There are only four relevant conversations in social media

Today I was giving a presentation on social media to a group from the PRCA – the UK’s professional body for PR companies.  It was a new presentation because I had become bored with my old “What is Social Media” presentation.

I was at the stage in the presentation where I talk about the basic principles of Content, Conversation and Community.  I had talked through how to “do” content (using the analogy of Newton’s Law of Gravity and the importance understanding gravitational ‘always on’ content as distinct from here today, gone tomorrow, mass message content), had covered off the ‘listening’ part of conversation and had got to the ‘what do you say when you want to respond’ bit.  Now there are two missunderstandings I always  deal with here.    First the fact that the conversation most organisations want to have with their consumers are not the conversations consumers want to have with them.  Second, the mistaken belief that if you have millions of consumers you therefore need to have millions of conversations.  I usually cover this by saying that if you listen to your consumers you will find out what conversations they want to have that involve you – and that you will be surprised how few these actually are.  This time around I had done a bit more thinking on this and threw out the slightly contentious claim that there are actually only four conversations consumers ever want to have:

The “your product or service is good” conversation

The “your product or service  is bad” conversation

The “how does it work, who makes it, what colours does it come in, where can I get it etc. etc.” conversation

The “how you could make it better” conversation.

As I was talking this through, almost as a throw-away, I said that this actually tells you more than just what conversations you need to have, it actually tells you everything you need to do in social media: say thanks in the “good” conversation, respond to the issues raised in the “bad” conversation, make content that supports the “how does” conversation and convene a space to take on board and encourage the “make it better” conversation.  Only as I was saying this did it dawn on me that this ACTUALLY IS ALL YOU NEED TO DO IN SOCIAL MEDIA.  End of story.  Job done.  Can it really be that simple?


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  3. Angela Diamond

    I agree, in essence, it is that simple. The only time it gets a little fuzzy is when incorrect rumours gain momentum and if the product isn’t very clear. I’m really refering to behaviour which isn’t very becoming – corporate reputation.


    • richardstacy

      Hi Angela,

      Corporate reputation is essentially all about the ‘corporate story’ which is really what the third area of converstaion is all about – i.e. the ‘who is, what is, where doeas it come from’ converstaion. The challenge for organisations is to work out their corporate story – and this gives them the creative brief to guide this area of converstaion and also the guide to what type of content they need to produce to bring the corporate story to life.

  4. Bill Herring

    Hi Richard,

    After mulling this over a bit, I think you may be right. At least for social media engagement by business.

    But for consumers, I’m not sure we could count the number of relevant conversations – since we’re interested in much more than a given product or service. As a result, the definition of “relevant” gets a lot looser. A perceptive insight for one man is pointless babble to another.

    Yet we should all engage in what is important to us and natural communities will form. If we’re interested enough, we’ll engage in conversation with a business. Hopefully the business will be interested enough to listen and participate!

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