A few months ago, Altimeter Group released a study on Facebook marketing success criteria. One of the most interesting points, and one that I agree with completely, is that brands (and Altimeter’s research was based on some really big, sophisticated brands) are not good with being “social”. More specifically, brands struggle to put the human side first, have a hard time with two-way conversations, can’t get to the point of enabling conversations between others and rarely enable advocacy. Yet conversation remains one of the most essential aspects of building community and engaging in social commerce (which I’ll be discussing in great details over the next few months).
Let’s start with conversation (and some of the reasons it matters):
Identify common interests and shared values
Perhaps one of the greatest uses of conversations in social spaces online lies in identifying what people’s interests are and what their values are. When it comes to forming bonds, this identification is the first step in a long process. Of course, there is the question of shared vision as well, but let’s agree, for now, that usually comes deeper in a relationship. Recognizing potential affinity is based on early conversations and never stops really.
Sow the seeds of affinity
Knowing your audience’s interests broadly (combined with a seasoned community manager) can be critical to starting a conversation that immediately sows the seeds that will lead to affinity. Being strategic in conversation development can pay rich dividends from a relationship and monetization standpoint. And that’s something that brands in general are missing (probably because of their legacy with one-way communications). While keeping people up to date, our agenda as marketers and our customer’s agendas are not aligned. They need to be though. My friend Jeremy Epstein writes about this often, as has Jay Baer recently.
It’s the lifeblood of ongoing communications
Conversation (related to strategic content or other realities in the market) should never stop. It should be done with the objective of real dialog – getting people to talk about something important to get feedback, do research, identify wins or potential problems and more. In other words, two-way communications between brands and people, or, on a whole different plane, enabling peer-to-peer conversations.
You can accomplish a lot with conversation. From an emotion standpoint, you can communicate empathy, sorrow, anger, love and so much more. With brand conversations, you can use emotions in buying, selling and negotiation situations (among others of course). I’ll be sharing my thoughts on organic calls-to-action in the near future.
It’s an essential part of building trust
Lastly, but maybe most importantly, conversation is a supreme part of building trust. Yes, actions may speak louder than words, but saying what you will do comes before doing what you say. In the social web, communicating effectively can go a very long way in building relationship equity. Leading a conversation by admitting you’re wrong, saying you’re sorry or just being happy can generate significant conversation.