One-Way ‘Conversations’ Plague Brands


Any professional communicator will freely tell you that the purpose of social media is to have a conversation. But how many brands are truly engaging in conversations—honest to goodness back and forth—with audiences on social media? If your brand is doing all the talking, then you are missing the value that social can bring to your organization.

John Yembrick, social media manager at NASA
John Yembrick, social media manager at NASA

At the Social Shake-Up 2015 in Atlanta, communicators from a variety of industries and disciplines have gathered to explore and discuss ideas and trends that are changing the social media landscape. And one of the big takeaways is the need to get back to personalizing the social experience so that engagement flows in all directions, not just from the brand outward.

The speakers at the Social Shake-Up agree that the biggest mistake that communicators make is not engaging directly on social media. John Yembrick, social media manager at NASA, noted in Atlanta, “Social media is a conversation. You have to spend as much time listening as you do speaking.”

NASA, which has developed a committed presence on social, has succeeded in large part because it listens to what interests the public, and shape its content to match those interests.

It would seem that listening to what people are saying on your brand’s social networks would be a simple task. Just follow the tweets, right? Unfortunately, communicators often get caught up in the need to crank out new messaging without seeing how those messages are being received or who they are even talking to. If people do not feel like they are being heard, or if they believe they are all being treated the same, they will turn away from your brand.

Identifying and targeting your audience is the first step in personalizing their experience with your brand. Once you know who they are, you can listen to what they are saying about your brand, or about anything for that matter. Then you can shape your content to match their needs and desires.

This is not difficult to accomplish, Yembrick suggested. All it takes is setting aside any obsession your brand might have with gathering social media followers and stopping to listen to what your current followers are saying. Customers and potential customers are eager to engage.

“People are isolated by their own technology,” said Titania Jordan, CMO of Kidslink. “They have their phones in their faces all the time. They are craving interaction and engagement.”

Follow John Yembrick: @yembrick, @NASA

Follow Titania Jordan: @titaniajordan

Follow Richard Brownell: @RickBrownell

  • Cultural Observer

    Decent points about 2-way conversation and listening, but even before mobile phones and other electronic devices got in the way, did we really listen to others? Don’t we always emphasize to speakers they should repeat their message several times since lots of people don’t listen the first time? So, aren’t brands and organizations having the same problem (not listening while using social media) that we as individuals have?