Todd Parsons disagrees with my call to kill the overused term “conversation” in marketing contexts. Todd said:
We use, it, our customers use it, our entire business is built on it! So its difficult to throw the baby out with the bathwater. We all have internalized phrases like markets are conversations and dont have a one-way conversation, be a part of it. Sure, the concepts intuitively make sense, but what do they really mean?
OK, what do they really mean? Todd says:
Obviously, we have a vested interest in understanding conversations, and figuring out how marketers can make sense of them. A helpful way to distinguish the meaning of the word conversation in a marketing context, is to think of it in two ways (1) a conversation between a brand and its various audiences, and, above that (2) the organic conversations that exist between all web users, including the brands which choose to participate.
Focusing on the latter for a minute, the Internet is a go-to platform for networked interaction, and the technology that enables social media, like blogs, social networks, media sharing sites etc, provides rich fuel for that interaction. The ease with which you can share, extend, build on and syndicate a conversation across the Web is pretty astounding. Our view is that some, not all, of these consumer conversations can be followed and harnessed in real time to inform marketing.
While Todd’s latter statement starts to resonate with me, I’m still left clamoring for what they really mean by conversation. In fact, his argument underscores the problem, to which I commented:
Conversations are oral exchanges. In other words, this here is indeed an important interaction, but — similar to letters with friends — does not constitute a conversation. My problem with the term’s mutation into a marketing metaphor is that it’s become an accepted catchall for ambiguity. Instead of skirting clarity via “conversation,” marketers should pinpoint and act on what they REALLY mean. It’s the only way to avoid falling into the bowels of B.S. Bingo.
I think you should refer back to one of your core and (I believe) correct assumptions, and then build from there: “the Internet is a go-to platform for networked interaction, and the technology that enables social media, like blogs, social networks, media sharing sites etc, provides rich fuel for that interaction.” On that, I agree. And I would build by saying that blogs, boards, forums, social networks and other consumer-expression and syndication vehicles can lead to multiple outcomes of monologue and dialogue — otherwise known as interaction. And observing, analyzing and interpreting spontaneous interaction and unprompted consumer expression can serve as a powerful informant to marketing strategy and tactics.
With that, perhaps someday this exchange will prompt an actual conversation.
To top it all off, I left my comment on Tuesday. It’s now Wednesday and I’m still waiting for it to be moderated, published or killed. I’m not suggesting that Todd doesn’t have better things to do. However, I am suggesting, again, that this interaction is not necessarily a conversation. But perhaps it will turn into a conversation, and hopefully an in-person one at that, with real back and fourth, give and take.
Finally, I fully admit to abusing the term conversation. But I hope to address that.