interest in who they are, in what they like and in how they feel, and have the ability to respond to their interests—they will yawn in your face.

And that’s not the kind of engagement that leads to a lasting, fruitful relationship.

—Steve Goldstein

Follow Steve Goldstein: @SGoldsteinAI