So we’ve established that marketing using social means is about conversations. TodayI’m going to share my thoughts on how to go about driving good conversations.
In principal, it’s quite simple... you just behave like a shop keeper - a real person, havingface-to-face conversations with potential customers.Let’s take John James Sainsbury, the founder of the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain, forexample. He started his career with a grocery store at 173 Drury Lane in 1869.
John’s guide to good conversationsHere’s three lessons you can learn, from John, about how to start good conversations.
RelevanceNumber one is called relevance.Let’s imagine John James Sainsbury is sat in this cafe opposite these two, who areclearly on a date. John overhears him invite her to come home with him for some dinner.At the till, ‘date guy’ bumps into John. This is John’s opportunity to start a conversation.Does he start telling the guy about the new check-outs he’s installed at the store? No.That would just be weird. Instead, John slides a napkin over to ‘date guy’ with John’s alltime winning recipe for impressing a ‘lady friend’. The guy takes a look, thanks John andleaves the cafe with confidence.
“YOU’RE INTERRUPTING. THIS BETTER BE INTERESTING”We’ve learnt to put some effort into the chat that you put out there.In social spaces, people are not sitting back waiting for marketing messages, they’regoing about their social lives. Brands are interrupting. So if you’re going to interrupt, youbetter have something good to say, or you’ll just get ignored, or worst still, rejected in thelong term for being annoying.
Here’s an example to make it more tangible: We were asked, by Barclaycard, to startconversations about PayTag. Instead of directly approaching people with product details,we started a conversation by asking people if we could buy them lunch? And guesswhat? Lots of them didn’t mind this interruption to their social lives and were willing tohave a conversation about getting something for nothing.
he conversation started in advance of the ‘Lunch on Us’ day, when we talked about whatwe had planned, were asked where people could find us. Chatter exploded on the dayand continued days afterwards as potential customers talked to friends about how theygot a free lunch paid for with the new product.
ContextBack to John. His next lesson about good conversation is about context. Let’s imaginethat a new super club has opened around the corner from his Drury Lane store. Does herush down there on opening night to tell all the cool kids about his cheese counter?Nope. Again, weird.
DON’T FORCE A CONVERSATIONJohn creates conversations only where those conversation make sense. So youshouldn’t ask a brand to create a strategy for Pinterest, unless you have a conversationyou want to start that naturally fits there. Perhaps John might look at the super-club anddecide to start selling kebabs in his store, after hours. But for the time being, theconversations that he wants to start don’t fit naturally there, so he’s not going to force it.
An example where a brand has gone about this in the right order (conversation, thenplatform) is Guess. They wanted to start a conversation about their new denim springcolour range. They decided to make it about their customers – ask for their point of viewon each colour. What’s your favourite and show us what this colour inspires within you.
In this case, Pinterest was a perfect place to have this conversation as the socialatmosphere is all about expressing creativity and sharing your findings. So they askedpeople to create a board of at least 5 items that inspire the colour and fashion bloggerschose what they felt were the best expressions.
EmpathyThe final lesson from John is about empathy. Do you think that John has one of theseunder his shop counter to ‘take-out’ anyone who tries to start a conversation he doesn’tlike? No, that would also be weird. And illegal.
IMAGINE THEY’RE STOOD IN FRONT OF YOUWe should behave in the same way online. Just because there are keys and wiresbetween you, rather than a counter, does not make the merchant-consumer scenarioany different to a face-to-face conversation. Deleting their comments on your Facebookpage because you don’t like them creates a scene that other people may find distasteful.
Remembering that ‘the customer is always right’ , is a much more sensible way tobehave. That way, it’s not even ‘bad conversation’ as you look helpful, responsive andcompassionate – which can’t be bad for the brand.
But before I go. Just one last thing. It’s quite important. This is about impact. It’s tricky tomake an impact without much scale. Let’s imagine this guy is the best speaker the worldhas ever known. Even if these 5 in the audience are really influential within their ownnetworks, it’s going to take much longer for his amazing words to spread than if he’d hada hundred influential people turn up. I guess the learning here is that, if you want to drivegood conversations, it’s worth thinking about what you want these conversations to beabout right from the minute you start investing in marketing, as this is the quickest wayto kick start a conversation.
It’s about thinking about whether your marketing ideas are a conversation starter or not.Cadbury have been doing it since the 80’s, before the guys that created the big bluenetwork were even born, with their ‘how do you eat yours?’ campaign.
Now we have tools at our disposable to guide people towards a natural (online) place tohave a conversation (like the hashtag)... And, remember, not all conversation startersneed to be a question. This campaign for Nike implicitly stimulates people to shareconversation about their new year’s fitness resolution without explicitly asking them.