Social Media Is NOT the Conversation


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Social media is the modern version of the telephone.
What social media does is simply allow you to do one thing: communicate. That’s it. Social media is not the conversation. It’s the room in which you hold the conversation. It still comes down to saying, doing, or producing something valuable for your customer. Companies which forget this will simply throw money down the social media hole. Companies that get it will find social media a valuable tool – if they are prepared to stick it out and learn how it works.

In her recent blog, Valeria Maltoni made this very important distinction. I would like to take this a step further.
As Valerie says, companies must deliver something of value to customers. Most companies act as it the value lies in the product they sell. Unfortunately for them most products today have lots of competition and come off as undifferentiated commodities. One form of value to customers is gaining the insight or know-how to extract greater experiential value from products. Companies that can help them do so gain an important form of differentiation. The social media conversation can play an important role in making this happen.
On the other hand, many new products are seen as complex and confusing to customers. Customers who would like to gain from the innovation but at the same time are already overloaded with too many things they don’t understand. Often this leads to customer avoidance or stress. Helping customers understand how they can achieve something meaningful to themselves is the antidote. The social media conversation can help reduce the uncertainly or confusion and unleash the value.
One final point. This new online communication vehicle fun to play with for awhile, but if it doesn’t contribute to offline benefits to both customers and companies, it will lose its allure.

John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor


  1. John

    Another interesting post. Great stuff.

    I think Valerie is guilty of over-egging the pudding when she says, “social media is the modern version of the telephone”. Although I do not have the figures for social media to hand, I find it impossible to believe that social media has overtaken the telephone as the main medium for conversations.

    The numbers speak for themself.

    There are currently 1.3 billion (1,000 million) fixed line telephones in the world and 2.7 billion mobile telephones, or 4 billion in total. That compares with only 850 million PCs and 1.1 billion Internet connections (obviously not all through PCs). In 2007, the number of people who access the Internet with their mobile phone actually overtook the number who access it with a PC. The killer app for mobile telephones is texting (SMS). Over 1.3 billion mobile phone users send texts to each other, versus the 800 million users who use email.

    It is the huge growth of mobile telephones that is the main driver of conversations across the world, particularly in China (with 6 million new connections per month!), India (7 million) and Africa.

    The mobile telephone, with or without the Internet, is the present and the future of social media. And mobile social networking is where we should be concentrating our efforts; to understand how it works and as you suggest, how companies can add value to customers through harnessing it.

    This is a Brave New World.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

    Gunning Fog Index: 12


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