Carefully Crafted on May 25

The Art of Conversation

Recently, a member of the Geben team had an interaction on behalf of a client—a Fortune 100 retail brand—that got me thinking about the art of conversation. Here’s the scenario:

A customer was doing some casual shopping in the client’s store when the Gilmore Girls theme song came on. The customer tweeted at the brand right away—she was a true Gilmore Girls fan—and instantly we had it: the perfect opening for a real conversation!

The guy on my team who monitors this particular account didn’t know anything about Lorelai, Rory, or Emily. But luckily, we have a bunch of people on our team slightly obsessed with Gilmore Girls.

So he posted the tweet into our private Slack channel, and we went to work. Finally, after debating the perfect one-liner, he posted our response, and the customer responded back again!

The whole interaction lasted only a few minutes, but it went as well as we could have imagined. By recognizing and seizing the opportunity to spark a fun back-and-forth dialogue, we created a memorable experience that is likely to result in the customer—and potentially her social network—having increased long-term engagement with the brand.

Why Storytelling Isn’t Enough

“Storytelling” is a popular buzzword these days. The concept of storytelling offers communicators seemingly endless creative possibilities for sharing a brand’s history, strategy, and vision. For example, you might create a polished, compelling 3-minute video that tells your founder’s life mission, your company’s dedication to giving back, your employees’ biggest pet peeves, or anything you can dream of. You publish it on YouTube, the viewer hits play, and they get to know your story.

These “one-way” tools are effective at building brand awareness. Really well done ones can even spur increased social mentions and buzz. The problem, though is that these stories only go one way—and they generally don’t lead to higher levels of engagement. A really well told story may at least result in shares and likes, but a single content piece usually can’t be relied upon to spark long-term, meaningful, consistent interactive dialogue. That’s why the art of conversation is such an important skill.

Storytelling is important, but there’s got to be more to your strategy than just that. We’ve found that the stronger the social community, the greater the opportunity to leverage social media to achieve tangible business outcomes. And building a strong social community requires engaging in meaningful, authentic, and personalized conversations.

It’s not that conversation is more valuable than storytelling. They are complementary.
Certainly from a brand perspective, you need to be able to tell your story—but you also need to be able to engage on a personal level if you want your community to flourish.

What Makes Conversation Artful

Conversation is an art because every human is unique, so every interaction needs to be different—customized to the person, the situation and the context. How do you insert yourself into conversation in a way that provides value?

That’s the tricky part! It’s what separates the talented, professional community managers from those who say, “Thanks for the retweet!”

Engaging social communities isn’t just about finding and telling a great story about your brand. It’s about that special, memorable two-way dialogue that makes customers feel valued as individuals. The art of conversation often isn’t as glamorous as creating a powerful content piece, and ROI isn’t always as immediate. But with diligence, the right team can use conversation to create powerful new loyalists for your brand—one Gilmore Girls reference at a time.

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