Social Media Myth No. 1 "It's about the conversation"

“Social media is all about the conversation”, I think that phrase started to rankle me around last July and I couldn’t figure out why.

It’s something I have taught people in my training class for years, so it’s not like I haven’t agreed with it. Blog – people comment – you reply – they blog – you reply, blah blah blah, yada yada yada.

Also with twitter, you tweet, they tweet, we all tweet.

And round it goes.

But it may be that the thinking is wrong. After all, the objective is not to have a conversation, the objective is something else, be it:

  • Links
  • Exposure
  • Sales
  • Branding

The objective is not the conversation, that is merely a stepping stone and yes it is an important and useful stepping stone, but it is not the objective.

I realise this may get me kicked out of the Secret Social Media Marketing Society, but social media marketing is not about conversation, it’s about getting people to do what you want.

This guy, Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli…

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

…. probably has more to teach us on social media networking than Chris Brogan, Brian Sollis, David Meerman Scott, Robert Scoble, Darren Rowse, Mark Hughes, Josh Bernoff etc. Although I have learned from you all and you are all at the top of your game, I can’t help thinking that you need to dig down and get into the root nature of human interaction and manipulation to really understand the fundamentals of social media.

Sure Machiavelli is not going to teach us how to integrate a twitter feed onto our blog, but he is going to teach us something about the nature of mankind. And although we use a lot of technology to do what we do, at its core is the human being with all the ancient brilliance that that entails. It’s not until you understand people and their motivations and the way people are, that you can truly understand what social media is about.

The chaps above who I have mentioned all know this, they are all students of human nature and have simply used a technological interface (social media) to employ what they know.

Social media marketing is not about conversation, it’s about getting people to do what you want them to do.

21 thoughts on “Social Media Myth No. 1 "It's about the conversation"”

  1. That’s it, you’re out of the SSMMS!

    I agree – it’s about end results, and as we’re doing business, that end result is invariably revenue. And +10 points for the Machiavelli reference. 🙂

  2. Next, you’ll be telling us that SMM stands for Socialization a la Machiaveli and the Marquis de Sade. 😉

    Personally, I prefer temptation. Too bad Anais Nin doesn’t have any Ms in it.

  3. I am convinced that all understanding of marketing and its tools – such as social media – come back to some weird amalgam of Machiavelli and Maslow (the Hierarchy of Needs).

  4. Well, theoretically I can’t petition to have you kicked out the SSMMS, because the point is valid. And because I couldn’t. Everyone has an agenda, in general, no matter how subtle or respectable. And this applies everywhere, not just with respect to social media. So, yes, your goal might well be to gain business contacts, or sell your product. But how to achieve that? And what to you lose along the way but only having your eye on the prize? Were you to enter every gathering (especially social) by angling for what you wanted, you might get eventual contacts – but you’d miss deeper relationships, and deeper contacts – based on more than just business – but which might achieve the same end goal. (And “getting people to do what you want” oversimplifies this – in a way that your actual post does not.)

  5. Great article, love provocative topics that spark interest. Found the link from an RT on twitter and it caught my attention.

    I disagree and agree with you at the same time. I disagree with the over all statement that the “conversation” component is a myth to social media, but I do agree with the last statement, in the end it is about getting people to do what you want them to do.

    Here’s why I disagree. If you don’t have the conversation “first” your audience won’t be filtered, targeted or your won’t get the best ROI in regards to your brand equity. Isn’t that what business is all about, building brand equity for repeat business, stronger customer relationships for long term growth.

    The conversation is “EVERYTHING” in my opinion. If I’m a salesman and I get you to buy a car from me without having too much conversation, ok – great. I save lots of time, I make a commission, you’re happy, we’re all happy. But how much brand equity have I built? (for myself as a salesman and/or the company that I represent). But if I take time to have coffee with you, ask you how your kids are doing, tell you a little about myself, show a little transparency, get to know you more on a personal level, THEN get you to buy the car…not only did I get the commission. Your child who was there with you at the time of purchase will remember that car salesman because he took time to get on his knees and play with him for a bit. (True Story). This same interaction is how we can use social media today. It’s just a different platform but the game is still the same.

    When did social media or business in general ever stop being about the conversation. When did engaging customers, caring enough to engage in conversation with them ever stop being a HUGE important factor in the success of a company. Go and tell Zappos that it’s not about the conversation and see what they tell you.

    Can you make money not focusing on the conversation, yes. But if I’m your competition and I offer a similar product or similar service, I’m gonna win. Why, because I’m going to take time out and have that conversation first. I’m going to build more brand equity, my story will travel further and I will eventually gain more market share.

    If you first have the conversation, the links, exposure, sales, branding will all come automatically and will last a lot longer.

    Great post by the way!

    1. In the immortal words of Meat Loaf, “you took the words right out of my mouth!”

      Great response, Michael. While I agree with Lyndon’s point that it’s not ALL about the conversation (and I love the Machiavelli reference), you skip the conversation at your peril.

      Far too many people in the social media space ignore the conversation, and what do we call them? Spammers!


      1. Can you make money not focusing on the conversation, yes. But if I’m your competition and I offer a similar product or similar service, I’m gonna win. Why, because I’m going to take time out and have that conversation first.

        1. I’m not saying don’t focus on the conversation, I am pointing out the fact that that is not what social media is about. The conversation is simply a tool to achieve our objective. The danger is some get the conversation going and that’s all that gets going. Your main focus should be on your strategy and the conversation is a means to reaching the strategic objective.

          1. I’m going to agree and disagree all in one. I was schizophrenic, but now I’m just in two minds about it.

            “Social media” is about the conversation. I’m not trying to sell my mother/brother/grandparents anything (unless you would count me trying to sell myself as something in particular). So in this instance the media itself is purely about conversation.

            Now that could be the end of the story, but some put a bit of a spin on things. They use this conversation to make a sale. Now, social media has become a tool. Now Social Media is all about the conversion.

            It’s all about the objective. So I’ll agree with you… or not. 🙂

    1. Because it’s not all about that. (and I’m sure that it’s nothing to do with ranking for ‘social media myth’ either 😉 )

      This articles just a great way of reminding us why we entered into the conversation in the first place – an easy thing to forget at times.

  6. Like you I think you an bring most media interaction back to the basic requirement which in most cases in response and ROI.

    I’m an online direct marketer and old school DM tells you the most important elements to response are:

    – List (who’s following you, reading your content etc and are they in the target market for your message)
    – Creative (Is your content any good and getting a response)
    – Offer (A good offer always helps)
    – Timing (No point tweeting in the middle of the night)

    Another great post.

  7. Social Media Myth No. 1 “It’s about the conversation”…No Myth, truth. SM is “The Worlds Largest Starbucks”. Just as we have been doing for years before the advent of SM, we sit back, listen, and when the “Conversation” requires it, we enter the “Conversation”. You wouldn’t walk into Starbucks every morning and begin to announce to everyone there that you are selling XYZ Widgets, so call me when you need one. It’s a human social response opportunity, brought to you on “steriods” by the advent of technology. If you don’t use it wisely, you will lose its awesome power.

    Stay Blogging My Friend!

    1. Yup, I agree with you this is a great article, Primitive Humans started to get into conversations with each other to fulfill their needs. So in the same manner in the current era too, we are using the technologies and tools to fulfill our needs i.e. to get conversions

  8. Thanks for taking the risk of getting kicked out of the club. Virtually everyone has some agenda or they would not be spending so much time utilizing all of the tools that social media provides. How you conduct yourself in the conversation becomes the ultimate determinant in whether you can achieve the goals of your agenda. If you fail to gain the trust of your audience you will most likely not achieve your goal. Gain their trust, and you can be successful.

  9. As a real estate broker in Idaho that does use social media I have to say that people are relying so much on social media that they don’t pick up the phone anymore to have a normal conversation! George Tallabas, Broker/Investors

  10. It seems as if the social media has become one of two things, updates on the health of your dog (for instance) or spam. Sending those links out into the social media only work when the receivers are interested in the content, me thinks.

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