During a recent client get-together conversation drifted to Facebook, Twitter and social media. This seems to be the norm these days and at one point one of the participants mentioned that it was "easier" to write a quick Facebook update than to call each person that would be interested to know how her day went.
After a few back and forth comments including my exaggerated "I don't need to know who baked cupcakes or walked their dog" exasperation, I offered up that as individuals we are forgetting how to TALK. Conversation used to take place face-to-face and you learned how to carry on a conversation, how to get your point across, how to take criticism without capitulating or exploding in a rage, and most of all, you learned how to LISTEN.
As technology has made interpersonal communication more "efficient" it has also made us less "effective." This has had considerable negative impact on marketing in two key areas:
1. As a Business. Companies need to listen to their markets better. They need to abandon the practice of shouting or repeating their message over and over and over to the market in the hopes that someone hears it. Witness the number of company Twitter accounts that needlessly rebroadcast every press release headline, development or blog headline...absent any opinion or new focal point. Where is the value in that? Twitter routinely freezes up any given afternoon due to volume limitations. Do that many people really have that many unique valuable thoughts to share? I'm not seeing it.
Make your communications matter. Make them have value and contribute to a bigger and better dialog with the market. Telling customers or prospects the headline of your blog post four times (blog, corporate website, Twitter, and Facebook page) isn’t going to make them more likely to read it.
2. As Marketing Professionals. Forgive me a walk down memory lane, but when I started in public relations, the rookie was handed the trade media "book" and you spent sometimes weeks at a time calling trade media to pitch the same product over and over. This was before e-Mail, plain paper faxes, and only at the very start of voicemail. You had to talk....and listen, even when the editor of a publication like Hog Farmer's Weekly (yes it did exist!) was screaming at you for interrupting whatever story it was he was already working on. But you learned how to do it. Over and over and over.
The introduction and adoption of e-mail changed much of this. Moving beyond the pros and cons of its impact on the PR profession, it has as a whole made us less connected to the audiences we need. Likewise, social media can put us in touch with hundreds or thousands at once, but if we don't connect with our audiences, the message just gets received as random broadcast.
As marketers progress in their careers they need to be able to initiate and carry on a conversation. They need to be able to guide that conclusion to a desired and beneficial outcome. This is as much true for the agency professional speaking with a client as it is the corporate marketer trying to rally internal support for a particular campaign.
Talk to me. Talk with others. Talk to your market.