Remember back in the old days of social media (18 months ago) when everyone seemed to see the big opportunity in social media as “joining the conversation”? Well … I just read this great post by Tom Martin, and it helped crystallize something I’ve known but maybe haven’t fully recognized.
Martin takes aim at the “conversation” motivation of social media and juxtaposes it with data (from eMarketer) on the real motivations of why people “follow” a brand in social media.
His point is valid, but there are some apples-and-oranges comparisons. First, Martin is right in that people don’t primarily interact with a brand or business to “have a conversation.” The eMarketer data bears that out. Second, Martin is also correct in his criticism that this “joining the conversation” mantra by social media advocates may obscure the point that it’s really all about content.
He’s absolutely right: Creating and also sharing content is what is at the root of successful social media.
However, that’s not to say that being adept at reacting to customers via social media isn’t intrinsically very valuable and builds loyalty. Using social media as a customer service platform or “response engine” is a tactic that works well — but admittedly won’t work for every business.
But look at two case study posts I’ve written. Here are two companies that implement social-media-based customer service successfully:
- Burritos and social media: How Boloco gets it right
- Social media as customer service: Learn from Zipcar
So, Martin is right in that content and sharing (at least from what I’ve eyewitnessed) are at the root of social media success, and they pair well with motivations. That doesn’t mean, however, that the “conversation” element is not relevant. The “listen and respond” cycle is a “conversation” too if you think about it. I will agree, though, that there is a lot of hype about “conversation” — but that’s just fuzzy thinking.
Real social media practitioners should already know it’s all about content and sharing. But where does “listen and respond” end and “conversation” begin? It’s a gray area.