Monday, February 28, 2011

Conversational Convergence, Part II – Listening

In Part I of this series on Conversational Convergence in Social Media, I discussed why you need to think of – and execute – social media as a singular force to be maximally effective. You cannot succeed in social media until you have achieved this mental calibration.

Have I achieved my goal in Part I? Have you recalibrated your thinking?

If so, welcome to Part II on Conversational Convergence.

Case Study

Here's a social media fail I came across this past week, involving a film company's Twitter post about their new film. We'll call the company "SilverScreenCo."

SilverScreenCo's Tweet invited people to rent their new film on Netflix. The Tweet included a link to the film's Netflix page, where users could add the film to their DVD queue.

Normally, this wouldn't be so bad – except that Netflix's film pages include user reviews.

As it so happens, out of dozens of Netflix user reviews for Real Stuff's new film, almost all of them are VERY negative – including all of the reviews appearing on the page that SilverScreenCo linked to.

So now, anyone who sees SilverScreenCo's Tweet, becomes inclined to see their film, and clicks on the link is likely to become immediately dissuaded by seeing the negative reviews that SilverScreenCo itself directed them to.

All SilverScreenCo had to do was look at the link they were putting out into the microblogosphere – and listen to what people were saying about them – to avoid this debacle. SilverScreenCo could have then linked its audience to the Netflix search page for the name of their film. That page would have shown SilverScreenCo's film at the top of the page with an option to add the film to the user's DVD queue – but without those pesky negative user reviews.

Instead, SilverScreenCo rushed to their pulpit, showing no interest in what other people had to say about its work. Indeed, SilverScreenCo's Twitter timeline reveals that SilverScreenCo has never once attempted to engage their audience – opting to tell them things instead. By looking at social media as a lectern from which to orate instead of a conversation, SilverScreenCo committed more than a social media faux pas. They suffered a full-blown marketing failure.

More Than Content, Revisited

Social media, by definition, has two primary components:

  • Content (the "media" component)
  • Conversation (the "social" component)
Conversation also has two primary components.

  • Talking
  • Listening
This is pretty basic. We all know that if somebody is doing all of the talking and none of the listening, that person is not having a conversation.

So why would you run your social media campaign like that?

And yet, that is exactly how most organizations use social media – all talk, no listen.

It is often what happens when you relegate your social media to the marketing department. Many marketing professionals – whether because they are overprotective of their brand(s), are arrogant, or simply have never known any alternative – will attempt to run a social media campaign the same way they would an ad campaign – trying to exercise precision and control. To these types, social media are just a collection of electronic billboards.

Social media are not print media, however. Social media are social. You can no more precisely control social media than you can a conversation. Conversation fluctuates, adapts, and evolves. It is a variable.

These are the qualities that allow people to obtain their social fulfillment from conversation – and keep them coming back for more.


In my days as a professional actor and director, there was a term we used to use: "push-shove." "Push-shove" describes how actors relate to each other and their surroundings when performing a scene together. Actors – to perform their job well – have to be open to each other and what is going on around them. They must make themselves available to their scene partners so that their actions and reactions are organic. They must listen.

Only by listening and making themselves aware of what is going on around them can actors' own actions be made real. Good actors don't act – they react. Every "push" begets a "shove" back. This is what makes good acting so powerful – and how good acting brings content (i.e., the script) alive.

This is why social media – when used well – are such enormously effective tools. It's not enough to have good content; you need push-shove byplay to bring that content to life – and use it to organically win the hearts and minds of your audience. Conversely, just as with bad acting, bad social media use will cause your audience to disengage (if not jeer you outright)).

Among other benefits, effective social media engagement converts your audience members into advocates for your brand. Having your customers as your advocates is priceless – because it is organic. Joe Purchaser and Jane Consumer have far more credibility than you can ever hope for.

Additionally, in accordance with Cialdini's Law of Consistency, the more Joe and Jane advocate for you, the more likely they are to be loyal to your brand. Such is the perpetual motion machine that is good social media.

In the perfect social media campaign, you exercise zero control – because your organic advocates are doing all of the work for you – creating and maintaining positive buzz about your brand. This is the Holy Grail of social media because it melds you and your audience into one entity engaged in one conversation. This is how you achieve Conversational Convergence.

Conversational Convergence is a powerful force – and, strictly speaking, it cannot be controlled. The more control you attempt to exert over it – the more you talk at your audience and try to direct the conversation with brute force lecture and announcement – the less effective your social media campaign will be. As with a conversation, any attempt to precisely control social media will alienate the other participants (your audience).

Do not expect to control your social media campaign. Instead, manage it. You do this by opening yourself up to your surroundings – by being aware of your environment – by listening. Then, and only then, should you speak.

After all, if you don't listen to your audience, how can you ever expect them to listen to you?

Executive Summary: Keys to Conversational Convergence, Part II

  • Social media are made up of content and conversation.
    • Conversation (social) includes listening.
      • Without listening, a social media campaign fails.
  • Make yourself aware of your social environment.
    • Don't just act; react (Push-Shove); this will make your content come alive.
    • If you don't pay attention (Listen), you might miss something important.
  • The key to unlocking the power of Conversational Convergence lies in the organic nature of social media.
    • DON'T just tell people things.
    • DON'T try to control social media.
    • DO manage your social media
    • DO use the organic nature of social media to create advocates.
      • Advocates will do the work for you – better than you ever could – and create more advocates.
      • Advocates are your most loyal fans. The more people advocate for you, the more loyal they themselves become.

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