Showing Empathy on Social Media

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We all want our leaders and business partners to be likable and empathetic. However, we also know there’s a lot of ambiguity over what it means to be empathetic in our everyday social media life. To understand more about what empathy means on social media, we invited PR & Twitter marketing expert, Carrie Eddins, to our chat. Here’s a summary of our chat.

Guest: Carrie Eddins
Topic: Showing empathy on social media
Format: Eight questions directed at the guest. Everyone’s welcome to share.

Q1: Why is empathy important on social media?

Empathy is important on social media because it creates connection between people.

When you’re being empathetic to someone, it makes them feel safer around you. Without empathy, our social media experience won’t have a lot of meaning.

When people are comfortable around you and trust you that’ll automatically translate to sales and success. However, being empathetic doesn’t necessarily mean that you get a lot of sales overnight. It is a slow process. You just have to trust the process and learn to be patient.

Q2: What does empathy look like on social media?

It looks like our own Madalyn Sklar, according to our guest. Madalyn’s daily tweets offer encouragement, support, cheers, and overall positivity.

There are also many other Twitter users who show empathy. Our guest gave a special shout-out to Deb Coman, Michelle Garrett, Tax Thornton, Tracey Tait, Fred Blumenberg, Lucy Hall, Lori Anding, Winnie Sun, and Julia Bramble. Engage with them to observe how these different people show empathy in their everyday interactions.

To put it plainly, being empathetic means to hold space for someone without bias or judgment. It’s not easy, especially when emotions are involved. It takes time, which is why it’s important to practice constantly.

You can start by spreading love and positivity.

Empathy takes different forms, but the one thing that never changes is that it’s all about being there for another person. Don’t take things personally—if someone’s lashing out at you, it’s possibly not directed entirely towards you. Try and be kind and understanding.

Q3: Is empathy only important for customer service reps?

Definitely not. Empathy is the key to any good relationship. While customer service reps should have empathy towards their customers, it never ends there. Everyone should have empathy for each other, whether it’s for the person we walk past on the street or the person we share our home with.

As Laura nicely put it, everyone should have empathy because that’s what makes us people. And people like to connect with people.

Q4: Is showing empathy a weakness?

So the world will have you believe. But no, showing empathy is never a sign of weakness. You can be empathetic and have strong boundaries.

In fact, as Madalyn pointed out, showing empathy takes a lot of courage. When you show empathy, you show that you’re willing to be vulnerable and that helps build a stronger bond.

Many people who consider empathy as a weakness do so because they don’t show empathy for themselves. Because of this, they fail to see how empathy can make us feel more connected with each other.

Referring to Brené Brown’s work, Carrie said empathy triggers an emotional connection between people. We all feel safe around people who show us empathy. Without that, there can’t be trust—in everyday life or business.

Our guest also outlined that it’s hard to give a logical explanation for empathy because it’s not necessarily something you think about. It’s something you feel.

Carrie recommended looking at the empathy map created by Dave Gray. It helps you identify where you are in the map of their heart and understand how the other person might be feeling at the time.

Q5: How can empathy help you connect with your audience effectively?

It helps you connect with your audience easily because when you’re empathetic, your audience wants to be around you. The more happy and confident they are in your presence, the easier it is for you to establish a relationship.

When you show empathy, the other person will naturally reciprocate. This is because they feel like you understand and value them, and they want to respond in kind.

Once you’ve established that connection, you become part of their network. They’ll start to involve you more and more in their everyday social media interactions.

As our friends from GiveWP pointed out, empathy fulfills three basic needs all humans have on social media: to be seen, heard, and understood.

Q6: Why is being empathetic overlooked on social media?

Firstly, it’s because a lot of people on social media focus a lot on quantifiable metrics and forget the value of life skills.

Since empathy isn’t as easily measurable as the number of impressions, many ignore it as too hard to achieve. It looks different to different people, which means it’s not always “efficient” and “optimizable”—the foundation of modern social media.

Empathy is a necessary soft skill. It’s just as important as quantifiable metrics, because without empathy, you can’t connect with people in the first place.

Q7: How does empathy influence people’s behavior on social media?

When you show empathy, people will naturally respond to you and resonate with you, regardless of the hundreds of differences between you.

When people resonate with you, they become open-minded. Even if you have many differences, they’ll be willing to hear what you have to say because they trust you.

Once you’ve got to a point where people trust you and like what you do, they’ll start to automatically talk about you with their friends. They’ll recommend you and cheer you on, even if they don’t require your services or products. They’ll continue to support you because you now share an emotional bond.

In other words, if done well, showing empathy could be the next big marketing strategy. You don’t have to trick people to influence their behavior—you just have to be nice.

Just remember, though, as with any relationship, if your empathy isn’t genuine, you will get caught. And it won’t be nice.

Q8: Should you be empathetic towards online trolls and spammers?

Diplomatic answer: depends. How you should respond to your troll should depend on who you are and how they’re spamming or trolling you.

Sometimes, if you’re highly sensitive, and they cross a line, you can remain silent and ignore them.

You can also mute or block them to weed them out of your feed. As our guest suggested, you can also try engaging with them to dissolve the tension.

At the end of the day, it’s your social handle and you have to do what’s best for you. Sometimes it means engaging with a troll to figure out what’s triggered them, but other times, it could mean ignoring them altogether.

If you realize that a troll or spammer has upset your peace, then find ways to calm yourself down. Do things that help you feel at peace again. It’s not always glamorous, but it may be just what you need.

No matter how hard it gets, remember that showing empathy is always worth it. If, at any point, you can’t bring yourself up to it, aim for neutrality, at least. Anything but negativity—there’s too much of that going around already.

Well folks, that’s all from me this week. Thanks for reading through and for more great insights from our chat with Carrie, have a look at this Twitter Moment that Joana put together for us. If you like this summary, you’ll love the real-time chat. Join us next Thursday at 1 pm ET for #TwitterSmarter. We also have an after-chat on Twitter Spaces at 5 pm ET. See you there!

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About me, Narmadhaa:

I write all the things—marketing stuff to pay the bills; haiku and short stories so I feel wholesome. A social media enthusiast, I hang out with the #TwitterSmarter chat crew, and am always happy to take on writing gigs.

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