“It’s not about selling; it’s about conversation.” “Marketing is a series of conversations.” “Join the conversation.” “It’s the era of conversation marketing.”
I read phrases like this all the time in the online banter about social media. Do a quick search on Twitter for the words “marketing” and “conversation,” and you’ll get an endless bounty of relevant tweets. There’s certainly lots of conversing about conversations these days.
Nearly everyone acts as if consumer conversation is an original tact for great marketing, as if social media has lowered the veil between marketers and consumers. Not so. Successful marketers have always known how to engage their audiences, and effective salespeople have always relied on relationships.
Social media is a tool (a pretty amazing one, no doubt!) that can be used to achieve undeniable results in the hands of capable people. In the hands of the unskilled, social media is nothing but a vortex of time and energy.
It’s ironic to read about the art of conversation from some people who never stop to listen. By definition, a conversation is an exchange of ideas between parties, not the conveyance of ideas from one party to another without reply.
I recently encountered someone who was jazzed by social media because she’d have “more ways to get the message out.” She was poised to use Twitter as a non-stop classified ad, a LinkedIn group as her captive audience and a blog as a means of lobbing selling messages. In a humorous twist this was her interpretation of “joining the conversation.” Her ideas were really conversation stoppers, but she was too busy prattling on to realize that fact.
I just watched a clip on AdAge.com about Del Monte’s recent social media success in the pet food realm. To develop a new product for dogs, the company invited conversations with pet owners—or “pet parents” might be the more operative term. They asked questions that evoked honest responses. And from the consumer interaction, they invented and launched a product that’s making bacon, so to speak.
If you listen, your market will tell you what it needs and wants. That’s why you simply can’t come to social media as if you’re walking up to a podium. If all you can hear is yourself talking, you’re in for one boring and fruitless conversation. The best way to get down to business is to listen up.