The new balance

Last week I presented at Customer First about Microsoft and social media. Literally a day before that presentation I decided to change my little speech a little. I hear so much of companies setting up their own blog, their own Facebook or whatever that it gets on my nerves. I’m a believer, but heck, when fellow marketing colleagues are ‘totally getting it’ because they want to set up controlled areas for consumers to come to and engage with their brand… I have a problem with that. Why, because they haven’t gone out first to tune into the ongoing conversations already. Like a consumer only tells his opinion about you when you’ve set up an area for them to do so.

So I changed my introduction and decided not only to talk about some of my own experiences in social media with microsoft, but to clarify some things first. Here is also where I talk about what I believe is a new balance. In short (slide 5-6) we’ve gone from a balanced situation in the relationship between brands and consumers a long time ago to a situation where the business solely owned the power to send out messages and consumers could basically only receive these. With social media that power came back to the people, to consumers and hence it created a new balance between brands and consumers. This is obviously a very good situation and one that is much more normal than what we experienced the years before… but brands aren’t feeling comfortable in that new situation, at least a lot of them aren’t.

This is also where the ‘conversation’ comes in. Pete Blackshaw asked on his CGM Facebook group recently if we are overusing the term ‘conversation’. I don’t think so at all. I find the ‘conversation’ metaphor a very easy and powerful way to help brands to understand why they need to change. How they have to imagine the situation of both the brand and the consumer sitting at a table, where both parties have the same value in the conversation… and more importantly (which many forget) where both parties can start the conversation!

The definition found at Wikipedia is maybe even a better explanation. Keep this in mind when you start evaluating your next campaign and maybe it will make a difference.

Conversations are the ideal form of communication in some respects, since they allow people with different views of a topic to learn from each other. A speech, on the other hand, is an oral presentation by one person directed at a group. For a successful conversation, the partners must achieve a workable balance of contributions. A successful conversation includes mutually interesting connections between the speakers or things that the speakers know. For this to happen, those engaging in conversation must find a topic on which they both can relate to in some sense.”

Age of conversation indeed, no question about it.

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