What Conversations are YOU Starting?

what conversations are you startingSocial media … the conversation starter. Really? Haven’t we always talked to customers, potential customers and even those that probably will not become customers but want to pick our brains? We have always talked and now with some shiny new tools we freeze. We do not know what to say, we become unsure and wait to be reactionary and respond rather than starting and generating the conversation. Why? Fear that what we are putting out there will be seen by the masses. Hmh. Think about that for a minute. Seen by the masses. Traditional advertising albeit was directed to a target market but it is seen by the masses. You were talking to them in a manner where they could not talk back to you but yet they were talking to other consumers. That should scare you more than being able to talk to them one on one.

Starting a Conversation

Starting a conversation with someone you do not know is not easy. We think um … who are you, oh no are you going to try and sell me, are you going to be overbearing and talk about you? Appearance and body language comes into play here as when we see someone who looks disheveled, sweaty, nervous, unattractive, we cringe. Online is not very different as we are unsure of the person trying to talk to us, we want an avatar of a person and not a logo. We want to see the person so we can feel a connection. For some, they see it as a mathematical equation of influence to see if you are someone they should respond to and focus on. The mindset of if you have low followers, you will not do anything for me. As much as many of us gasp at this, we see it all the time.

The Association Conversation

I see the same people each day at the same time and many do not even talk to one another. Some are fiddling with their phone, some are standing a distance away, some bring a tag-along that they talk to and some stand in silence with a lean hoping someone will notice them and talk. We have something very special to us in common. We are dropping off and picking up our children at kindergarten. Five days a week at the same time we meet but yet are so distanced that it is actually unnerving. Me, I try and talk. That is just the way I am (ok truth be told, I avoid the one guy who touches people and wears too much cologne). I try to get the conversation going and bring us all together and so far I have not created that sense of trust and belonging. We are all there, share a common ground as we love our kids and love to gush about them but yet we are focused on different things. The door is open here but yet so many close it. Sound familiar?

Having something to talk about through association seems easy but yet we know it is not. Marketing people offline can talk for hours but yet online it is a struggle sometimes. Why? Do we live in the WIIFM? Are we seeing these platforms as a barrier or as an uncertainty? In real life are we more stopping and making time to talk and when we are online we are afforded the luxury of responding when we get around to it? Have we grown accustomed to simply clicking a “like” button and that has become our new means of conversing? I hope not.

What Conversations Are YOU Creating?

Social media is about generating and creating conversations to get to know people. Yes, get to know people. Social media is not a new conversation as we have always talked. Talk to people to create relationships that create a community around you of people that you admire and want to get to know better and those that admire you and want to get to know you better. Sounds great but, how do we create a conversation? As small business you have always had a conversation with customers or you would  not be in business. Small businesses should be taking the lead in social media as this is old hat but yet the “I do not know what to say” comes into play.

Start by asking questions that elicit a response. If you are a car company, ask what their greatest or worst experience has been on a long drive. You are not asking about their experience in your car, if you have educational products, ask about taking their kids to school (esp. the first day of kindergarten – we always remember that tearful day of sending our kids off to big kid school), if you are a restaurant, about the best or worst service, if you are a consultant their biggest challenge they face in hiring a consultant. It is endless how you can start a conversation.

Reactionary to Conversations

We see people posting on Twitter all the time an update that we think they forgot to @ someone. No, they are trying to get a response to start a conversation. Jump in. If they do not respond, so be it. See if they have a blog and comment, if there is a hashtag, follow it, and reach out to people that way. There are conversations all day long that you can be a part of and not start. You have to be a part of the conversation and a conversation starter for people to talk to you. Remember, people will not buy without talking. Whether that be to the brand or to a friend, they are needing that reassurance before they buy. Sure, there are some that perform a search, go to a site, trust it (run away for a bit looking for reviews) and then buy without necessarily talking. That happens but not as often as many would like.

So, are you starting conversations or waiting for the opportunity to come to you? You still unsure, let’s talk about it as I thrive on building communities, connecting people and will get you  talkin’.

photo credit: Jack Teagle

  • It’s ironic that just today I planning on posting something on my blog regarding the way I and my company started using social media, and the reasons behind it.
    I think a lot of people are just afraid of being themselves, of showing a human side we’re probably not too much used to show anymore. There’s nothing to be shy about in monitoring keywords or hashtags we feel interested in and jumping in a conversation. This leads to replies, comments, discussions, connections. As far as I know this is exactly how I found out about Suzanne and how she found out about me. Talk, share, engage, isn’t this the basics of every human interaction after all?

    • Gabriele

      Yes and yes. People are afraid of being themselves. They feel that the underground part is not acceptable as they see others who are doing it different. Different is not always better as they look to the popular folks and what they do forgetting that the popular folks started with zero.

      You found me, and I am grateful for that but now I found you and that is awesome for me ( I guess that italians are never too far from each other are we?). You, as a small business owner for what 10 years now always provide such great insight and comments to this blog. It is such a real life experience for readers that they can learn from.

      • Thanks for your kind words Suzanne, great to be part of your community as well 🙂

  • Great post. One point I’d disagree with though — starting a conversation with someone you don’t know isn’t hard… takes one word: Hi. Of course after that, they have to do half the work… but at least you’ve tried.

    Keep it coming.

  • Hi Suzanne, thanks for asking . . . I’ve started a conversation on the first post of my new blog DRIVING MISS SHARI. The article is called “How to Become Rich & Famous on the Web” and there are now 355 comments where people are discussing “What Drives Them” or “What Drives Them Crazy” or “What it means to be rich & famous” or anything else they want.

    I’m inviting people to read any comment and REPLY to the commenter.
    PS If you like British Wit, you’ll love anything that commenter Mike Maynard has written.

  • ooops forgot the URL to contribute to the conversation: http://sharisax.com/DrivingMissShari/2010/08/how-to-become-rich-famous-on-the-web/

  • Suzanne,Another amazing post. I work in an office that is very much like the one you described. For some, starting a conversation is tough. Others seem to be about to do it with almost no effort. I often hear that our younger team members have become so immersed in social media, texting and other online tools that they no longer know how to converse with others in a real world setting. It’s so bad that there seems to be a barrier between some of our older and younger team members; however, the reality is much different.I’d argue that our younger team members are learning important conversation skills from social media that many of their older coworkers don’t have. Sure, they spend more time conversing in the online world, but when you talk to them, they are more willing to dive deeply into a topic instead of focusing on the trivial stuff.Great post and I’ll be sharing it on my #weeklymarketinggems post.Thanks,Jason

    • Jason

      Wow, you hit on something that I missed. Thank you, Wow, ok, We are a texting, FB response, like, younger generation world. Yeah. The face to face for them could be tough as they are so used to the fingers doing the talking per se and not being in real life. It is a barrier as we love the innovation and what it affords but yet it is not allowing many to have to converse face to face. Hmh,

      I do agree that the younger folks are learning how to converse online and as a firm believer that we will see trad adv become more interactive that will support and be conducive to the online community,but at the same time, will we totally go away from the face to face? I do not know as it is an interesting dynamic with the younger generation as can everything be virtual, can everything be your hand talking?

      What I love about blogging is the comments that are always better than the post. This one has me thinking as I look at the younger gen and what is available to them and then think what was there for me Cable,vcr, beepers, and the brick cell phones,. Did this decrease what we did or enhance it? Cell phones made us talk more, will texting do the same?

      thank you so much for commenting and making me think more (love that) and also including me on your weekend blog (erm love that too so I can talk more about your posts).

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  • Tom

    I agree to a degree. I say hi to people constantly and crickets. Every single person I come into contact with I greet. Now many times there is not room for conversation as we are passing but when there is it is a struggle to get the words out. We know that when I met you, there was never a time when the conversation was dim. Nope, we had contact prior to and I knew somethings about one another; we are in the same industry and well then there is football and beer. Yum.

    I think sometimes people are running on by and chasing the numbers as more people who I get to follow and I follow, the louder the voice. Yeah sometimes that is true but most of the time it is not. You are the perfect example of growing a community and interacting with them. Mention your name on twitter and a TM love fest erupts. That is the way it should be. You do not have the masses of followers but the people that do follow, have the utmost respect for you and are not afraid to tell everyone.

    You and me are people that are not shy in starting conversations or jumping into other conversations and a lot of the times we get responses. When people do not get a response they get discouraged, forgetting it takes time.

    So honored to have you here and love love your blog. Any chance we can create a football and beer conference that is a mandatory event in NOLA? Some how some way, I will get to see you again.