The Art & Science of Conversation

Exploring the role of two-way communication with experts and representatives from your target audience.

Hello Tal, let’s start with a fundamental question, why are brands placing greater importance on conversation?
That’s a complex question with a simple answer. Brands know that in order to drive meaningful client engagement they need to humanize these relationships.
The huge rise of messenger bots is a testament to this “human” element. Why subscribe to a newsfeed of branded content targeting the lowest common denominator when instead I can get a personalized, curated experience straight to my go-to messaging application.
Regardless of the social platform, real conversations happen between real people. Brands need genuine personalities or surrogate voices (influencers) to converse with their audiences and build trust.
But there is a difference between bots to personalise content and having a real conversation surely?
In function yes, but in form no. There are certain expectations and privileges associated with messenger that do not exist on a newsfeed. In the words of the great Canadian mind Marshall Mcluhan, “the medium IS the message”.
A brand coopting a messenger channel is much more powerful than appearing in a client’s newsfeed because the channel itself facilitates a personalized, human experience. After that, the content is almost incidental.
That’s an interesting perspective and of course I know the McLuhan argument. Switching the conversation away from a newsfeed to an owned channel is surely better
However, owning the channel is only half the battle. Vertically producing and distributing media is easy to control, but does not necessarily build brand trust. Content needs to be social by design, so brands can transition seamlessly from owned to earned medias.
Understood, but how does a brand achieve balance between providing content for social media and owned media content? How does it direct the audience from one to the other?
At the end of the day, content doesn’t know whether it’s owned, earned, or paid. Good content is good content!
Striking a balance between types of media is an exercise in hedging risk with a diverse marketing portfolio. All media aspires to become EARNED, it does not matter what path you take to get there - going viral is the ultimate credibility stamp of consumer trust!
Take a look at the #tellamericaitsgreat campaign from Toronto creative @TheGardenVoice. The owned/earned/social lifecycle is a full loop:
1. Youtube video (owned)
2. Hashtag goes viral (social)
3. UGC (earned)
4. Garden tries to reclaim ownership with Twitter & Microsite (owned)
The media lifecycle is fluid, but at the end of the day...
Actually I am a great believer in Cory Doctorow’s view that content is not king, conversation is. Content is just something to talk about.
So my question remains, how does a brand shift that conversation from taking place exclusively on paid media or will they always be stuck with part of their audience engaging on Facebook or Twitter only?
As I said earlier, there are certain channels better optimized for dialogue than others. And within each of those channels, are digital languages better suited for conversations than others.
Snapchat Filters, 9gag Gifs, Musically Lipsyncing - all cary social currency for a brand. In order to stimulate a conversation, brands need to package their message in the most socially accessible format possible to allow for seamless sharing. Paid amplification can follow.
As a brand, you want conversations taking place about you and WITHOUT YOU. So to return to Doctorow, content may just be something to talk about. But if its poorly crafted content, the conversation will never happen in the first place.