‘The social sphere is not about communications, it’s about conversations’ – how often have we heard that mantra trotted out. And of course there is a lot of truth in it.
Social media has dramatically changed the way we interact – on a personal level and at a marketing level. Rather than delivering mono-directional messages, we can now generate dialogues. For someone working in advertising or communications less than 20 years ago, the idea of being able to build two-way conversations with the consumer would have seemed a dream.
However, it’s the phrase ‘not about communications‘ that is dangerous. Social media has not brought us to an ‘either-or’ position. What is a conversation without communication? Communication needs two parties – a sender and a receiver. In a conversation, both parties are both sender and receiver – or should be. If not, then we tend to get conversations without communication – for one party at least, messages are sent but not received.
We’ve all been in pseudo-conversations where one person is not listening – just waiting to speak. There is no communication. All the rich possibilities of social media are wasted.
Better communications mean better conversations
If we are going to succeed in our conversations, we need to seriously upgrade our communications ability. We should have all the techniques – they are part of our everyday interactions – it’s just a matter of application:
- Listen – there are plenty of media available for us just to shout out a message. Now we have one where communications come back to us. It’s folly not to listen – but how many businesses fall at this first hurdle. We experience it every day – we have no excuses – don’t be one of them.
- Communicate in your consumer’s language – you wouldn’t try to converse with a foreigner just using your own tongue. There would be little communication. Similarly, use the language your audience is familiar with. Don’t use jargon, we are told. Forget that – if you are talking to an electronics engineer, use jargon they are familiar with. The same goes for footballers, fitness addicts, or millenials.
- Don’t talk to an audience – great communicators talk to people – individuals. Sure, your communications may be broadcast – but the conversations will be narrow-cast.
- Ask questions – conversations give us the priceless opportunity to learn from our customers, so questions should be our foundation. Conversations have a rhythm – like a tennis match – back and forth. You want to talk to people, not at them.
- Learn when to shut up. As in face-to-face interchanges, it is in the quiet moments that your partner will volunteer valuable information, unprompted. In your conversations silence can be golden.
Learn more about sharpening up your communications and having better conversations.