April 5, 2010
Putting Conversation at the Core
At Media Logic’s recent annual company meeting, our president David Schultz talked about his ideal configuration for our office layout. His vision was to place our Conversation Managers at the center of the space, with our content development, interactive integration, program management, analytics, media & promotions, client services and all other teams branching out as spokes, all connected to the core. Unfortunately, our building has elevators and restrooms at the center… so we did our best. But this very logical office collaboration scheme did get me thinking about how we structure online and offline communities in a conversation-centric world.
In a recent Smashing Magazine article, contributor Cameron Chapman talked about mapping real-world community planning principles to online communities. And when you think about it, this concept makes a lot of sense. By finding ways to convey the qualities of thriving real-world communities to the digital world, we can begin to enhance experiences in the social web.
Let’s consider this real-world analogy: you’re at a bar, and you want to strike up a conversation with the person next to you. You might begin by introducing yourself with your name… but you’re probably not going to announce your email address, mailing address, phone number, etc. If you were required to do that, chances are you wouldn’t bother starting the conversation at all. Now translate this logic to blogs: why would you ask a casual visitor to fill out a lengthy registration form just to leave a comment? Same as in the bar scene, the more conversation barriers you put up, the fewer social interactions you’ll have.
In most real-world communities, people instinctively know where to find social interaction. That’s because communities are built around common areas like parks, promenades, “Main Streets” and city centers – areas to congregate and circulate. The same blueprint can (and should) be applied to online communities: if you want people to be able to locate and participate in conversations with your company, start by making sure it’s easily findable and accessible. Next, expose user-contributed content in prominent areas throughout the site. For example, the Media Logic web site features our latest blog posts right on the home page, as well as topical articles on every page of the site. This practice of featuring tweets, forum posts, and other user-generated content in highly-visible web destinations can greatly improve participation. In addition, making community resources available throughout your web site reinforces the value of conversation as a core component to your business.
Placing social media at the core of a business can be a daunting proposition – “What will people say?” “How do I encourage participation?” “How will I manage the conversations?” Granted, there are some risks associated with opening up to your prospects and customers. But tapping the power of social media for collaboration and conversation will reap rewards far greater than the risks. By applying lessons from real-world community planning to conversation-centric marketing strategy, companies can make great strides in earning trust, building brand communities and unlocking the potential of social business.
Have you put conversation at the core?