Facebook’s website for developers characterizes the conversational pattern of speaking and listening as “The Virtuous Cycle,” which is a pattern of communication in which actions are reinforced through a feedback loop to produce favorable results. Facebook points out what should be obvious: an effective conversation is based on two experiences – listening and speaking.

Does the way you’re using social media allow your users to “speak” to you? Are you creating a dialogue, inviting participation and engaging users and customers? If not, it’s time to revisit your Web 2.0 strategy.

Who hasn’t had the experience of being on the receiving end of what we’ll call a less-than-effective conversation in which the other party did all the talking and you were expected to do all of the listening? It’s not a gratifying experience in person or over the phone, and it’s no more engaging online.

If you’re not making it easy for your Facebook users to get a word in edgewise then stop, take a breath, and start focusing on how to get users to talk to you, share with you, give you feedback and become truly engaged.

To motivate followers to speak to you through social media, Facebook recommends focusing tools for conversation around a subject at the core of your business or personal interests. For example, a photographer might want users to suggest the best location to catch a stunning sunset, share their own techniques for capturing the best digital images or submit an image they’ve taken to obtain a professional critique that will help make them an even better photographer.  A healthcare consultant might post links to information about new regulatory requirements, share information about applicable case studies or point toward relevant news coverage.

A recent blog by Rosemary Plorin on Five Ideas to Generate Conversation on Your Hospital Facebook Page is a good thought starter, whatever your industry segment.

It all comes down to remembering that conversation is still an art, even in the digital age, and a good communicator both speaks and listens well. Allowing users to speak, and responding when they do, creates a much higher level of engagement with your followers and helps your organization maintain a more involved and connected user base.

Have you developed a knack for engaging your most important audiences? If so, please share them with us by commenting below.  We love to listen and we’d enjoy hearing from you.