Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Be an owl … to succeed in Social Media

I was awakened in the early hours the other morning by a cool sound … an owl’s haunting “Hoo-hoo, hoo-hoo.”

While lying there listening I got to thinking about owls and how they have adapted to the busy, crowded world of birds. It struck me that many of the ways an owl acts to separate itself from the flock, as it were, are things we could all do to be better observers and survivors in the increasingly crowded social media space.

For example, an owl is almost never seen and seldom heard from. They have become almost completely nocturnal hunters and their chief survival skills are watching and listening.

According to Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s
All About Birds site the owl I heard was a Great Horned Owl. It’s a very common owl.

It has adapted to life, according to the site “from the Arctic tundra to the tropical rainforest, from the desert to suburban backyards.”

So how does being more owl-like help in Social Media? Let me list the ways:

Owls have spectacular vision. Their eyes are nearly the same size as humans and they can discern the smallest details in the lowest of light. We could all use better eyesight when it comes to observing what is happening in Social Media and learning from it.

Owls have great flexibility. Their eyes do not move in their heads, so they must move their heads to see better – they can swivel their heads through 270 degrees or the equivalent of from 12 to 9 on the face of a clock! Just try that sometime. This flexibility means they are constantly changing their perspective or way of looking at things … surely a useful skill in Social Media observation.

Owls have superb hearing. They have one ear slightly higher than the other so that by twisting and tilting its head an owl can determine the direction, distance and height of a sound. Again by constantly changing the way we listen to others we will be exposed to a deeper understanding of what is being said and where its coming from.

Owls are patient observers. They sit high in trees watching and listening. They pick the moment to strike very carefully for maximum likelihood of success. How often do we jump too quickly into a conversation and miss an opportunity that may have come had we just been a little more patient?

Owls ”talk” infrequently … and then only out of necessity. Their calls help a mate find them or find food. If only all observers in social media would communicate only when they had something essential to say.

Owls are very smart consumers. At least the Great Northern is. This species is known to kill larger animals (raccoons for example) that even its strong wings and talons could not carry away. So in winter they will let the dead animal freeze and then later use body heat to thaw small sections for consumption. Being a smart consumer and only taking what you need is a survival lesson (social media or otherwise) for all of us.

Information for this blog post on owl behavior was gleaned from – and thanks are offered to – the Great Horned Owl Wiki and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Great Horned Owl Pages.

Related posts:
10 Commandments for Social Media
7 Ways to Tell How You’re Doing in Social Media

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