The notion of social media is really exciting. It seems like the entire world is hooked onto it. And the ease with which communication takes place at practically no cost makes it all the more enticing for businesses to use it for promoting their products and services and listen to what their customers are saying. But between the promotions and the listening is the key idea of conversations. Promotions entail pushing out messages while passive listening will take you only so far.
But do companies really understand how to carry out conversations with their customers? When one talks of communication, the focus is on sending and receiving messages, but conversations are all about developing and maintaining relationships. What is disheartening is that companies treat social media as an item on a daily task list, to be completed and got out of the way. That’s why we see ritualistic postings of a set number of messages every day, scheduled well in advance.
Now think about how this would translate in the real world. Every time I run into a customer, I regurgitate a few predefined messages without giving any consideration to what the customer has to say. But that’s not how conversations happen, or for that matter, relationships are built. So why does it have to be any other way on the Internet? Why do we have to force feed information to our customers? Why do we have to treat it as a chore rather than the amazingly productive tool it can be?
How many times have you walked into an office and seen employees simply appearing busy? That’s exactly what posting messages after messages without any thought entails. The company is simply keeping busy, without any real purpose whatsoever, and perhaps even going so far as to fool itself that it has a sound social media strategy in place. In reality though, the only thing it is doing is pushing messages that no one reads and wasting precious resources.
For companies to succeed with social media, it is time they drop their rigid and formulaic approaches and adopt a more fluid and humanistic paradigm in which they can engage in truly connecting with their customers.
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