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Identifying Conversations in Social Media

August 20, 2008

Today was another Ballantyne Business Lunch Meetup here in Charlotte, NC (#BtynBiz) and today’s topic was a discussion of an upcoming webcast: “Issues with Social Media Marketing: Control, Security, Integration, and Measurement.”

@lisahoffmann, @bigfleet, @ScottHepburn, @richtucker, @budesigns and I (@93octane) kicked around some of the questions that the webcast will be covering about issues that companies face in Social Media Marketing.

When it came to considering how do companies “control the conversation” we decided to start trying to identify what types of conversations that companies should be aware of that are occurring in the social media space. This is what we came up with.

1) The Evangelist Conversation
People who are selling for you by constantly communicating your brand message, promoting you and defending you–without compensation. Evangelists can grow, extend and transform your brand in ways that are both good and bad. The Apple consumer community is constantly engaging in evangelizing conversations about the company, its products and its leader.

2) The Disevangelist Conversation
People who consistently create a negative discussion about your company, persuade others to disevangelize with them, with really no interest in ever changing their own minds about you. Wal-Mart consistently has disevangelizing conversations going on about their business practices.

3) The Cries for Help
People who are seeking customer service and shouting out about it, not necessarily directly to you. These can have a positive, neutral or negative tone.

4) The Information-Seeking Conversations
Customers and non-customers are frequently posing questions to their networks about your products and your service levels–collecting information from their trusted sources to make a decision, or to blog about you.

5) Casual Discourse and Opinions
Your company can come up in non-service-related conversations, most often when people are expressing an opinion about the particular issue. These conversation do not have the demonstrativeness of the Evangelizing and Disevangelizing conversations and are usually not calls for help.

6) The Non-conversation
Another important conversation is the one that isn’t happening at all. Customers and non-customers are engaging in social media without mentioning your company at all. Some of the non-customers will fall into your target market, and some won’t. It’s safe to say that non-conversations among non-customers that are not in your target market can safely be ignored, but opportunities may exist among the others.

Identifying the types of conversations that are happening in social media networks is an important step for companies to take as they are defining their engagement policies. The next post will describe several communication methods that companies are currently using to engage in these conversations.

What other conversations are happening out there that businesses should be aware of, and would you rewrite any of the conversations we defined?

7 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2008 10:31 pm


    Great write up! Something we did not discuss today at the meet up but your post made me think about is another type of non-conversation occurring in regards to your enterprise but that has direct impact to it.

    Those are the Social Media conversations happening about your Competition. By monitoring Social Media outlets, you can capture very useful information about your competitors from their customers whether that be positive and negative. You can quickly take advantage of areas in which your competitors are failing, or try to emulate what they are doing that is creating the evangelistic following.

  2. August 20, 2008 11:07 pm

    I like the way you broke down the various types of conversations that businesses should be listening to (at least) or participating in.

    I won’t give too much away before tomorrow’s webcast, but within the context of social media the term “control” is a red herring.

  3. August 21, 2008 12:43 am

    The problem is that companies focus on identifying the conversation. Bad needs spin, good needs promo. Whereas the focus really needs to be on appropriate response. Engaging the customer and responding in a genuine, caring manner, with individualized messaging will be more effective than unfurling the corporate banner.

  4. August 21, 2008 1:23 am

    Excellent Post Lyell! Looks like I missed a great session.

    It is truly amazing to see how many companies do not see what is happening in front of them until the ‘old media’ picks up on it. At that point, it is usually a lot of damage control that could have easily been prevented. That goes without saying how much of a value add having an open dialog with your customers can be.

    Thanks for the brain food!

  5. August 21, 2008 2:38 am

    I’m looking forward to the post that explains the best course of action for companies with each of these types of conversations: when and how to engage and ignore based on a company’s marketing goals and objectives.

    Companies are used to listening to conversations, but are increasingly being exposed to a range of conversations they don’t understand because they fall outside the normal methods, platforms, topics and places they are used to monitoring.

    People in companies are looking for answers here: I’m looking forward to seeing your thoughts…


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