The more I learn about social media the more I realise that it is really about conversations and what I know as a PR practitioner is that communication aims to start or continue a conversation.


The main challenge businesses have with social media is to stop talking ‘to’ their target audiences and start conversing ‘with’ them. But knowing this new audience can be a daunting task. The online audience can be fickle and scathing in its attack but yet it also gives voice to the fans and champions of a brand.


Just by listening, social media can be a fantastic tool of gathering customer information and feedback. Dell has done a great job of doing this with its Ideastorm  site   that allows anyone to comment, provide feedback or give suggestions about Dell’s products.


The main thing we recommend to any business entering the online arena is that the online community isn’t interested in your marketing messages rather they are interested in what you have to contribute. The worst thing a company can do is go out gung-ho and spread their marketing-speak.


For instance, the National Australia Bank’s hit and miss attempt to reach bloggers and those commenting on blogs with blatant sales messages resulted in a blogger backlash.




The businesses that are achieving success with social media are those that are offering interesting insights and most importantly a human personality.


Telstra’s BigPond ISP is on Twitter. The micro-blogging site Twitter is often used by user’s to vent their frustrations and as it is easy to track mentions of brands and topics, BigPond are quick to respond to these outbursts by offering to help solve problems and offer information. Their account attracts many questions and is a good example of a large corporate engaging and conversing with its audience.


Conversations aren’t just limited to the online realm. Any communication issued by a business should seek to engage an audience. Engaging an audience isn’t just about talking about your brand as the best in its field, communicating involves listening to your audience and tapping into what is relevant to them.


I guess it just comes down to, if you want to be heard, join the conversation.


Jo Gitsham