It’s all about the conversation…

Yesterday I came across a post entitled “5 things about Social Media you need to stop saying in 2012.” via a tweet by @socialhonesty by a guy called Edward Bass  An interesting post and I don’t have a big issue with some of his points (Ed would love to see email usurped by social comms so he must be one of the good guys!) But I’m sorry Ed, gotta take issue with these first two – that we should stop saying “it’s all about the conversation” and “It’s not about the technology”.

It’s all about the conversation.

Of course it is!  It’s just that a lot of organisations, marketers and ‘digital/social experts’ haven’t realised that it’s about PEER TO PEER conversation.  This is not the era of the website! Social isn’t marketing.  Social isn’t something started by marketers.  Social has been a long time in the making, driven by our underlying need as humans to be so.  One look at the bulletin board and chat room scene of the 90’s will show you that.  IThe geek in all of us has taken a long time to come out and for it to become a mainstream activity; for it to be ‘socially’ acceptable (haha!)

The empty, conversation-less places referred to by the Ed in his post are classic examples of environments/initiatives created by brand marketers in an effort to ‘engage socially’ around a brand. #fail.

Many marketers are still looking at social as yet another way to drive traffic back to ‘their site’ or ‘their place’.  But it’s not.  The rules are changing – it’s no longer about me coming to your place.  its about you coming to my place.  And the implication there is that usually, I only have friends round to my place!  And no matter how you try and wrap it up, I can see a marketing/sales message at a 1000 yards and frankly there is no place for it in my social, and very personal, world thanks!  At least not on your terms.  If it’s going to be there, and work, its going to be on my terms.

The conversational economy is growing.  Our ever increasing connectedness is going to change the way we do things significantly and this will have huge implications for marketing and brands.  Nik Halstead, founder of media sift, creator of and the man to talk to regarding big data, once said, when referring to the changing way we seek content (HT @James_mayes):

“We no longer search, we follow. I predict the death of SEO within 5 years.”

I believe he is onto something there.  We are moving to an era of “conversational SEO” – not quite as described here, but more around how natural, realtime conversations (not optimised by marketers) between people across community and social platforms can put the subject matter right at the top of a search, without any manipulation or optimisation at all.  I believe that the advertising/branding era we have lived with for decades is over.  At least in the way we understand it today.

So yes, it IS all about the conversation.  Just not your brand conversation.  Peer to peer – remember that.

It’s not about the technology.

Of course its not about the technology!  Never has been, never will be.  John Sumser summed up our current situation beautifully in a recent post when he said:

“We are in the Compuserve-Prodigy-AOL stage of social media evolution.  It’s after Netscape and before Google in equivalent internet time.”

Sadly, I’m old enough to remember that time and the same obsession with technology existed then.  But within a few years that had changed and we got to focussing more on what it enabled us to do than the tech itself.  Solutions are springing up everywhere, with lots and lots of ‘me too’ products along the way.  But in the coming 3-5 years these will consolidate, many will go bust or just fold into a competitor and what they deliver will become pedestrian.

In other words they will become part of what we do naturally in business and we won’t be obsessing about the technology.  Tesco Bank is a great example.  It’s a bank; the fact that it’s online is totally irrelevant.  Think back to the turn of the millennium – remember ‘e-crm’ or ‘e-recruitment’? (or worse, i-recruitment!)  Now its Social CRM, Social Recruitment, Social whatever.   But that will ebb back to being CRM and recruitment and so on just as it did once ‘e-crm’ started to sound silly.  Take it from me, “social” will eventually sound silly too.

So yes, when we say it’s not about the technology, it isn’t.  No, really.

I’ll leave you with this gem of a conversation I had over dinner a couple of months ago.  One of the guys there was the CEO of what appears to be a successful and quite sizeable ‘digital agency’.  Innevitably, the conversation turned to social media and, of course, twitter.  Here’s a snippet:

Him: “No, I’m not on twitter.  I don’t think it’s really that useful or proven.  Anyway, it will be better when you can do more with it.

Me: “How so?  What do you mean?”

Him: “well, you know, when you can brand them.  Put Flash on them and stuff.  Make them creative. Thats when it will really take off.”

Me: ….?  You mean, like, embed Flash and images in the tweet itself? Like Ads?

Him: Yes!

Me: *Snorts wine out through nose*

Change is a comin’. Sadly, a lot of the people in the driving seats don’t seem to appreciate that just yet…


  1. At the moment brands attaching themselves to Social Media is like the unsociable dorky guy at a networking event, who stands at the edge of a really interesting conversation, and then totally kills it dead when he starts handing round his business cards.

    Converse for the sake of the conversation; put something of yourself in the conversation. Don’t be pushy or mean. Be generous, and let others speak. Do not go in thinking “How can I exploit the shit out of this?”


  2. I remember using bulletin boards and how ‘under ground’ they were!

    Have been an observer of change for the last couple decades. It’s quite amazing how buzz words trend in and out. What’s next?


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