A Thirst for Conversation
I’ve been thinking a good bit about communication and how all of us are doing it these days. Marketing communication and public relations happen to be our business at MCG, and so we are hyper-sensitized to all the nuances of the craft, but beyond all that, I’ve always just enjoyed conversation – the simple act of sitting down with another human being and talking about things that matter (or sometimes not). Just connecting. Lately, I’m not doing much of it.
We’re losing the art of conversation, I think. Can we really have a conversation in 140-character “sound bites?” Don’t get me wrong. I love Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Plaxo, and all the incredible interactions that social media has enabled (and the new channels it has provided for marketing), but lately I’ve been thirsty for something more. I quickly scan the tweets and status updates from my friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances. Sometimes, I even direct message (DM) them. Does that qualify as conversation?
It seems to me that what we crave is conversation, connection, dialogue and yet, we’re actually doing less and less of it. Are we insulating ourselves from truly meaningful exchange by truncating our communication? In method and form, we abbreviate. We tweet. We text. IMHO. BFF. OMG. Have we become mostly anonymous? Mere avatars?
What are the societal implications? Do I know you? If we live in a world where I’ve never introduced myself to my neighbor, and we don’t have James Agee-esque conversations on the porch, can I know her through a Facebook album or her Twitter profile?
Maybe I’ve just gotten too old, like the proverbial “old man” who says, “Turn that noise (music) down!” Maybe I’m too sentimental. Maybe.
It seems to me, the lesson we must learn as marketers, and really, as human beings that are hard-wired to connect to other human beings in meaningful ways, is to use the technology as a tool for conversation, not let the tool dictate the form.
Marketing, in its essence, is conversation. When the conversation is authentic, transparent and meaningful, you have connection. When you have connection, you can begin to build trust. And when you have trust, you can successfully sell your products and services. But not before.
I think I’m going to pick up the phone now and call an old friend.