Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 23, 2010 9:03 AM

The End Of Conversation In Social Media

One of the main tenets of Social Media was the reality that brands could join a conversation (to quote my good friend, Joseph Jaffe), but by the looks of things there aren't really any conversations happening at all.

It's not just Jaffe who pushed that idea out with his second business book, Join The Conversation. Many other Bloggers and Podcasters (myself included) have explained to brands that Social Media is a conversation and that they can either be a part of it or watch it from the sidelines (while also watching what the ramifications are of not participating in the content).

But, things have changed.

In the past few weeks, I've been on a personal journey of re-evaluating this Blog (more on that here: Comments And Conversations), while at the same time watching the evolving face of Facebook (more on that here: 500 Million), evaluating the growth of Twitter, and even how some of my favorite Blogs and Podcasts have been changing over the years. The net output of this research made me think one thought (and one thought only)...

There is not much conversation going on at all.

Here's what I do see:

  • Blogs that have comments, with little back and forth. Some Bloggers respond to the comments and some don't.
  • Those that do have comments, usually have no further comment from the person who left a comment in the first place. That's not a conversation. That's feedback.
  • Individuals not leaving a comment to engage in a conversation, but simply to promote their own links or to chest-thump.
  • Twitter doesn't really bring out a conversation. It's a great place to broadcast and get some quick tidbits, but let's face it, unless you're creating spiritual and motivation tweets, it's hard to have substance in 140 characters (or less - if you're looking for a retweet).
  • Even in cool arenas like the #blogchat that takes place on Twitter every Sunday night, it feels more like everyone screaming a thought at once than a conversation that can be followed and engaged with.
  • Facebook has some great banter with the wall posts and status updates, but it's more chatty than conversational and it's not an open/public environment.

None of this is a bad thing... it just is.

I can hear some Social Media purists say that these are the "new conversations" but I don't believe that to be true. Why? Because if you do look at platforms like Podcasting (ones done on platforms like Blog Talk Radio or Talk Shoe) and certain message boards, you do see instances that resemble a conversation (people do call in, expand on a thought and have some good back and forth banter), but the majority of "conversation" I have come across is nothing more than the posting of a thought with very little engagement beyond that.

And then, this happens...

Dave Winer (known as one of the Godfathers of RSS and Podcasting) is changing how comments happen on his Blog, Scripting News (which is also one of the first weblogs ever published on the Internet). In a post published yesterday titled, Proposal: A new kind of blog comment system, Winer writes: "I know some people think that blogs are conversations, but I don't. I think they're publications. And I think the role of comments is to add value to the posts. If you want to rebut a post, then you can create your own blog and post your rebuttal there. I've always felt this way about what blogs are, and in a similar way I feel Twitter is not a conversational medium. it is even more inappropriate to try to converse there because of the 140-character limit."

Are we seeing a new shift in Social Media? Are the conversations dead? Were they ever - really - alive? What do you think?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by mike_mcgrail
    Mitch Joel

    Interesting stance Mitch. We all bang about about the convo and dialogue. I think people's comments on my blog add a lot and may hand over some info or thoughts that are different to mine. I always reply, even if I don't have much to add I thank people for reading. If people who talk about the conversation and how important it is for businesss do not practice it themselves then how can there be any weight behind our message? A major problem is keeping track of the conversation as the participant, you mention #blogchat and I would use that as an example, it is great, but so hard to track and add to at times.

    Reply
    • This isn't about a comment and a response... again, I think that's just feedback. I'm looking for "conversation" - some back and forth. We talk about how Social Media humanizes marketing through these conversations... so, where are the conversations?

      Reply
      • Posted by mike_mcgrail
        Mitch Joel

        Many people give one response to a comment (whether that is the publisher or the reader) and leave it at that. I would agree this does not constitute a conversation. I like to see debate, real back and forths that don't just aim to blow smoke up the ass of the publisher!

        Reply
        • The challenge is that by the time the "conversation" starts to flow, the Blogger is on to their next post and the commenter has left comments all over the Social Media space... we need to figure out a way to tie this all up!

          Reply
          • Posted by Ron De Giusti
            Mitch Joel

            It's interesting that you said "tie this all up" because that got me to thinking about what Facebook does. If you think of each person's Facebook wall as a blog, you can post on other people's walls and be involved in many conversations ... but what brings it all together for the individual is their own wall ... their own stream of conversations.

            Perhaps the future really is something like Google Reader where I can be involved in many, many different conversations and have a central location, like Google Reader, to follow the many conversations I am having in one stream.

            As individuals participating in many blog conversations, we do need central locations to tie all of our involvement together in one place.

            And, just like in Facebook, it would be nice if other individuals could visit our wall and see all the conversations we have been involved with.

            Perhaps Google Reader should track all comments we post against particular blog posts and allow other users to visit our own Google Reader (our wall) to see how we are participating.

            Reply
          • Posted by mike_mcgrail
            Mitch Joel

            Very true Mitch, I guess it goes back to that old social media chestnut - time and resource!

            Reply
          • Posted by Bianca Te Rito
            Mitch Joel

            Hi all

            Mitch, I was wondering if you would look at adding a subscribe to "commentsRSS" option to your blog posts? That way people (who subscribe) can stay in the loop and keep track of comments etc.. The reason I mention this is that I spotted your reply to a older post "Make A Fool Of Yourself" (right now, and hadn't realized...). Just a thought? Umm Hope I haven't completely missed the boat here...

            Reply
            • 100%. We'll have an RRS and email option coming soon. In fact, we had it and removed it... but I guess now (due to demand) we'll be adding it back.

              Reply
              • Posted by Lp Bell
                Mitch Joel

                Hi Mitch,

                I'm a consultant in new technologies for SEM & SEO. There's alot of software that could do what you guys ask. The first one in mind is Hootsuite. They will change their program soon, so you might wanna check it out soon.
                There's a full list of other software that follow a conversation or select a similar term for a conversation you could take part in.

                Another great free tool that people tend to forget is Skype! Now (or soon) with multi-rooms, you can do you little own conference/webinar or simply install a chat roam into your blog...

                PS: You guys are just looking to take part into greater conversation than you should start by getting more targeted followers of your blog/twitter (the ones without the spammy/uninterested thing/tweet). Forums do that too!

                Reply
                • Posted by Lp Bell
                  Mitch Joel

                  I forgot to add the URL sorry...
                  Here it is:

                  www.twitterdose.com

                  Thanks anyway,

                  This is probably one of the best blogs out there, design, subject and quality wise?

                  Reply
  • Posted by mckra1g
    Mitch Joel

    I think that the conversation is real and possible. However, I liken your examples to a college lecture class: the "broadcasting" of the teaching material is done en masse (ie. a lecture hall with 500 students), but the conversation is held in smaller classes, facilitated by a TA.

    I follow few folks because I want to engage them; know them and refer them to folks with whom they can form a mutually beneficial relationship. I keep my scale small so that my conversation is authentic and has real value.

    It's also my responsibility as a communicator to seek out communities with whom I wish to connect and then to reach out to individuals within those communities who are not only relevant to me, but also folks who I wish to help. (wow, that was an embarrassingly long sentence). Communication is a two way street.

    FWIW, 140 characters is plenty. Creativity and extended communications is possible with a tweet. However, that said, tweets must be interspersed with longer "communication occasions" to truly develop connection (ie. emails, DMs, skype, F2F meetings).

    I think the problem with the "conversation" as you state it is a variation on a theme, but viewed through the lens of current technology. People (and by extension, brands) have ALWAYS preferred to talk about themselves. Only truly gifted communicators comprehend the value of listening more than they speak.

    Blogs and comments are the latest incarnation of publishing; only now, the "letters to the editors" section is global and the author of the "letter" expects to be heard on an equal playing field as the publisher.

    Reply
    • I think the notion of equality is important. What's fascinating is that the platform does exist to have a conversation (like this one), but it feels more like individuals want content hard and fast. It's more like, "you said your peace, here is mine... and I don't have the time to come back and get at it."

      Snackable content. Snackable conversations?

      Reply
      • Posted by mckra1g
        Mitch Joel

        Snackable - perhaps. But, when I go out for dinner, I sample the wine before ordering a glass.

        I think that the possibility for expansion of conversations exists within a snackable construct. Nothing happens without a catalyst, and the amount of catalytic agents can be very small in relation to the other elements.

        What's key it to be aware of what you have to offer and to whom. From there, you can cultivate communications with those who wish to engage you.

        ...and those engagements are based on what conversations have always been based upon. Some of it is "gut" reaction; some is based on "what's in it for me?" ...true and lasting communications take time.

        We're just immersed in it right now (on a global scale). I think of social media as a pond into which a big boulder has been tossed. The swirling sediment is The Conversation. Where things sift out? That's aggregation.

        Reply
        • It might make more sense to say that Social Media can act as a catalyst for brand conversations, but in the meantime, be aware that people are talking about brands and engaging with them online. The truly great brands transcend into the realm of conversation.

          Reply
    • Posted by Amod Munga
      Mitch Joel

      "Blogs and comments are the latest incarnation of publishing; only now, the "letters to the editors" section is global and the author of the "letter" expects to be heard on an equal playing field as the publisher."

      Good point. In fact, it's that very asynchronous nature of the blog that is its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. Conversations are very much real-time, contextual and blogs are not. Case in point: I'm responding to this comment a day later.

      I think blogs are great for sparking discussions but in terms of real conversation, they lack the momentum of the real thing - and are very much, as you say, an incarnation of "letters to the editor"

      Reply
  • Posted by Jay Ehret
    Mitch Joel

    Back in the early days of Twitter (two years ago), I think there were conversations, Mitch. You could ask a question and get a response. I made many friends on Twitter in those days with just a couple hundred followers. Now, with nearly 7000 followers, I will ask a question and get fewer responses than I did two years ago, and sometimes none at all. Questions and conversations get lost in a sea of shared links. So, yes, I do believe social media conversations once were alive.

    Reply
    • So, the fire hose of content and oceans of streams is killing the conversation. Basically, it's a scenario where everyone is publishing and simply waving their arms for that millisecond of attention from others.

      Reply
      • Posted by Jenn Vonhagen
        Mitch Joel

        wow - you nailed my feelings about whats going on: "Basically, it's a scenario where everyone is publishing and simply waving their arms for that millisecond of attention from others." I thought it was just me.... thanks for the interesting take on all of this.

        Reply
        • Posted by Lisa Stockwell
          Mitch Joel

          I'm with you Jenn,and thank Mitch for presenting the issue. But then I just noted there are now 176 comments, which says to me that people are actually starving for the conversation. There just aren't enough good ones (and lots of competition for our time).

          I am tied to email and one thing I find is that when a blog gives the option to follow future comments by email, I am more likely to get back into the conversation when future comments spark my interest. Is there a reason you don't provide that option Mitch?

          Reply
          • It's coming... it's coming. We're doing comment subscription via both email and RSS. Ironically, we had it on the Blog put the analytics told us it wasn't critical. Once I switched patterns/engagement here, it's clear we need it and it will be back online in the coming short while.

            Reply
            • Posted by Lisa Stockwell
              Mitch Joel

              Looking forward to it. Although with blogs like today's, I will be getting a new email every few minutes! You'll just have to make sure you don't deliver such thought provoking content every day!

              Reply
      • Posted by Beth Harte
        Mitch Joel

        That's exactly it. So many people are looking for notoriety, that they aren't focused on actual conversations (or completing real work via social media).

        Let's be honest here for a moment... There are a lot of "Social Media Experts (gurus, whatever)" who are leading the pack on anti-conversation in hopes to score their next book deal or keynote based on their followers, fans, etc. And the people watching follow in their footsteps...

        Conversations take time and effort. And yes, they aren't scalable for one person. But, it would be nice to see people stop worrying about their notoriety (*cough*personalbrand*cough), come back down to earth and actually start showing how conversations in social media can lead to business. Otherwise, social media channels will, over time, become just like typical push marketing channels (they are 50% there already!).

        Beth Harte
        Serengeti Communications
        @bethharte

        Reply
        • I've Blogged about this before. Individuals become engaged online and then get notoriety - from there they no longer connect/share (or limit it to serious broadcasting) and have used that "community" to leverage their own bidding.

          In a private email chain with some friends/peers, we were laughing that the summit for many of these "Social Media Experts" is to get mass media attention so that they can ignore the people that got them there.

          Crude... but very true if you look at some of the "A-Listers". It's also somewhat sad and ironic.

          Reply
  • Posted by Parissa Behnia
    Mitch Joel

    Great post... I agree that blogs are meant to be conversations but they can't be written with the expectation that people will read and comment, let alone read. I can't remember the data from Groundswell but the number of people that create are far outnumbered by those that don't react and create. My modest blog is written as if I'm having a live conversation with nice people seated around me in that I will bring up points that refute mine much like live conversation would.

    The other thing I find about these media is that I feel like I'm on the trading pit of yore (think Trading Places) with everyone yelling buy and sell at one another. Somehow, there are those that make a connection and others that don't either due to lingo, pricing or what have you.

    As much as these channels are open they are also exclusive to the detriment of the newbie or the outsider or even the shy/diffident. I'm very much on the steep end of the social media learning curve and it often feels like there are secret handshakes and rites that you have to uncover as you are gladly trying to engage with others and learn from them. Truthfully, it does feel clique-y at times but I have no complaints because as much as I've erred, I've also learned quite a bit.

    Lastly, I've read many posts and not responded because I don't know how to due to my learning curve. Or, because I don't do the self serving "I agree. And here's the link to my site." type of comment I see so often.

    Whew! Thanks again for revving up the mental engines!

    Regards,

    Parissa Behnia

    Reply
    • Posted by mckra1g
      Mitch Joel

      I love the Trading Places analogy! Now I feel like a glass of orange juice. ;)

      Reply
    • That's a great point: sometimes, the sheer volume of feedback and comments is enough to make someone think: "why bother?" or "I don't want to look like a newbie here." It reminds me of classic networking events, where it's either people sticking to their own because they're shy or those sales-y types that whip their business cards around the room like they are ninja stars. There is probably a better/happier middle-ground.

      Reply
  • Posted by Amod Munga
    Mitch Joel

    To my mind, I've always considered a conversation a form of communication where value is exchanged. No value exchange, no conversation. And what's being passing for conversation out here these days is pretty much a collection of lectures, monologues and diatribes.

    And when it comes to such things as blogging and marketing, most of us are still in the audience. And I don't mean the THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW audience (all dressed up and packing water pistols). I mean the audience at the opening night of AIDA or TOSCA, where we sit quietly and applaud when it's appropriate.

    Content generators (marketers, brands, bloggers etc) are also to blame for this. There's no exchange. We build it, the audience comes. They leave a comment, we don't respond. We don't listen and we don't acknowledge their input in a meaningful way tha shows we've actually thought about what they've said.

    And like a 30" TVC is not a story, this is not a conversation. We all need to lean in, engage to be engaged, or all we've done is transported what we've been doing for the last 30 years onto a computer screen.

    (Interestingly - to me anyway - I blogged about this very thing in 2008...off an open request by yourself, Mitch. The link is in my name).

    Reply
    • Posted by mckra1g
      Mitch Joel

      Wow. A Trading Places and a Rocky Horror Picture Show reference in one comments section. This is a great day so far!

      Your point about value exchanged is spot on (and again, why I follow so few). If I know of two folks who can benefit from knowing of each others' existence, their connection will automatically benefit scores more).

      ....and now, I'll go have a piece of TOAST with that orange juice ;) (we used to attend the midnight showing whenever possible).

      Reply
      • With this mass amount of content, it's also hard (and a lot of work) to figure out who can really add value and how you can engage in the back and forth.

        What's interesting is how a lot of the comments on this post give off a feel like these channels are now cold or that the Bloggers are not approachable. This is truly fascinating. It's like the bigger named Bloggers have become "too cool for school" and are seen as unapproachable.

        I hope I don't fall into that category. In fact, I'm doing everything I can to move in the opposite direction.

        Reply
        • Posted by Amod Munga
          Mitch Joel

          "Blogs and comments are the latest incarnation of publishing; only now, the "letters to the editors" section is global and the author of the "letter" expects to be heard on an equal playing field as the publisher."

          Good point. In fact, it's that very asynchronous nature of the blog that is its biggest strength and its biggest weakness. Conversations are very much real-time, contextual and blogs are not. Case in point: I'm responding to this comment a day later.

          I think blogs are great for sparking discussions but in terms of real conversation, they lack the momentum of the real thing - and are very much, as you say, an incarnation of "letters to the editor"

          Reply
          • Posted by Amod Munga
            Mitch Joel

            And that comment is in the wrong place. Glitch in the matrix - or more than likely a PEBCAK error. It was meant to be a response to Mitch:

            The problem with being prolific and popular is that eventually you wind up being a lecturer. It's easy to be intimate when you have only 12 disciples. The point I'm getting at is that even though you can try your hardest to keep that one-on-one interaction going, it's basically going to be a full-time gig on its own.

            The best you can do, Mitch (and I think it's something you do very well) is communicate in a way that every one who comes in contact with your message feels that it was written/recorded just for him or her. It's kind of a mass personalisation of message (like JUST DO IT).

            Reply
            • I'm trying... I feel more like I am treading water - especially within the context of just this one Blog post...

              Reply
              • Posted by Amod Munga
                Mitch Joel

                Respectfully, I disagree. The reason we're not having more conversations on this level has less to do with an unwillingness to have the conversation and more to do with the technological constraints of the blog format. So what you're doing is the next best thing: making the best of the current situation. And doing it well by creating multiple conversation starters through adding value (blog, book, podcast). Of course, not all the resulting conversations are with you but the conversations are there (and they're about you).

                Reply
  • Posted by John McLachlan
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, as a relative newbie to blogging (a little over a year) but someone who has always been a HUGE believer in the power of conversations in any medium, I'd say "it depends."

    When I ran a non-profit arts organization with members ten years ago, email was the main tool and I used it to have conversations. It's sounds quant now using it that way, but that was the tool at hand. At that time, others didn't use it that way.

    I wonder if that's the situation today. Some use blogs for conversations, some don't.

    I was intrigued by Dave Winer's thoughts on this as well. I think the blogs are publications idea may be true. Gotta think about that one.

    Reply
    • It would be interesting to see if we can make that transition from a publication into a conversational publication. The platform exists and it can be done. It will take focus and a reliance on individuals to not focus on "how many" people are following them, but rather "who" they are connected to... and what those relationships mean.

      Reply
      • Posted by John McLachlan
        Mitch Joel

        Having always worked with relatively small organizations, I've always wondered "how do we fit in" when compared to the big guys. The cool thing about not worrying about how many followers/contributors is that it works really well for smaller organizations. It makes for an opportunity to have very rich and meaningful conversations because the people involved actually have time to devote to it.

        Seems to me, Mitch, you're doing this really well on your site. You are making it conversational though I wonder how much time it must take you replying to so many posts. I take my hat off to you. I also appreciate that you care enough. You practice what you preach.

        Reply
        • I believe this to be because small businesses aren't focused on those big, traditional mass media numbers. Imagine asking a Blogger or small business owner about their GRPs.

          As for me, this is all still new to me and it does take a lot of time and concentration. But, this is what we do (Twist Image) to grow our business and the industry we serve. I also happen to find it very enjoyable (just don't tell anybody ;)

          Reply
  • Posted by Matches Malone
    Mitch Joel

    I'm not generally seeing the difference between a chat and a conversation. I've had conversations across all the above mediums you mention. It's also not clear to me that Dave Winer is right. If you believe him to be correct, then I guess I won't see this comment posted here, and I'll have to author a longer one on my blog, and trackback. Why create all this extra work for me? Let me know why you feel this way.

    Reply
    • I think Winer's "rules" were interesting. It's also "his house" and he can decide and dictate the level of discourse that he would like to engage with. Beyond that, I think his sentiment was to get people to slow down. To think about the content, to come back to it and to let it marinate a little longer.

      We're all guilty of the click-read-brain dump-leave type of activities. You'll note that very little Blog conversation does happen 24 hours after a Blog post is put live. That does tell us something.

      Reply
      • Posted by John McLachlan
        Mitch Joel

        Mitch, you raise the issue of how little commenting happens once 24 hours have elapsed. This seems a shame sometimes because there are often posts that get lost in time and beyond "reposting" I think it's a shame that newer people coming to a blog for the first time, often miss out on contributing or benefiting from hearing what others said on a particular post.

        Reply
        • These Blogs were created as online journals, so the usability is based on date (and not quality of content). That being said, I've seen Bloggers link to their favourite posts and other cool little drivers to get their ideas to spread.

          Lately, I've been noticing that some Bloggers are tweeting out some of their older Blog posts to re-stimulate the dialogue. Pretty cool little ideas, if you ask me.

          Reply
  • Posted by CDN Jones
    CDN Jones

    I've been having the same thoughts lately, Mitch. When our company began participating in social media (mainly FB and Twitter), it didn't pan out exactly how we 'thought' it would. We were hoping for all kinds of comments from end-users on our Facebook page, good and bad feedback, and whatever. We were also hoping that our partners in our industries that were participating on Twitter would be retweeting our news as much as we had been retweeting theirs, figuring that sharing news to sources that wouldn't normally receive it would increase the awareness of everyone in the industry about what's going on throughout it. That hasn't happened.

    It seems like the majority of Twitter users, for example, don't really know why they are there. Much like the users on Facebook who simply look at increasing their 'friends' number to as large as possible, Twitter users seem to be following that same trend. They'd rather have hundreds of people who never look at their stuff than a handful of people who are genuinely interested.

    I've also noticed recently that there have been several Twitter users who have 'followed' me ( I don't have a very large follower list to begin with) , and then a day or two later will unfollow me. I guess it's because I don't automatically follow everyone who follows me. I believe if you are interested/amused/entertained by my posts, why does it matter if I follow you back? This goes back to your original point, that if this truly were a conversational media, these activities sure don't reflect that.

    If there are real, interactive, ongoing conversations happening out there, I've yet to experience one.

    Reply
    • Don't take this in a negative way... it could also be that the type of content that you are creating is not resonating with an audience. My personal take: I've written Blog posts where I thought the content was the second coming and got nothing but crickets after posting it. I've written Blog posts that I thought were "toss aways" and it stimulated tons of comments, retweets, etc...

      Creativity and understanding an audience is a tricky game. I often wonder why this Blog is not more popular... and I often wonder if it's because I am not 100% in-line with how the community and the audience wants things.

      I'm becoming very cognizant of not trying to make the many channels and platforms bend to my will, but rather how I can do things that will make things resonate with my intended audience.

      Reply
  • Posted by Joe Sorge
    Mitch Joel

    I can't help but think that the discussion about this topic, particularly here, where a bunch of smart early adopters gather to learn, will be more than slightly skewed.

    I continue to think of the internet and the "conversation age" in it's very early days, mostly because I feel like you could walk down any street, in any town and ask someone a social media based question and they'd have no clue what you are talking about.

    As I watch my customers and my industry just now start to embrace these technologies, I feel as if I've been given a gift. A gift in the opportunity to be a bit of a place of education, a place where they can learn and I can teach, how to best use those same tools to actually engage and in fact "join the conversation".

    Don't you think it's up to us to pilot this movement?

    Reply
    • It's always incumbent on the early adopters to foster this sort of stuff, but let's be honest, it's when everyone else jumps in that we truly see what the channel is for.

      Look at Twitter: most of the bigger names are broadcasting and most of the masses are just following their messages. Sure, some of us (yes, I'm looking at you and I) do much more engagement, but I bet Twitter is way more about broadcasting than either of us could have imagined.

      Is that a bad thing? No, it just is. And, like I said, sometimes our desire to have a conversation is different from the reality of what is truly taking place.

      Reply
      • Posted by Joe Sorge
        Mitch Joel

        You're right, a quick peek over there right now and it's basically just a ton of broadcasting. I suppose my hope is that at least businesses, no matter what type, retail, consultancy, whatever, will realize the true value of the conversation and true engagement that these tools can potentially bring to their bottom line and starting using them smarter.

        I've even seen some success in taking the conversation so far as to include the empowerment of my customers in some business decisions, but that's just me I suppose.

        What a great thread Mitch.

        Reply
        • It's possible that these channels are many different things to many different people. Again, I'm not saying that it's a bad thing that many places don't really have a semblance of a conversation, but let's not try to sell it or market it as such.

          Reply
  • Posted by Social Steve
    Mitch Joel

    I think your comments are accurate, but not the end of the story. Most are using social media still as a broadcast vehicle. Today, social media is not very, well, social. Most are using it as a "spread the word" opportunity. I can speak from my own experiences that getting brands to evolve from a speaking mentality to a speaking-listening-responding mentality is a slow change - but I do see some changes happening.

    A few things need to continue to change:

    1) Listening - most people and brands have not incorporated formal listening tools and processes into their social initiatives.
    2) Brand owner engagement - the conversations can not just be delegated to "social media interns." (Okay - maybe a strong statement, but hopefully you get the point.)
    3) More documented cases of success in true engagement. They're out there, we just meed more sharing.

    This just scratches the surface on an important topic. Thanks for teeing up the conversation!

    Best,
    Social Steve

    Reply
    • They're doing what comes naturally to them and that is shaping this channel. I try to be self-aware that these channels are different, but you're right - many do this simply as a way to decentralize and democratize what was their mass media play.

      The question is: does the conversation die as people - more and more - just use these spaces for broadcasting (with some responses).

      Reply
  • Posted by Will Burns
    Mitch Joel

    I don't think it's a "shift." I just think we're a room full of toddlers right now running around the room saying, "Ba, ba, ba!" hoping to be heard. I truly believe that, as we, and this medium, mature, there will be a better balance of talking and listening. It's still early...

    Reply
    • This comment made me laugh. It reminds of Gary Vaynerchuk's rant about how Social Media is still a baby... it's not even in High School... it hasn't even had sex yet. Tons of maturing (and changes) to happen...

      Reply
  • Posted by wesunruh
    Mitch Joel

    I heartily agree. Part of this also is the anonymous factor. Part of it is that not all readers are equipped to communicate purely in text. Part of it is the linkability factor - if people are commenting in one space, they need to be able to reference it elsewhere.

    Few sites have handled community as well as metafilter.com

    However, I also think that site, and others like it, show what is right with the conversational space on the web. Perhaps if more sites having issues building community were to study successful models they might develop better strategies.

    Twitter is certainly on the right track. Facebook certainly ain't.

    Reply
    • But we're not talking about those who do not comment or those who can't. Just take a look above: someone comments/I respond/nada. Is that "really" a conversation or is that just more one-way feedback?

      This might be a semantic debate, but I think there is a huge chasm between a comment and a conversation.

      Reply
  • Posted by Carol Mann
    Mitch Joel

    I don't actually see what the problem is? I see the Internet as a place to engage and connect - conversations actually take place IRL (in real life) - what Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook etc. do is FACILITATE a potential connection. You get to know someone 'a bit' have 'a bit' of banter - and THEN move into conversation. But this takes place off piste.

    Since starting 'properly' with my Twitter account I have gone from 0 to 1000 followers in four months... but QUALITY people. Many of us have now met in real life. Had some star conversations and are doing business together.

    Surely that's the magic. That's the conversation.

    Just a thought :)

    Reply
  • Posted by Luis F. Mejia
    Mitch Joel

    There was a time when we were separated by long distances, time delays, etc. Now, is is only Six Pixels. There's not reason why ideas and yes, “conversation” can't be developed with the 140 character Twitter limit.
    On a tweet I posted on June 24th, I said, “ Lets use Twitter to validate/reshape our thinking & expect feedback. Using it as an “index” of what is out-there, Googleize it.”
    If we can connect in Six Pixels, we could converse in 140 characters.
    Obviously this intervention here breaks that rule. Call it poetic license.

    Reply
  • Posted by ideathinker
    Mitch Joel

    There might be something in our current culture that has as much blame as anything else, you look around and everything has to be the "next thing" and news are not news longer then it takes you to publish them, the room to stop and think and construct a thought before you reply is none existing these days.

    To start with the last section: I've missed the old track back system where you would post a few lines as a comment on a blog, that prompted you to post your own long post dwelling on the subject maybe deviating a bit from it - on the other hand I think conversations happens right here on the blog, but when the thread grows - the likeliness of someone following decreases.

    I always felt that twitter as I known it the last past year has involved in to a broadcasting platform more than anything else. It's the cable-network so to speak.

    that these are the "new conversations" are rubbish unless you want to redefine what conversations means.

    maybe it has something to do with a factor you mitch should know a thing or two about with you background in the music industry. New trends and underground bands are hot and exciting until they get commercialized and goes mainstream - maybe something of that is happening here to. I mean have we come to the next "foursquare" or are we still on the "next twitter".

    I hope there is a place for the good conversation, and I'm glad a few people are raising the question.

    Reply
    • I miss trackbacks too. I don't why they died off and I wish they would come back. I think your other point is salient too, but we're getting beyond the shininess of Blogs. So, those that follow Blogs are beyond the fad and looking to connect. Part of the issue is that it's hard. Just looking at all of these amazing comments and feeling the need to respond is hard. The lesson? Conversations are hard. Social Media is hard. Most people (and brands) don't have the wherewithal to make a real go at it.

      Reply
  • Posted by Griff Wigley
    Mitch Joel

    Joel,

    I'm glad you raised this issue. I think it's fine for a blog to be a publication and each blog post to be the equivalent of an article, column, or speech. I often tell my clients that they need not have comments enabled on their posts, that they can add that component later if they wish. As a leadership-leveraging tool, a blog can be very effective without the conversational element. And Facebook and Twitter can just be used to help the blog post 'travel' to more people.

    That said, I think a blog post can also be a starting point for a real dialogue, one in which a spirit of inquiry holds sway.

    I do think that there are semantics surrounding the world of online conversations that might be worth investigating here.

    For example, it seems as though there's a 'depth' spectrum for online conversations, something like this:

    Social chit-chat -> Feedback -> Debate -> Dialogue

    and that debate and dialogue require considerably more from the blogger (moderator) for the experience to be fruitful.

    But I could be wrong. ;-)

    Reply
    • I think you're right - time and the ability to respond in a way that engages a real conversation is also not easy and it takes a serious commitment (plus, it's a skill if you have it). I'm going start repeating myself here: conversations are hard.

      Reply
  • Posted by Kathryn Wilson
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch, I agree with you. It's been knawing away at me for a while - meaningful conversations are simply NOT happening in social media.
    However, I think it's a case of the medium - it's simply not instant enough. Then there's time - we're all so busy being busy that we just don't all have the time to engage in thought or discuss ideas with others anymore.
    And there's a lack of good neighbourliness - we don't talk to our neighbours anymore. We're all strangers in a world of strangers, too afraid or withdrawn to reach out to others, who are usually indifferent or busy anyway....
    However, all is not lost. I believe conversations do happen more in forums or instant messaging platforms - those media are simply more configured for back-and-forth discussions.

    Reply
    • I too will take this degradation in conversation over having nothing any day. For me, what crystallized how this works was going to PodCamp (and other unconferences). You can do many great things online, but there's nothing like sitting in a room and having a passionate conversation/debate over a topic that everyone has a steak in.

      Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch,

    I have to say I agree with the point on blogs. There aren’t many conversations taking place – it is mainly feedback.

    Personally, I enjoy it when people leave comments on my blog and I try to respond to every single one. It is quite rare that a deep conversation takes place though. The thing I tend to forget is that many people don’t have as much free time as I do and getting involved in a conversation through blog comments can be quite time consuming. Seeking physical involvement rather than just thoughts and ideas tends to increase the volume of conversations.

    I am not complaining though – I understand the time restraints, value the comments that are made and am thankful that people have spent the time they did sharing their views and knowledge. I have certainly learnt from them – they have certainly added value.

    I certainly think conversations of substance are taking place on Twitter. Quite often these are the start of conversations which then have to be followed with deeper engagement, but without the initial conversations in the first place, some ideas would never even occur.

    Thanks

    Rob

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I think there's many factors:

    When people come to the internet they mainly come to solve a problem or be entertained. And that still seems to be the case.

    And I think about when I go out with a bunch of friends. Some friends steal the show and others enjoy it. Not everyone blabs on or has deep thoughts or ideas for the experience but we're all along for the journey and enjoying it in our own way.

    Out of all of the Big bloggers out there I think that you're the only one Mitch that actually has a conversation on your blog. And even comments. And throws out ideas and questions.

    I thought I saw somewhere on your site that you're referred to as "Your host"
    That is a particular frame of mind that leads to a certain type of behavior that is reflected in your posts.

    And I think time is a huge factor. Took me a while to read the post then read all the comments...then think of my own...then write it down. then make sure i don't sound like a moron.

    It's more like, "you said your peace, here is mine... and I don't have the time to come back and get at it."

    You said snackable content. Snackable conversations? I've been seeing a growth in the content and post size of sites but haven't really seen the conversations growing beyond bite sized.

    Reply
    • What stood out for me here is that I fail to remember that I see the Internet more as an educational channel when many people probably do not. To really help me grow and develop. I'm thankful for all of the relationships that are created out of it, but I'd be willing to forgo the social aspect for the education it provides me. That being said, I've met some of my very best friends right here - in these words.

      Thanks for the reminder.

      Your humble host...

      Reply
  • Posted by Lesley Aveyard
    Mitch Joel

    Well seeing as my company is called 'conversation matters' I thought it only fitting to give my few pence (cents) worth.

    Where do I sit on this one? Ok for me, conversations are happening but not to the extent I hoped for.

    CDNJones tells of Twitter followers/unfollowers and the lack of participation on applications such as FB pages etc.

    If Social Media had been declared the best thing since sliced bread at KEEPING customers then I think things would have panned out quite differently.

    Are Brands not more interested in winning new fans, followers customers and friends than they are at keeping existing ones?

    Example - one of my clients has 400 friends on FB, we create a FB Page and only 70 or so moved across. Why? Client didnt interact on FB previously, just invited them as friends and let them sit there! There had been no previous interaction. Clutching at straws to keep them interested, these friends/people would have long remained forgotten if Social Media hadn't nipped my client :)

    What is said, how brands interact is very important. If all I get are marketing messages and 'plugs'I won't respond. Marketing - such a macho affair!! All squeaky clean and full of positives, never any weaknesses or hints of 'humanity'.

    To me 'conversations' currently are the mentions and retweets on Twitter, the likes on FB, the bookmarking on Delicious, the posting to StubledUpon, the rating on YouTube - we click a mouse to share & recommend - no spoken words used :) but we are 'conversing'. People are talking about 'us' if they pass on information about us and share. This is surely better than nothing.

    If customers have not been 'involved in' or 'interacted with' prior to Social Media enagement, they need time to adapt.

    My online conversations become F2F conversations as I try and meet up with as many new people as I can, extening my network and (possibly) influencers. These include people from the either end of the Uk, not just locals, and I even managed to meet up with chris brogan too

    No one comments (well hardly ) on my humble blog, but I get a fair share of 'reactions'.

    Maybe to type a few words is becoming too time consuming for many when they can say they agree or like by the click of a mouse instead.

    Did anyone else here have more conversations in the good old fashioned forums?

    Reply
    • Posted by Griff Wigley
      Mitch Joel

      Leslie asked:

      "Did anyone else here have more conversations in the good old fashioned forums?"

      Leslie,

      On the 'civic' blog for our small town where I'm a moderator, we have 500-1,000 comments/month, about the same as what we use to have for our web-based message boards.

      But this really takes significant effort to moderate, including maintaining the culture of civility that we've fostered over the years.

      The 'mentions' and 'likes' and retweets are part of the engagement that are now part of the social media landscape and that's fine. But I don't think of that as conversation which to me involves either debate or dialogue.

      Reply
      • "The 'mentions' and 'likes' and retweets are part of the engagement that are now part of the social media landscape and that's fine. But I don't think of that as conversation which to me involves either debate or dialogue."

        I love that. What you're talking about is feedback... totally agree. We do mess us the terms a lot, don't we?

        Reply
      • Posted by Lesley Aveyard
        Mitch Joel

        Well it depends...and we could end up splitting hairs here - the question to be answered is - is there conversation happening?

        The conversation may not always stay on line. When talking about Retweets, mentions etc, if I like something I retweet it - more often than not this turns into a discussion by someone who read my Retweet. It happened today when I was asked about something I had RT'd on Twitter yesteray and he wished to learn more and asked me about it. These discussions more than often end up as a F2F.

        Conversation:

        informal interchange of thoughts, information, etc., by spoken words; oral communication between persons; talk; colloquy.

        I join in online 'chats' like #commschat where we discuss and debate. I have conversations on Twitter about a whole shed load of things, not just work. I converse with my friends on FaceBook, and very often converse on LinkedIn - quick 1 or 2 liners back and forth so both of us dont need to break off what we are doing to hold the phone to our ear.

        Conversations are happening - and each 'bubble' of space on the Social Web is different. Mine is full of great people with whom I converse as well as communicate. I spent an hour or two in a clients' social 'bubble' on Twitter - wow was the timeline a suprise. Hardly any conversations, just broadcasting and publishing.

        I think it is safe to say that Conversation isnt dead - it just depends where and with whom you 'hang out.

        Reply
        • I'd never say that conversation is dead. Ever. If we look at that definition it says "exchange" do we equate an exchange with thought/comment/nothing? That seems to be the more generic flow we tend to see in Social Media (and yes, this Blog post does seem to be an ironic exception) - and what truly inspired this post. I'd love to see much more exchange.

          The interesting aspect may be that there's a new conversation where it's not as linear between two people, and the culmination of all of the feedback around any given piece of content - all together - is the semblance of a new type of conversation.

          Reply
    • It would be interesting to see what our world might look like if we all agreed that these channels are social but not conversational. That the true merit of a brand is not if someone rates, likes or thumb's up ya, but if someone actually takes the time to start a conversation about you.

      Think about the analytics there: someone loves you enough to spend the time engaged and talking with you.

      It's also fair to say that these channels are conversational... but you have to earn that conversation.

      Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I've always thought that a big problem with the whole "conversation" thing was semantics. People are led to believe that there is one giant conversation happening and they need to be a part of it, when reality is that there are many conversations happening, and the trick is to find and participate in the ones that are relevant to you.

    Are there many broadcasting, one way comments/tweets/posts, etc? Absolutely. But when people actually do find the relevant conversations to their interests and participate in them, they do feel sense of connection, and that, essentially, is what it's all about.

    Reply
    • Posted by Lesley Aveyard
      Mitch Joel

      In a nutshell Stacey - well put :)

      Reply
    • I do grapple with this. Is feedback really a conversation (I liked what Griff said above about dialogue and debate)? I think we get a lot of feedback (what people like and what they think), but again, I don't see much substantial conversation... and what I do see seems to be shrinking as the days drone on and as more and more people hop online to shill their wares and beat their chests.

      Reply
      • Mitch Joel

        I think feedback is the start of a potential conversation. Basically it's like "I said this" which bounces the ball into the other person's court. The other person's feedback can either be positive or negative, but basically they're bouncing the ball back to you to see what you do with it. I used to comment on many blogs where the author made great points, but then I realized that the majority of their comments were "Great post, So-and-so" and basically it stopped there. There's a lot of back-patting and ego stroking in this space, sure. But personally, I find that I get the most out of people who challenge my ideas and my way of thinking. Ari Herzog is one such person. I don't always agree with him, but I at least respect him for his viewpoints, and he's constantly challenging me and others in the 'sphere. We need more people like that. I can't have a real, true "conversation" with somebody that agrees with me up and down, not only is that boring but it doesn't really help me hone my thoughts very well, or question my own POV. I think it comes down to what one considers a "conversation" -- to me, it's when I say my POV to one or more people, and whether they agree or disagree with me, they at least add to my viewpoint in one way or another, whether to support it or to point out its weak points and tell me why. I think not only is it semantics, but it's all in how deep one wants to go.

        Reply
        • Ari is great at making me re-think something (and yes, sometimes he also makes me realize how right I am and how wrong he is ;) LOL).

          You hit the nail on the head. I find that all too often the Blogger gives a limp "thank you" instead of pushing the conversation, or the Blogger does respond but the person who left the comment never returns. That was really the spirit of this post, but by the looks of the back and forth... I may have argued a point that actually did create and engage in conversation.

          I'm sure Ari would be happy to see how wrong I was (don't tell him that it makes me happy to be wrong in this instance too).

          Reply
          • Posted by Heather Rast
            Mitch Joel

            I've had this post open in my browser for days, mulling over the thoughts flowing around. Indeed 'conversations' may be an insufficient or even inadequate word to describe the fragmented, multi-channeled communication we call social media. Conversation implies a certain level of intimacy and immediacy, even concentration and attention level that participants really can't get in social media, the possible exception being when those connections are augmented with real-life bonding experiences (lunch, a common friend, a conference, whatever) or when there's a shared passion and the participants make true effort to share and learn. But it's what we have, and I expect much more from the future. Not necessarily improved tools to enable greater scale (although I suspect that, too) per se, but rather better ways to reach, touch, and enhance the lives of others, as consumers or brand engagement folk. Small with Distinction may very well trump Large and Shallow.

            On another note touched on by Stacy L. - I've found that after consuming a lot of content, sometimes a contrarian surfaces in a 'conversation'...and not in a good way. I respect a person's right to provide a dissenting opinion and have been known to warm to their position given some time to step outside of my own shoes. Accurate or inaccurate, that can add something to the whole the group (author and commenters). However just like some persons may hijack a topic and ride a resulting popularity wave (as you suggest, to the potential demise of their closer social circles), there are others who toss poorly considered thoughts out like hand grenades. I've seen this disrupt a genuine flow within comments and replies and feel those types of abrasive words are a thinly disguised veil for dropping a link. That's self-serving and not a contribution. Maybe it's the way of the "anti-celebrity" but I don't personally care for it. Common courtesy belongs in conversation of any form. Hell, I can be a crabapple for the sake of being a crabapple (especially if I snag a link), but in the end don't I just end up with a sour face?

            Reply
            • ... and this is become some people just like to set fires online and see what catches. I'm not a fan of those either, and I worried that by engaging in the comments I would be spending too much time debating something that is not debatable (or shouldn't be). In the end, I'm banking on the quality of the people who come here. I'm hopeful that those who do leave their thoughts will elevate the dialogue (as you have done).

              Reply
  • Posted by teamworkf1
    teamworkf1

    hello everyone,

    I've seen the change from a year to today. Before i used to have a "dialogue" with twitter followers, very quickly, and it was fun. Now, it got silence and i am lazy. why?
    I wait for twitter to send me the link, i don't even go to the websites anymore.

    It's really sad that this is happening. No it's not a bad thing but once again the communication is one way.

    Reply
  • Posted by Muchiri Nyaggah
    Mitch Joel

    Hi Mitch,

    We throw the word engagement around a great deal but businesses many times don't realize how much work is real engagement involves. I like Jeremiah Owyang's simplified definition for engagement "apparent interest". Engagement is conversation. You speak, I speak...and so on and so forth. That's how I know you're interested. The basic assumption sometimes is that the customer or visitor's comments indicate engagement and nothing else is therefore required. The brand therefore doesn't 'engage back'. We put up a post on our blog yesterday on just this same thing (no one's engaged yet :) )

    I think conversation isn't quite dead yet. Meaningful conversations are driven by genuine interest. Businesses put out content, we get interested. If the brand/business finds that content interesting as well, they will engage back. On this post you have yourself responded to many of the comments which is (in my unscientific measure) a sign of great engagement. You have shown some "apparent interest" in us :).

    My observation is that brands may not be putting out content that is genuinely relevant and authentic to them. If they find what they put out boring and sub-standard, they won't get drawn into a conversation around it. I suspect that you don't find responding on comments here a drag because you are genuinely interested. And that makes you a great inspiration.

    Reply
    • I would never argue that Social Media is full of engagement - people connecting to one another, sharing, and giving each other feedback, but this whole other level of conversation? Not so much. Sadly... and it's getting less and less with each passing day.

      Reply
  • Posted by Rob Griggs
    Mitch Joel

    Twitter especially reminds me of the stock market or traders screaming at each other each trying to get their points across.

    The question is "Who is actually listening?".

    This rubbish that some people preach that you should follow people who follow you. it's trash. You end up with 10,000 followers and you follow 10,000.

    How can you possibly be listening to anyone??

    140 characters is not enough to interact and engage your potential customers. But maybe that's just it. It's used mostly as a broadcasting platform for marketers. Too much speaky speaky and not enough listening.

    I am not saying it can't work. It just has to be used correctly. Big brands get more value from it I'm sure, but for the little man, he's just a tadpole in a very big pond.

    Another thought. If it's hard for small business now to be heard. What's it going to be like in 5 or 10 years from now??

    Reply
  • Posted by Marie-France Gaudreau
    Mitch Joel

    I personally think that looking into WHO is playing on the social media scene is part of the answer as to why there aren't that many real conversations happening online.

    Although social media have been around for a few years now, they are still in the early stages of adoption for many, many people (the regular folks, I mean...). Of course, there is a group of very proficient bloggers, content creators and social media strategists out there... They are very active on the different platforms, they know how to work them, and have a genuine interest in joining in.

    The rest of the world (and there are many of them!) are developing an interest for the social networks and platforms, too. But they are doing so in a different way. Not to share knowledge or exchanging ideas, but rather to get info, see who's doing what or occasionally post this new status or this cool video for their friends to enjoy. These users are not seeking a connexion of any kind. They do not want to invest time, to engage with others, to get involved. They don't need to. They drop by for a couple of minutes in the morning, browse around, see what they have to see, and they leave. And they do it again a couple of times throughout the day. And they are perfectly happy doing so. Social media, networks and platforms are entertainment to them... and perhaps a source of information too, at times.

    And this is why I do not think we are ready for true conversations online yet. Simply because there is too much of a gap between the early adopters who master social media and the common folks who are just getting to know it, and who still view it as entertainment.

    If we threw them all together in a room, off line, the social media savvy would probably end up doing most of the talking, answering questions and talking about their experience... while the other guests would observe and listen, throwing in a question here and there... just like what is currently happening online !

    Reply
    • But we can still focus on those who are here and engaged... why are they not truly engaging in conversations. I think it goes back to some of the earlier comments about education, care, time and energy.

      Reply
  • Posted by Martijn Linssen
    Mitch Joel

    Thanks Mitch, perfect timing and post. I replied to Dave:

    @davewiner Your commenting proposal is a bad idea; it would turn the web into a television without reruns. Blogs and Twitter R conversations

    (http://twitter.com/MartijnLinssen/status/21850157490)

    Completely in style, Dave didn't answer - now he has one follower less (not that it will hurt him LOL)

    I think Life is about dialogue, conversation, jamming, fusion, mixing it all together. Engage, collaborate, cooperate, interact, whatever you want to call it: give in abundance and receive in abundance

    I find that on Twitter, blogs, and blog comments - and not always of course. I think that maybe you have grown, matured or changed out here, more so than the environment itself. It's called evolution...

    I especially find the combination of Twitter and blogs a healthy, creative one. But, the quantity game has reached blog comments as well indeed, and some blogs just don't give a ... about reader comments as long as they are many, just as Dave apparently doesn't give a ... about his Twitter followers as long as they agree with him

    It is what it is, like you say - it's a Pulse, a sinus or a cosinus and it will go up and down a bit. Depending on your own position within that, the movement seems stronger or weaker

    Reply
    • And we can change that pulse. Look at how this content has evolved since I've begun to "play in the comments" as Chris Brogan likes to say. It has changed the dynamics. I think we have a lot of engagement, I'm just not sure that we're neck-deep in real conversations... yet. Maybe they need to happen in person or maybe we're over-thinking this all, and Blogs act as a great place to publish ideas with feedback and engagement, but the conversations need to happen somewhere else?

      Reply
  • Posted by Matthew Ebel
    Mitch Joel

    You've got the beginnings of a good point there… As with all things, though, I think the definition comes not from the tool but the person wielding it. The dictionary calls it the informal exchange of ideas by spoken words. Ignoring the "spoken" part, the only thing that's preventing conversation are the people who don't want to continue the exchange beyond call and response.

    And that's okay!

    No, seriously. You're probably not trying to start a conversation with people every single time you open your mouth. Telling the Indian guy at Dunkin' Donuts what you want for breakfast isn't the start of a conversation. Ordering a pizza on the phone isn't the start of a conversation. Has anyone studied the average ratio of conversant vs. non-conversant spoken exchanges during the average person's day? Or how that compares with their output of tweets, updates, comments, and posts?

    How many blog posts are just press releases or brief musings tossed out there just for posterity? How often do we engage our commenters in a real exchange of thoughts?

    If you want conversation, I think I'm going to expound my thoughts a bit more over at http://bit.ly/cODajP rather than write several paragraphs in this tiny text field. :)

    Reply
    • Posted by Chris Dufour
      Mitch Joel

      Exactly. Responsibility for good conversation on- and offline always comes back to the people involved. All of these networks are just tools to facilitate that. Well put.

      Reply
    • Make sure you come back and send us the permalink, so we can take a look-see.

      The idea of this post was not that every Blog post or tweet is worthy of a conversation, it's coming more from the angle that even the stuff that should spark conversations usually doesn't because we're all too busy trying to shout at one another rather than push an idea through to some kind of interesting space.

      Like you, I don't see this as a negative thing, but let's not try to sell this to brands as a "conversation" when it's really just feedback and some light engagement.

      Reply
      • Posted by Matthew Ebel
        Mitch Joel

        I'm sorry, I didn't hear you, I was busy blogging something. What was that?

        Reply
      • Posted by Matthew Ebel
        Mitch Joel

        (Sorry, I couldn't resist. If you've followed me at all, you know I'm a smartass.)

        I totally understand what you're saying, though, and now I see the clarification. I still don't know if I'd limit it to feedback and light engagement. I've turned casual commenters into VIP Subscribers simply by talking to them. Well, and making music they want to support, but the inroad for many of them has been the fact that I do indeed converse.

        That permalink, assuming you were asking me, was http://bit.ly/cODajP (shortened for sanity). It's a bit cerebral, but it's relevant. I hope. :)

        Anyhoo, I think new media and social media could honestly be sold as a way to facilitate conversation, but not a guarantee thereof. You can get people's attention with a shiny new iToy, but only genuine interest can sustain a conversation. Kind of like viral videos- you can make a video, but only the content and the people can make it a phenomenon.

        Of course, the truth rarely sells. So start telling brands "a Facebook page, iPad app, and Second Life island will spark conversations galore" and they'll eat this shit up. ;)

        Reply
        • Brands also confuse "interest" and see it as an opportunity to push people to either listen to them or do their bidding. What we seem to be saying here is that if there really is any semblance of a conversation, it's going to be the consumer pushing things.

          Reply
          • Posted by Matthew Ebel
            Mitch Joel

            Yeah, the approach I've had to take as an independent musician (read: industry with a supply/demand ratio of about 1,000 to 1) is to simply keep the listeners' interest, with no hard sales pitch or anything, until I absolutely need their help. Buy an album, email a venue to get me booked, help me find a place to crash, etc. Readers/listeners are like batteries- if you keep recharging them, they'll power your world when you need them to.

            Reply
  • Posted by Eric Pratum
    Mitch Joel

    For as long as pictures of cats and funny internet videos have been around, the conversation has taken place largely in email exchanges. When MySpace was big, the comments section was really where conversation seemed to go on. For a while, wall posts seemed to serve the same purpose on Facebook, but I see less of that going on now. On Twitter...I don't know. Whenever I really want to talk with someone, I transition them to DM or IM for longer form. In blogs, we already have a smaller group of people accessing them than Facebook, YouTube, etc. Plus, for the average joe internet user, the only exposure they have to blogs is TMZ, Perez Hilton, and HuffPo, where there really aren't conversations. Can we change this? Honestly, I doubt it, but can we converse with each other more in the comments sections of blogs like this? Most definitely.

    Reply
    • Shhh... let's keep this as our little secret place to have real conversations about Digital Marketing, Social Media and Media Hacking topics of interests. I won't tell anybody if you don't!

      Reply
      • Posted by Eric Pratum
        Mitch Joel

        Ha! If I can take your current efforts as any indication, you may be bringing more attention to this topic and, as a result, more people to the conversation...which I applaud.

        Reply
        • Right, but that makes it more work and we're trying to have better conversations not more conversations. The idea of more conversations is what led us to this problem/Blog post.

          Reply
          • Posted by Eric Pratum
            Mitch Joel

            Good point. I guess that I was hoping, or maybe unsuccessfully implying, that the type of people your efforts (or this community's efforts) bring in are the right type of people, who will have the right type of interactions to move us forward.

            Reply
            • One would hope, but it still feels more like talk/feedback (with this Blog post as a weird exception to the rule ;).

              Reply
              • Posted by Eric Pratum
                Mitch Joel

                Valeria Maltoni just made a point in a comment on another post that drawing attention to something sometimes requires a rant. Maybe by calling out a lack of conversation here, you've actually generated a conversation. Not that you're ranting of course.

                Reply
                • Valeria is right (she usually is - her Blog rocks). It's not just rants, but it's also provocations (and that is what I had intentionally done with this Blog post). Ideas that are homogenous do not generate activity. Content this is pushed to an edge, gets people to raise an eyebrow, think a little and - hopefully - to start clicking the keys on their keyboards.

                  Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Mitch - looks like you've hit a nerve with this one!

    If we are talking about using social media for business, then it's irrelevant whether or not social media is a conversation. In my mind there are only 2 things:

    (1) what works, and (2) what doesn't.

    If "joining the conversation" grows short or long-term profits, then businesses will do it. If it doesn't, they won't (and probably shouldn't). Everything else is just hot air.

    Your business has been growing just fine without you "being in the conversation", hasn't it?

    Reply
    • Business is great and growing - thanks for asking, but as I explore these Social Media channels more and more, I do want to see more conversation. Hence, my commitment to trying to make that happen right here, in this space.

      I guess the true answer to my question will come from whether or not this idea sticks (to seal a turn from the amazing book, Made To Stick).

      Reply
  • First off, I love that this post now has over 50 comments -- an interesting way of demonstrating a blog post with a lot of response + follow up from the author! Great conversation :)

    Also, I agree completely. What an interesting world of social media we've entered -- is it robust? Does it need to be? Where are we going, and how do we get there? Do we need to move at all or should we stay put and be content that there are a lot of channels to begin with?

    There are a lot of questions, obviously.

    As a blogger who writes about a very niche topic -- Bikram yoga -- and therefore appeals to a pretty distinct audience, I'm hoping that things will open up. I have to say I've met some great people via my blog and our conversations continue to grow, but there's always room for improvement. I may just have to post about this phenomenon soon...

    Thanks for initiating the great thought leadership, Mitch! Your insight is always dead-on and I'm loving the blog. All the best!

    Reply
    • I think that if there isn't a real place online for people to have some real conversations about Bikram Yoga, then why not got at it yourself? It's hard, hard work, but worth it.

      What I'm learning through these comments is that many of us have a very different definition for the word "conversation" and we're probably not going to ever agree on a definition of it (which is fine).

      What's most important is that we can have these conversations... now we have to get at them.

      Reply
  • Posted by Chris Dufour
    Mitch Joel

    I can see where you're coming from on blog comments and other channels, but I disagree with you that Twitter is not a good ecosystem for conversations. When viewed disorganized like you are - or en toto - yes, Twitter seems unfocused.

    However, I have many rich conversations with people in my Twitter network every day. I have made friends, gotten people jobs, created content, and had a laugh: all things representative of physical domain conversation. It just depends on the depth and quality of your followers, those you follow, and lists you organize. You build your own conversation network on Twitter, so if you feel you're not actually getting good "back-and-forth" between you and your people, then I would argue that's more a function of how you curate that network on Twitter.

    Just my two cents. Thanks for listening, and thanks for the great post.

    Reply
    • The more I think about it, the more I think you're right. Twitter can definitely handle conversations (perhaps not as in-depth as I would like). I sometimes struggle with trying to frame things in 140 characters (or less) and wind up giving up because I figure that the person I'm engaged with will be on to something else by the next instance that the screen gets refreshed.

      My other challenge with Twitter and conversation is just how much content flows through. So, you spark something genius, but I don't see it until a few hours later and that "conversation" has come and, sadly, gone.

      Reply
  • Posted by Ryan McCormack
    Mitch Joel

    An interesting and provocative post, Mitch, as always...

    I think the question about conversation becomes semantic at some point, given the degree of nuance and variability in human communication and connection. Some people believe conversation requires extended exchange, others an exchange of value (as one commenter above put it). Other people feel like a conversation is happening without either of those two things. It's all a matter of perspective.

    Synchrony also seems to be a key element of the discussion. In the past, the only real "conversation" was one where you were sharing ideas with someone in real time (either face-to-face or through some other real-time medium like the telephone or instant messaging). The rise of blogging, then microblogging, enabled asynchronous communication, somewhere between writing a letter and talking at the pub. The nature of the exchange is different, which begs the question, is the term "conversation" elastic enough to handle these kinds of exchanges? When someone exchanges long-form letters with a friend, is that conversation? Is it any less valuable if it isn't?

    In my opinion, the label is irrelevant. The nature of the interaction, and the connections and ideas exchanged as a result, are what matter.

    Reply
    • I was jokingly going to leave one last comment to the affect of: "do we even have a definition for the word 'conversation' after all of this feedback and insight?"

      Conversation is a funny thing. Most people who have teenagers would agree that a grunted response is about as as strong of a conversation as one should expect.

      Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I'm not sure that the average person ever wanted a conversation, at least, nothing beyond an average interaction like in a retail transaction. What social media has done for consumers is given them a (louder?) voice, an easier way to be heard or to state an opinion, and then walk away. And luckily for businesses, they too can benefit from these quick interactions if they so choose.

    Reply
    • Agreed, but we can't disagree that Marketers have been trying to sell brands on the fact that there is a larger conversation happening. That's where the inspiration for this Blog post came from. I see the engagement. I don't see much conversation.

      Reply
      • Mitch Joel

        True, and you can see why: the opportunity for a conversation is there and it *does* sometime happen. But with smaller conversations, marketers see these as a possible wedge to bigger things (or not, because even that small interaction is worth something in our minds). However, it seems that that's not enough for most businesses, hence that ongoing ROI conversation that's been so prolific of late. To your point, marketers should keep the expectations of a conversation more realistic when pitching the jump into social media.

        Reply
        • It's like they want to know how qualified of a customer the person is before responding. It's very hard to become social and conversational if all you're looking for is how much value the other party is to you and the bottom line.

          Reply
  • Posted by Guy Pressault
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,
    Hum, trying to initiate a conversation from a blog, at least this one, is taking up a lot of your time today. But worth it. However conversations from blogs are much more akin to that age old concept of oped. Nothing has really change hasn't it. The inclusion of the Like button is pretty much a conversation killer. In my opinion there some very real conversations happening on-line but not necessarily through blogs. Just consider the conversation thread in gmail and you do indeed have multiple sustainable conversations with multiple contributors.
    Cheers

    Reply
    • No argument there... tons of conversations happening in the digital channels... but we're telling brands and businesses that they are happening in Social Media. When - in reality - I think the majority of us here would agree that this is simply (and sadly) not the case. One exception might be customer reviews. While there is no back and forth, it's hard to argue that a product with several customer reviews doesn't give off a great idea as to what the conversation is around a product/item.

      Reply
  • Posted by Mitch
    Mitch Joel

    Usually I don't comment on blogs that have so many comments ahead of mine, and yet I feel it's important this time because it goes the crux of your topic.

    Look at how many conversations you've had here? What I think you're looking for are the types of conversations one gets when they meet someone out for dinner, and if that's the case then you and a lot of other people are going to be disappointed. I see within the comments here that there's been a lot of back and forth conversations; it's not just people stopping by, saying something mundane, then leaving. Of course, you've also chosen to engage others, and I applaud you greatly for that.

    I've had many conversations on Twitter; way more than I've had on Facebook. Late at night, it seems when there's fewer people locally I get to have extended conversations with people from other places in the country and the world. Sure, they're truncated by the 140-character limit, but they're conversations nonetheless. And throughout all the social media options, if we decide we need to talk more we can take it to email or even to the telephone.

    I guess my point is that there is no end of communication in social media; it's just changed. Yet it still opens up opportunities for extended conversations elsewhere. I love that I have this great opportunity to meet way more people than I ever could just by walking out of the house. I've been to many local tweetups and met wonderful people in person who I'd have never met if it weren't for Twitter. I see that all as positive. Not perfect, but for me, better than what there was before.

    Reply
    • All great, valid and true points. I'd also agree that this Blog post (and the comments) are not typical Social Media conversations (they seem more like the conversations I thought were going away). It seems like - over the years - there has been a build-up of trust in this content and that inspires others to open up and share.

      That being said, if you hop over to some of my earlier posts you'll note that while there are comments, there is not that much conversation. As you can see, I'm still grappling with the difference between feedback and conversation.

      Reply
      • Posted by Mitch
        Mitch Joel

        Since I just discovered you, I have gone back and checked out some of your other posts. And I agree, although don't generate as much conversation as one might hope. I get the same thing on my blogs, yet I still enjoy the little bit of interaction I get. When you think of how people in general don't like to write all that much, expecting online conversations to be more than what they are is almost nonrealistic. I think when you compare it to IM, IM created a culture of people who decided to find all these little acronyms to use instead of real words. Some people thought that was conversation, but I could never get used to it all. Still, it showed me that things were just changing, because in the end people still wanted to interact with each other. So, it may not be what we're expecting, but maybe were just old school. :-)

        By the way, I didn't get an e-mail telling me that you had replied to this particular message, and if I hadn't decided to stop back by I've never known that you had responded. That could be something inhibiting some conversations on your blog, unless it's just picking on me.

        Reply
        • It's not just you and it's been mentioned a ton in these comments. We used to have the ability to subscribe to the comments via both email and RSS. We will be re-implementing that functionality as soon as our production schedule at the agency allows it.

          Reply
  • Posted by Billy Mitchell
    Mitch Joel

    Joel, You are way ahead of me on the topic of Social Media Conversation so I am interested in your perspective compared to mine. When I read a thought provoking article like this, I sometimes comment and sometimes don't but I like to think that if I do, the author is listening. An acknowldegement of my comment, an answer to my question or response to my comment is positive proof and a better introduction between two people than many face-to-face "hey how you doing, nice to meet you" exchanges.

    I can imagine it becomes increasing difficult for you to engage with in-depth conversations with thousands that follow you and read your articles. But your comments show you listen too, even if you can't converse at length with each individual. The stream of interesting comments is a conversation isn't it?

    I think the conversations are still alive and well and that you nailed in one of your comments.

    "Maybe we should switch it from "join the conversation" to "conversation starter" when it comes to Social Media?"

    I can't think of a better example than one you set yourself. You and Mark Schaefer engaged in an interesting discussion and took the conversation to a different platform that made it more in depth by doing a recorded debate. Then you shared that with anyone that was interested. It was great.

    I really enjoy your articles. And thanks for listening. - Billy Mitchell

    Reply
    • This helps crystalize the ideas that have been shared here in the comment section. It probably does boil down to time and effort - on both the part of the Blogger and the person commenting. It's hard to have a conversation if there's only one party talking.

      Perhaps brands need to realize this too. It's not about shouting, but about creating an equalized platform where the voices truly are democratized, responded to and respected.

      Reply
  • Mitch,

    You are so right. There seems to be an end to conversation in social media. I'm one of those people who takes the time to respond to everyone who takes the time to comment on my blog or RT/reply on Twitter. I appreciate it. I actually enjoy interacting and connecting with folks. Sharing and learning along the way makes worth every minute.

    Reply
    • Admittedly, I fall very short on engagement within Twitter. I'm not great at responding to everyone, but I do try. Everyone needs to find their balance. For me, the focus is on creating content here (the Blog and Podcast) and - hopefully - engaging in the comments and connections. I do try to keep up on Facebook and Twitter, but I admit that I fall short more often than not.

      Reply
      • Posted by Jon Buscall
        Mitch Joel

        I just don't think Twitter is the right place for conversation. I tried to have a conversation yesterday but it just took so long to watch for replies and responses.

        I think it's a shame Buzz isn't raising its profile because there's more room for a cogent response.

        Reply
        • Different strokes for different folks. Some people love Twitter for conversation. I can see both sides - depending on how you use it. That being said, I don't think brands have conversations on Twitter. It feels more like a feedback pusher than anything else (and there's nothing wrong with that).

          Reply
  • Posted by Darren Negraeff
    Mitch Joel

    OK, so I apologize for jumping right in if someone covered this already, but (ironically) I seriously do not have time to read all 98 comments (also, wow!)

    First, this is a great analysis of something that has been on my mind for some time now. Yes, I say in all honesty that twitter is about the conversation, but it is SO difficult to get a real back and forth going. That doesn't mean I don't try, but I agree that there has to be another solution. Twitter solves the problem of telling a bunch of people what you are doing right now, and it offers a solution to companies that want to know what early adopters are thinking about them or there services right now, but it is still not an easy medium to have a conversation through.

    I think (for me, at least) the value of social media is in easily meeting people and/or planting the seeds for future conversations that need to be taken off-line (or to other media like skype, phone, email or in person ideally). That is where I have really seen the value in twitter.

    For example, I recently 'met' @AndyBaryer (http://twitter.com/andybaryer) and @ericbuchegger (http://twitter.com/ericbuchegger) on twitter and there was some value in that but were they real connections? Not until I met them in real life some weeks later. Now we can share actual things of real value. Would I have met them without twitter? Maybe, but I wouldn't have met them then, and who knows if we would have had a good conversation.

    Twitter = a great icebreaker.

    Reply
    • You say "icebreaker" - which probably a better way of saying that Social Media is a great conversation starter or catalyst (which was the lame way that I have been saying it).

      Reply
      • Posted by Darren Negraeff
        Mitch Joel

        I think catalyst works great as well, perhaps even better than the others as it perfectly defines what actually takes place. Of course, you might have to be a word nerd to know what catalyst means exactly (something that initiates or accelerates a reaction (or conversation) without being used up in the reaction), but if so, it makes perfect sense. I may have met several of the same people anyway, it just wouldn't have happened as quickly as without twitter/social media.

        Anyway, thanks again for putting words to the thoughts in my head. It seems you have a great way of reducing the fog in a lot of our minds to a point of crystal clarity.

        Reply
  • Posted by BLOGBloke
    Mitch Joel

    Agreed but this conversation has been debated for years now, like when Seth Godin shut comments off his blog. And did you notice Winer's post got zero comments? That says it all don't you think? ;-)

    By the way, his PR about godfathering RSS is a little overrated. Pioneers such as myself were hand-coding XML long before feeds were built into blogs.

    Cheers,

    BB

    Reply
    • This is where things can get interesting, are you saying that because Seth Godin didn't allow comments he didn't have any community or feedback? I'd argue that there is tons of that stuff going on - just not on his property. Sure, it would have been easier to just leave a comment on Seth's Blog, but that never stopped people from talking about him and his content. It also hasn't hurt his ability to reach people either (see here: www.adage.com/power150).

      As for Dave Winer, he made it pretty clear on his Blog post: "I've disabled comments for this post to give a brief demo of what it might feel like to find other outlets for your ideas, or to allow you more time to consider your response."

      Reply
      • Posted by BLOGBloke
        Mitch Joel

        No, I never said any such thing. I only mentioned Seth as an example that defining what is really a "conversation" has been a hotly debated topic for a very long time. Obviously if you're a master marketer and a well known published writer like Seth is you don't need comments enabled to generate buzz or "conversation".

        So if Seth wants to turn off comments ... then more power to him. Whatever works.

        Frankly I see no benefit with Winer's proposals. I don't see how disabling comments temporarily can help a "conversation". That's kinda like trying to have a chat session with somebody who's sleeping on the other side of the world when you are awake. I have family on the far side and believe me it can be an exasperating experience.

        With all due respect to Dave, I think some of his famous online battles is what is really behind his disparagement of comments.

        I don't often read others' comments before writing my own so I am not influenced one or another by what others are saying. So I see no benefit to delaying gratification.

        It seems to me the technology or medium we use is irrelevant, whether or not it's trackbacks, backlinks, comments are turned off or just disabled for 24 hours, or there's a 140 character limitation. Whatever name you want to give it is just fine with me.

        So long as there is a two-way conversation going on ... that is what is really important.

        Having said that, I do agree with you there are more people who want to be heard than listen. But isn't that the way it is in the real world too?

        Reply
        • The real world does seem like that. I'm not sure everyone here has really followed my train of thought. The Blog post is not about getting everyone to comment and engage in a conversation (I agree with you, most people don't want to do that). The Blog post is about why those who are engaging are not really having a conversation and how it's more of a thought/comment/nothing else type of experience (and/or pure linkbait) - with this Blog post being a strange/ironic deviance from that exact thought.

          Reply
          • Posted by BLOGBloke
            Mitch Joel

            "those who are engaging are not really having a conversation and how it's more of a thought/comment/nothing else type of experience (and/or pure linkbait)".

            No argument here. Comments are becoming increasingly less relevant and more of a nuisance factor by linkbaiters, spam backlink builders or for the personal gratification of chest-thumping neanderthals like you put it. At times I have also pondered shutting comments off for good, and if it weren't for my tutorials I probably would have by now.

            Good talking to you Mitch.

            Reply
  • Posted by Rabbi Rami
    Mitch Joel

    I really appreciate this discussion, Mitch. I am about to reach my 700th post on rabbirami.blogspot.com, and none of them were meant to start a conversation. These were essays I wanted to broadcast, and if they start conversations great, but I just don't feel the need to be in on them.

    The same is true with Twitter where I spend far too much time crafting snarky send-ups of new age proverbs. I want people to laugh, or at least get annoyed, but I don't want to talk about why they are annoyed.

    For the past few years I have required my students (I am a professor of religion at Middle Tennessee State University) to blog on topics I pose in class. My goal was to promote conversation out of the classroom, expecting students to comment on one another's blog posts. But unless I link commenting to grading, nothing happens.

    The one true conversation I have had via a blog was a two-year dialogue with a Baptist pastor on the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount. We did this as a blog (mountandmountain.blogspot.com) in hopes of inviting people into our conversation. That didn't happen, but the intimacy of true conversation did come across for the two us.

    Reply
    • As you stated - there are varying degrees of conversation... and that includes people's interest in even engaging in one. The main lesson is that publishing your thoughts are still important/critical.... regardless of what kind of conversations lead out of it.

      Reply
  • Posted by Rick Murray
    Mitch Joel

    Hey Mitch --

    Perhaps not surprisingly, I'll take a contrarian POV. Conversation isn't dead; indeed, it's never been more alive. The mistake we all may have made a few years back was bucketing everything folks were publishing, commenting on or otherwise sharing as one single conversation. I'll quote the Cluetrain folks here... Markets (plural) are conversations (plural). Some conversations are small; others are better ignored altogether. Collectively, they make up the din that is online chatter, content and the like. But each one, for better or worse, is a conversation and very much alive.

    Reply
    • Rick, you're like the Master Jedi trying to use my own powers against me... how dare you throw The Cluetrain Manifesto in my face like that? ;)

      OK, now seriously, there is still a raging semantic debate going on here about what is a "conversation." I still find it hard to swallow that a Blog that gets a comment that doesn't get responded to is really a conversation. Isn't that a little bit like saying you had a fight, when all you were really doing was hitting a punching bag in the gym?

      What's the old saying, "it takes two to tango"... don't you need some kind of back and forth (and not just broadcast publishing) for there to be a conversation?

      Reply
      • Posted by Rick Murray
        Mitch Joel

        LOL -- So true. A comment not responded to is generally a conversation killer. Unless the comment itself was designed to kill the conversation versus engage debate and/or deserved no response. Either way, think a lot of things are going to be declared dead long before we conversations in social media. Like the Cubs chances in 2011.

        Reply
        • I don't think it's as nefarious as "conversation killers," I just think people are busy, moving fast, with lots of content and it's hard to really dig in and have a conversation. What winds up happening is confused for a conversation when all it really looks like is one-sided feedback.

          Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I've said in the past that conversations on Twitter are like solar flares. They happen, but they are usually pretty short (and sometimes very hot!) in duration. And since many people gauge "success" on the number of followers, how can you possibly have conversations. These conversations don't scale and eventually, these new tools become broadcast mediums. It's sort of the natural progression, isn't it? As I wrote at http://tinyurl.com/38xdvvg most brands are being forced to listen rather then listening because they want to listen. As I said in February -- While social media has given the consumer an amplified voice, I think way to often, they're just speaking in a vacuum. In the end, most companies aren't really changing their behavior. But they sure are putting on a good show.

    Conversations are very difficult to do, just think about that first date conversation you always have. Conversations take time, listening and engaging. Most companies just aren't set up for that kind of effort. They're about manufacturing things on an assembly line and then getting them into a distribution channel. They're not built to have relationships with the buyers. And most buyers aren't built to have a relationship with the product. They just want a product that does what it's supposed to do.

    There's a cycle of media and SM seems to be following along in that cycle. It'll be interesting to see where the conversation goes in the future.

    Reply
    • And it's all coming together in something that culminates in a consumer statement like, "Brand X hasn't responded to me and they suck," which usually happens after one hour of not hearing from the brand.

      Marketers need to do a better job at setting expectations with clients and customers need to understand that not everything can be resolved this, exact, second. Now we have these two-way access points and while there can be conversations within them, more often than not it's more about being heard than listening, engaging and having a conversation.

      Reply
  • Posted by Susan Murphy
    Mitch Joel

    I like to think of social media as a "conversation starter", rather than the whole conversation. In my experience, social tools enable us to start the connection with other people, almost in a "hi, how are ya" kind of way. Eventually, though, if the conversation is really going to go somewhere, it almost always happens another way. We switch to email, or IM, or Skype, or meet for a coffee.

    Social media has changed the way conversations begin. But the conversations continue much the same way they always have.

    Reply
  • Posted by Greg de Lima
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch,
    I think so much of it has to do with personal preference. A person can consider their blog more of a public release type of platform, or a place to ask questions and really dig into and pick the brains of their readers. I think it was Chris Brogan who made a blog post that said "Ask me something." and used the comments to sit back and engage his readers in a way that yields more content, yields ideas, and gives a much broader range of usage than some other proponents.
    For me, it really is an engaging platform, a place to interact, learn and react.
    -G-

    Reply
    • I'm not really talking about the direction of the platform and if it engenders conversation. What I am saying is that those who do connect are not really having a conversation - it's more of a you said/I say with not much more depth.

      Reply
  • Posted by Jim Crocker
    Jim Crocker

    Mitch I'm a simple person. No fancy arguments here - but an observation. I quit coming to your blog regularly and I stopped commenting because it always felt like a one way street - me contributing my content to you (this was during your phase II blogging period). What bugged wasn't JUST that we didn't have a conversation - or any interaction on your blog. What bugged me (just being honest) was you never once reciprocated - you never came over and contributed to mine (no I'm not famous). So I stopped coming over and I stopped commenting/contributing.

    It makes me wonder though. What kind of a conversation might we have had, if the interaction had been truly mutual?

    Continuing that thought - is it possible that your current Phase III efforts (respond to comments on your blog) are still too limiting? If you really want to experiment with conversations what about thinking outside your blog?

    Reply
    • I'm a self-admitted snob. I don't follow everyone back and I do not comment on someone's Blog just because they have commented on mine. I follow those that I find interesting. I comment on people's spaces that I find interesting. I'm not great at platitudes (and this is why I don't touch HR at Twist Image) and I'm not going to fake it.

      As for Act III, it's not just about my Blog or my space. In fact, I've always been active on many other spaces (Blogs, Podcasts, message boards and email lists) - that hasn't changed (and that's been happening since the early days of the Web). I spend a chunk of my time "out there" all of the time... that's how I grow and learn.

      Reply
  • Posted by Lucretia
    Lucretia

    I think the main problem with Social Media is actually the analogy of walking into a room at a party. If you happen to be one of the first there, it's great because you can find someone to engage with, but as the room fills up, life gets an awful lot harder, and not only for the new arrival who needs to find a conversation to "fit into" but also the host who has to keep up with everyone.

    The big trouble with Twitter is that each tweet is effectively just one line of a conversation. And unless you direct it at someone it's no more than a loudspeaker broadcast announcement. Too much of a public one-on-one via Twitter seems to be seen as taboo. And it's not easy to have a multi-way conversation with Twitter either - forum or mesage boards still win the war on that one.

    Let's also not forget that whilst a written medium gives time to consider what you write as response, for the average person it takes somewhat longer to write/type than it does if the same conversation were spoken. Good as an introduction, sharing an idea fast with many (particularly in diverse locations) or for brief feedback, but for a more extended discussion, actually speaking to someone is a far more tempting prospect for best time management. You also get the audio and visual clues to fall back on that way as well.

    At the end of the day time is the big factor killing conversation via social media - us humans just seem to have an affinity for taking the easiest (in this case the fastest) route

    Reply
  • Posted by Mary
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with you 100%

    Reply
  • Posted by Mary
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, I gained newfound respect for you, for putting this out there. A couple of months ago I wrote a post questioning How Social, was social Media (Is Social Media Really Social?), but I didn't publish it. I read your post, and I have decided to publish it:-) *still editing, so bear with me.

    http://blog.bluemediaconsulting.com/post/is-social-media-really-social-i-conducted-an-study

    Reply
  • Posted by Robert Ezekiel
    Mitch Joel

    I think early bloggers were more like the early computer / internet adopters. They were anxious to talk with others and find out how their online neighbor was doing X or Y.

    Now I think this wave is more passive and voyeuristic. They want their information and move on or they will leave a comment but their attention span doesn't allow them to come back for the other side of the conversation.

    I think we will have both crowds out there on the internet. There are just more of the second group so more and more sites and apps are designed for them to passively be entertained.

    Reply
    • There will always be a hungrier side on the consumption vs. creation matrix. That's fine. What may be happening is a group in the middle that likes to add, but doesn't necessarily want to engage much beyond that. This is fine too, but let's not tell brands that it's a "conversation."

      Reply
  • Posted by allan isfan
    Mitch Joel

    Even though true conversations don't tend to happen directly in the comments of a blog or on twitter, they can nevertheless spark incredibly valuable true conversations that take place elsewhere.

    I've connected with new "friends" through blogs and twitter which have led to deep and rich conversations via skype, IM or face to face. I could cite hundreds of personal examples.

    In one case, I connected with an individual who thought something we had released was buggy. I reached out and ended up taking that person out for lunch to discuss the issue they had found. We ended up striking a great relationship and I hired that person to do testing for us.

    In another case, I connected with a very bright developer from Spain through twitter and his blog and we ended up chatting at length on Skype and eventually met during a trip to Barcelona.

    The conversations we had would not have happened had it not been for the spark caused by twitter and blogs.

    Reply
    • I once had a Blog post titled something like, "The Conversation Is Everywhere" (can't seem to dig it up) that did look at how a Blog post leads to a Twitter chat over to a YouTube video, etc... pulled together though it looks more like a transmedia experience than a conversation, but it's still interesting.

      Reply
  • Posted by rhys
    Mitch Joel

    I completely agree, i once worked with a 'conversation agency' and it soon became apparent that there were no conversations actually happening. Especially on blogs and even forums - people generally look at the main or top post and then skip down to the bottom to either respond or get the answer they desire. I have no idea what people have written in the comments above. I always try to respond to posts on my blog but there is no guarantee that that person will ever come back to respond again.

    And how to you measure what a 'conversation' is on platforms such as twitter? An @reply is not a conversation, it's an answer. So is the minimum for it to be classified as a conversation 2 @replys from each user or is it not even worth trying to monitor. I prefer to say that people are "mentioning" a brand rather than "talking" about it and that is what i will continue to do, it's smoke and mirrors to suggest anything else.

    Ever tried having a conversation with more people than say like 10 or 20. It's almost impossible - so when you have hundreds and thousands of people saying their bit then they're really not talking to each other and only a few people will hear them and respond (if any). Logistics from the analogue world can nearly always be applied to the digital world.

    Reply
    • Agreed. People are grappling with the definition of "conversation" (as I am) and that's because these "conversations" or mention or whatever are things we are not yet used to.

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      • Posted by rhys
        Mitch Joel

        The worrying thing is that in these 'dark ages' before enlightenment it leaves a lot of room for misdirection. For example - how does one measure "word of mouth". At this stage it is pretty much impossible however many report on it. To me, word of mouth is the spread from one individual to another and so forth, but it's very hard to actually map that. However, it's only because i appreciate the differences in language that i can make these conclusions as where others wouldn't be so bothered or are unaware. Clients for example.

        Will there ever be enlightenment?

        Reply
  • Posted by rhys
    Mitch Joel

    PS - a pop-up box has just told me that my comment has "become part of the conversation". Sounds like mutiny.

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  • Posted by Miriam Berger
    Mitch Joel

    I think that conversations are definitely dead. The root cause of this, in my opinion, is that there is almost too much information in our world. We have always been bombarded by messages but it IS everywhere now. Also much of what is going on is that its all work and no play. All this overcommunication many times isn't to properly engage in stiumulating conversation...its to actually make money or drive traffic to sites where people want to make money. I get upset when I see this type of thing as I think the digital medium is a positive thing for us all but not when it's abused. All this mass of information makes people switch off and give up. I know I've been there and I've seen it first hand with my own blogs. Hopefully we'll be able to rebound somehow and weed out the true communicators and those that aren't in it for the right reasons.

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    • The spaces are (and be) different too - let's not forget that. I'm suddenly realizing that this Blog is much more about my education (putting my thoughts down and critical thinking) with pushing those ideas further through the comments and the flow of the back and forth. We may have all been weighing too heavy on this concept that everything must be a conversation. Perhaps, it doesn't and there's nothing wrong with that, and there is no depreciation of value.

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      • Posted by Lisa Stockwell
        Mitch Joel

        But conversation is about learning from each other—whether it's about life or business or just what's going on with our friends. You can learn from feedback to your own musings, and that is valuable. But I think you're right that the first comment is really the other person promoting himself (or trying his ideas on for size). The more give and take, the more honest and meaningful the dialogue becomes and the more you learn.

        So if the object of the blog is to grow from it, you do want to drive real conversation rather than settle for feedback. (And if the object is to promote yourself, then comments are simply to let you know if anyone is paying attention.)

        Reply
  • Posted by Lisa Hickey
    Mitch Joel

    Wow! What a conversation about the death of conversations!

    I'm of the "I just think conversations are different now" camp. To me, conversations happen, they are just spread out over time and space in a way they never have been before. Just because a dialogue doesn't happen in real time doesn't mean that it's not a dialogue.

    Take how you and I converse, Mitch. You could say that we've never had a "real" conversation. We're connected across various social media networks, and most of our interactions consist of you writing a blog post and me commenting.

    But to me -- I am talking to YOU, and responding to you, and telling you your ideas have value. And I'm using what you've said to help shape ideas in my mind that get passed along to other people. And sometimes those people circle back around to you and talk to you. To me, that is still "part of the conversation", it's just a different way of looking at it.

    Conversations themselves are not so hard, what's hard is for a single person to scale the *amount* of conversations they have with people. I think Social Media will grow and evolve to accommodate that. It's still a relatively new medium, people are learning how to use it. Go easy on us. :)

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  • Posted by sunny lockwood
    Mitch Joel

    I agree with you completely. One obstacle to having a conversation is the tiny comment boxes on various sites (like facebook and scribd) which limit what you can say. When I want to enter the conversation, I continually get cut off, and have to reduce my thoughts to mere comments (well, that's what the little box calls them, and the box is correct).

    It looks like your blog comment box allows for more complete, perhaps more nuanced comments....so that a responder could actually post a fully developed thought or two. Thank you for that!

    I'm fairly new to the blog scene, but I also allow long and involved comments. I think my readers often have as much fun reading the comments as they do reading my experiences.

    Thanks for talking about this topic. I love good conversation. It's one of the great joys of my life. But it's difficult to have such an interchange on the social media I'm familiar with.

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    • We also use threading so you can follow the chain of the comments (we're hoping that helps from a usability stand-point as well). Next up, we will be re-implementing the ability to subscribe to the comments via RSS and email. Stay tuned!

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  • Mitch- Hello and good day! The things that are important to me are Faith, Family, Friends, Fitness, and Finances... So in Social Media I am seeking out people who share my "core identity", and life goals, and connect with them... Over time, you see "common threads" (attraction), and ultimately it ideally turns into a phone conversation, then a face to face meeting/s... Which is where true relationships propel..... F2F! Best, Brian-

    PS I guess this is more "fun" for me.. I spend about 1HR per day managing my social media, plus I have a virtual assistant that works on stuff too... I life the "leverage" component of social media also....

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  • Posted by Alex Margolin
    Mitch Joel

    I think that the idea of "conversation" has to be viewed in a broader perspective. It isn't only one-on-one exchanges that constitute conversation in a platform as large as the Internet. It is the broad exchange of ideas taking place across media and across different networks. If I read this blog and, instead of leaving a comment or starting a back and forth, I write something on my own blog that extends the idea and someone sees it and does the same, there is conversation taking place. It is engagement with ideas, not only engagement with people, that defines conversation. That, I believe, is what social media has made possible.

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    • This is where things get a little foggy for me. Are you saying that if you Blog about something that I inspired, then we're having a conversation? I'd say that's just your own published perspective and commentary. Doesn't there have to some semblance of a back and forth between two parties (at least) for there to a conversation?

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      • Posted by Alex Margolin
        Mitch Joel

        The "back and forth" you allude to is not limited to two people exchanging ideas. Why can't 10 people go back and forth on the same topic, interacting with each other's ideas? Why can't 10,000?

        I'm not saying that "we" are having a conversation if I blog something you inspired. I am saying that the blog post would contribute to the larger conversation about the theme we would both be addressing. That's different from the old days before social media, when many people would be on the sidelines trying to catch what "opinion leaders" had to say in the media. Social media is one-to-many communication. It is not like a phone line between two people.

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        • Posted by Lisa Hickey
          Mitch Joel

          I agree Alex. It's what I find so fascinating, so cool about social media. A conversation doesn't *have* to be a two way dialogue anymore. Or, it *can* be, but maybe that exchange takes place over days or weeks. It's not just "back and forth" that defines conversation these days, it's "here, there, everywhere."

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  • Posted by Cale D. Hawley
    Mitch Joel

    I don't believe that social media is conversational either. In fact, I think this is the most dialogue I have ever seen on a single blog post. I still don't see it as conversational--someone comments, Mitch retorts, end of discussion. For it to truly be conversational wouldn't there be more back-and-forth?

    I think we say social media is conversational to justify why we do it, promote it, and advocate for it. It has the potential to be conversational and I have seen the conversations work on Facebook with businesses. Usually small businesses or someone with a dedicated social media person. But it is rare indeed. Social media has the potential to be conversational, but we must all get past our own agendas and the "what we and our friends had for dinner" posts and take a leap of faith and actually post something of substance. But if we do that, we might be ridiculed, so we stick to broadcasting things no one cares about.

    Keep the conversation going Mitch and everyone else on here who has posted a comment.

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    • It does seem like we are all (for the most part) seeing a division between what we think is a "conversation" and content that is "conversational." With the deluge of comments and dialogue going on here, I am somewhat regretful that I didn't push away from using the word "conversation" and focus more on the back-and-forth.

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    • Posted by Griff Wigley
      Mitch Joel

      Cale wrote:

      "I still don't see it as conversational--someone comments, Mitch retorts, end of discussion. For it to truly be conversational wouldn't there be more back-and-forth?"

      Cale, I think the threaded comments here are a type of conversation but for it to become a debate or dialogue, then I agree with you, more back-and-forth among the participants would be evident.

      Mitch, if you wanted that to happen, I think you'd have to restrain yourself from responding to everyone's comments because you may be inadvertantly training us to direct all conversation through you, sort of like a classroom teacher who calls on one student after another to comment but each student directs their comments to the teacher. I'm not saying that's bad, but it's not really a group discussion.

      There are little moderator tricks/interventions that can be deployed to help this happen, eg, reframing or summarizing an aspect of the discussion and then asking everyone to comment publicly TO EACH OTHER over the course of a couple of days while you just observe.

      This is beyond what most people want out of a blog post discussion, of course. And it's not as easy to make happen when people don't really know or care about each other, which is partly why there's still a big demand for message boards. Just ask the folks at Teaching Sells and 3rd Tribe Marketing!

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  • Posted by Griff Wigley
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, I'm wondering if it would help to think systemically about this.

    When I think of the great F2F conferences I've attended, it's been in part because of the ways the organizers have allowed for a multiplicity of ways for participants to engage with one another, all wrapped around/fueled by good content/presenters.

    The structure (plenary sessions, break-outs, birds-of-a-feather impromptus, Q&A's, hallway socializing, banquet meals, private meals, sales booths, etc) are important because they provide the opportunities for the social glue and the intellectual stimulation to build on one another in large and small groups.

    Much happens that's deliberate, both for the organizers and attendees. But a big part of the attraction is the serendipity.

    I'd argue that the reason this blog post has generated 150+ comments in a substantive conversation is in large part due to the larger 'culture of engagement' that you've crafted over time around you/your brand.

    You wrote above that you're "active on many other spaces (Blogs, Podcasts, message boards and email lists)." You regularly use all the social media technologies to broadcast your message, yet you take time to foster engagement with each. And at times you can sit back and watch as serendipitous things happen around you among your followers.

    Yes, your blog post was crafted in a spirit of inquiry that touched a nerve. But it exists within the larger context of you/your brand and the people who show up.

    Few organizations know how to create this culture of engagement in ways that would allow a substantive conversation to occasionally occur. So what we see is what you've noticed, ie, "not much conversation going on at all."

    I'm guessing that people will increasingly engage in substantive conversations when the structure/culture is place. And once systemic forces kick in (the better the culture, the more quality conversations happen, the more the culture improves), then it becomes easier to maintain.

    Reply
    • Thank you for pushing this concept right to the edge. Conversations and community don't happen just because you have a Blog and an edgy post. Conversations and community take a lot of time and hard work to nurture (trust and credibility play a key factor as well). It would be an interesting piece of research to see how many brands do engage in it with the spirit of which you described.

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  • Posted by Rosemary ONeill
    Mitch Joel

    Sorry to be so late to the party, but I'm jumping up and down on my couch dying to inject this into the conversation (and it does kinda look like one): with all of the sexy tools out there now at our disposal, many people have completely forgotten one of the most powerful and enduring (perhaps not so sexy) tools....the humble message board. Hey, remember those? You could make friends, have a "hearth" to gather around on a continuing basis, and have actual conversations.

    I know I certainly have a biased opinion because for 15 years I've made my living from message boards (in many different permutations), but perhaps it's time to take a second look? Just a thought...

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    • Message boards rock, but it's not a zero sum game either. I don't believe this is an "either/or". For some instances, the message board flow works brilliantly... others a Blog... some can use both. This brings me back to my, "everything is 'with' not 'instead of' line."

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    • Posted by Griff Wigley
      Mitch Joel

      Rosemary, I'm glad you raised the issue about message boards.

      I also referred to them above in my response to Cale D. Hawley
      http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/the-end-of-conversation-in-social-media/#comment-15535

      I think there are some technical features to consider when a more deliberative conversation is desired on a blog. For example, with this conversation attached to Mitch's blog post, it might help to:

      * turn off threading (long explanation required as to why)
      * provide both a comments RSS feed and a subscribe-to-comments-via-email option to make it easier for people to follow the discussion
      * have a sidebar widget to the blog that displays excerpts of the ongoing discussion as a way to draw more people in

      There are also some human/social elements that can be introduced, for example:

      * ask people to introduce themselves
      * remind people to get a Gravatar (faces help!)
      * put a time-limit on the discussion (raises the commitment level)
      * bring in a special guest participant

      Again, these things would not be done for every blog post, just for those times when a more deliberative conversation is desired.

      Reply
  • Posted by Woodrow Rosenbaum
    Mitch Joel

    I agree that what is evolving in Social Media is not what I would consider a "conversation". (Although reading the comments and replies here would seem to be the exception that proves the rule.)

    Part of the evaluation, as others have eluded to, has to do with the nature of conversation. As these Social Media tools and their uses have changed I think it's pretty clear that what we've seen is not the creation of a new medium, as many of us believed, but rather the very early and limited stages of something else.

    The extension of online experiences into real world interactions and the gradual removal of barriers between the two creates opportunities for engagement that are just beginning to be realized. When people are interacting with their environment in ways that are supported by the internet and the web we get a whole new dynamic. When our interactions affect the course of the narrative with which we're engaged we really start to see what Social Media is "meant" to be.

    We also get another view of the definition of conversation. One in which we broaden this definition to include data exchange and dialogue that impact, enlarge, or alter a wider "story".

    Thanks for this very provocative post, Mitch. I just wish I had read it early enough to post "First!" in my comment.

    Reply
    • With such a rich comment, maybe everyone here will let you post "last!" instead ;)

      There was/is a big lesson within everyone's words and perspectives: what we have known to be a "conversation" may be shifting beneath our feet. And, if it is, we're going to need to re-evaluate (again) what brands (and people) can do to foster conversation that is more than one-sided publishing.

      Reply
  • Not going to make you work any harder than you have for this great post. Well said. Love the audience participation. Thanks for all the responses you gave, you get a double gold star!

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  • Posted by Andy Smith
    Mitch Joel

    This rings so true, yet I can't help but wish it weren't so. As you said, it's not good or bad, it just is. But the benefits of something rich and collaborative continuing to evolve here still inspire me. Perhaps the conversation as a concept is just too deeply-rooted, inherently multi-sensory and humanistic for many of our current social media to measure up to the bar it sets. Perhaps we can attack this on two fronts:

    1) develop a new metaphor to replace the conversation that is a bit more realistic.
    2) continue to push applied human behavior and technology to notch up closer to that goal.

    Where will you take your idea next?

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  • Posted by Nan Ross
    Mitch Joel

    I'm so glad you published this post. It's true! The social media seems to be shifting from the "conversational phrase" to just the "feedback phrase". Conversation happens when there's interactive dialog, not just feedback. People tend to use me for just linking purposes. I feel like a hoe at time! Giggles! Now, my blogtalkradio show, there's always some form of conversation going on, whether in the chat room or the phone.

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  • Posted by Tony King
    Mitch Joel

    It may not be exactly a conversation but it's always good to LISTEN to your customers, SNS allows you to do that.

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  • Posted by Geno Prussakov
    Mitch Joel

    Let me start by admitting that I haven't read all 190 comments that have already been posted before mine. Chances are, someone has already brought similar thoughts up. So, I apologize in advance if anything I post below may sound redundant.

    You make very interesting observations, Mitch. I have to agree with all of them (seeing them all on daily basis too), but I'm not so sure that none of these things we're seeing can be classified as "conversation". Very often Facebook wall posts and status updates, as well as comments I read in some blogs (the reaction you've already received the above post is quite exemplary of the point), do turn into quite meaningful conversations, where people really learn from each other (be it through disagreement and defense of their viewpoints, or by building up on ideas brought up in posts, or comments of others).

    I think for us to answer the questions you've ended with ("Are we seeing a new shift in Social Media?" and Are the conversations really dead?) we'd have to either define what a "conversation" is, to begin with; or agree that Social Media conversation may actually be a slightly different genus in the "conversation" species.

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  • Posted by Susan Kolbe
    Mitch Joel

    Twitter to Flash, Facebook to Stash, Linked In to get paid and Match to get lai....you get the point

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  • Posted by Sean Clark
    Mitch Joel

    The term "conversation" in this sense is just a phrase picked up by some marketing pundits and used as a blanket descriptor to cover all types of interaction in written form online. Brands are often told "the conversation is going on with or without you". Really? Maybe, but rarely in true sense in Social Media, there are definitely good and bad comments to which you can either react or not. But conversation?

    To see conversations in a real sense just take a look at forums that existed long before the term Social Media came into being, this style of posting leads to many deep discussions. It's just they are not so hip and often overlooked. Want a real conversation online join a forum dedicated to a subject of interest.

    The other issue is that comments on blogs and posts on Twitter are used by many as a form of self promotion, SEO, Link Bait or other low level marketing. There is no intention to create conversation, so if one does start by accident they fizzle out quickly due to lack of intent.

    The idea of whether something is a "conversation" is all about definition, lets face it to to stop this comment from being feedback or a statement and continue this as a conversation I would have to end with a question, wouldn't I?

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  • Posted by Ari B. Adler
    Mitch Joel

    Joel,

    The concept of a blog post leading to comments and back and forth discussions may be nice, but often is not realistic anymore. Twitter has usurped a lot of blog comments, because people simply tweet their opinion while sharing the original link.

    At the same time, Facebook is facilitating conversations that often carry over into real life when those people see each other. Maybe it's not that there aren't as many conversations but that we can't eavesdrop on the whole thing because we aren't in all the spaces all the time.

    I've had more than one instance where a tweet has led to a conversation in real life that led to a discussion on Facebook, which led to a blog post and subsequent comments that then led to tweets, retweets and comments about all of it on Twitter and Facebook. That was a full-circle conversation.

    So, maybe it's not that conversations have ended, but that their nature has changed and all that has really ended is the outdated definition.

    Thanks for a great post to get the thought processes stoked. I'm glad to see so many conversations occurring on this page, and I will be talking about this on Twitter, too, so the conversation will continue there as well! :)

    Cheers!

    Ari
    @aribadler

    Reply
    • It sounds like people who want a conversation are going to have to stitch it together for themselves - over multiple platforms and across different media.

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      • Posted by Ari B. Adler
        Mitch Joel

        That is it exactly. It's a rather dangerous situation, in which people may have to actually work harder to get the whole story.

        You know when you hear something that sounds off-color but only because it's out of context for you because you walked in on the middle of a conversation? For so many people, this is becoming the norm online. It's going to require all of us to be prepared for people to misunderstand things and for us also to be mindful of the medium and not jump to conclusions before we take the time to learn all the facts.

        Reply
  • Posted by Ari B. Adler
    Mitch Joel

    Joel? What the heck?!? Sorry MITCH. I'm chalking it up to too much thinking and too little coffee. LOL

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  • Posted by Andy Strote
    Mitch Joel

    Ha ha, I'm laughing Mitch. Have you ever had more comments on a post? Have you ever felt more obliged to respond to every one?

    For my $0.02 worth, I've never thought of blogs as conversations. It's a broadcast with an opportunity to comment. A very short back and forth at best. As someone else said, once you have many readers, it would be impossible to keep up if everyone wanted to engage in a conversation. Most people have work to do!

    Reply
    • I figured you would get a kick out of this.

      1. I do think this is the most comments I've had on a Blog post... which is cool (and scary).
      2. I've actually been responding to comments on the Blog for well over a month and loving the engagement.
      3. While this is part of my work, I have no clue how people like Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, Amber Naslund and others get this all done. It's impressive and I'm doing my best.

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  • Mitch Joel

    for the sake of art, sanity, and publication, I recently turned off the comments on my site:
    http://whitehottruth.com/creativity-art-design-articles/making-space-for-creative-credo/

    Reply
  • Posted by Chris
    Mitch Joel

    Is it just me, or does anyone else see the irony in the amount of comment / conversation (?) generated by a post about the end of conversation?

    I wonder if online engagement won't follow a traditional, early success, followed by boom, followed by bust, followed by a re-emergence of genuine engagement? Is it possible where at the boom phase where the sheer volume of online communications has drowned out any hope of engagement, but after the bust, the real conversations will re-emerge from the shadows.

    One a separate note, I had great hopes that Google's Wave product would change the way people conversed online. I've had some great results with people I know. I only hope that the underlying ideas will not die off with the product.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking and well-timed post.

    Reply
    • Oh we get it, Chris. And we all agree that there is a conversation here (but it's not always present, and it's not for everyone). So, we need to be careful in how we position this to others (especially those who are not comfortable in the format).

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  • Posted by Tony Pantello
    Tony Pantello

    I think that there's some merit to the idea that social media and its various tools (blogs, facebook, twitter, etc.) have become so congested with individuals and businesses trying to gain attention that much of the "conversation" and two-way communication model that social media was touted to usher in has been lost.

    Individuals and businesses alike have been sold by countless books and "experts" about the wonders social media could for their business or their personal brand. We've been told that people are having conversations about our brands and that we can join in. But yet, as more and more individuals and businesses have participated in the social media landscape, its almost like it has become just another channel to advertise through, to interrupt individuals with. The very lure of social media (the possibility of direct engagement and two-way communication) has evolved into one way advertising that we all know and for the most part, don't pay attention to.

    Nearly every blog I visit these days is offering some sort of whitepaper, ebook, or other content designed to sell me something, whether that be an idea, a personal brand, a corporate brand, what have you. While packaged differently and disguised as "content" and "conversations", is it too cynical to believe that social media and its lure of enabling conversations has now become an advertising platform just to get your message out? Does anyone nowadays actually use social media to be social with others and not to sell someone your ideas, products, services, etc.?

    As Jay Baer coined, are we more focused on "Doing social media" rather than "being social?"

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    • I don't see anything wrong with platforms/channels providing value and then there's also things/opportunity to buy.

      This is a business after all.

      On this Blog, there is value and I share because I love it, but don't kid yourself, our goal is to sell the Digital Marketing services of Twist Image, the business book and the speaking (both of those are done to sell the services of Twist Image). If you don't feel that me sharing my thoughts on Digital Marketing are of value or you don't like the fact that we give as a means to grow our business, that's fine... there are probably other resources out there. That being said, this is what I love about Social Media - I can ignore that which I don't like.

      I also don't see how any of that is predicated on the level of conversation.

      Reply
      • Posted by Tony Pantello
        Tony Pantello

        I wasn't attacking the idea of using social media for commerce Mitch. I wouldn't read your blog or buy your book for that matter if I didn't find your ideas useful.

        I was expressing my frustration with the exact opposite of the spectrum. Many companies, organizations, and individuals just use social media channels as a broadcast medium without providing any value in return. To make matters worst, they use terms like "join the conversation" or a similar term to describe their narcissistic self-promoting.

        My frustration is when individuals say they provide value or provide a means for authentic connection, and then just use social media and all of its conversation platforms as a means of broadcasting, not as a means for actual two way communication.

        I apologize if you misunderstood me.

        Reply
  • Posted by GJ van Vorst
    Mitch Joel

    The length of this state-reply-restate-rereply etc shows the validity of the point made out by Mitch (no, I did NOT read all the comments....). In my opinion, a conversation is about getting beyond the facts that are being told and getting into the real motivation of someone's statements. A non-face-to-face environment where you can touch, smell, and admire ore even fear your conversation partner is much more preferable than it's digital counterpart. Maybe we should not even want to try to imitate this in a binary way. Fact sharing and opinion spreading, ok. But if I want a real conversation, I will always prefer a face-to-face setting.

    Reply
    • This is why I have been grappling with the word "conversation." We don't need to be hung-up on it. Why can't we just say that Social Media provides many varying levels of feedback and insight. Then, there are some instances where a conversation flows on through.

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  • Posted by Jay Baer
    Mitch Joel

    Incredible post. Amazing comments thread.

    My take is that to expect social media to truly emulate conversation as we know it is a fools errand. The information exchange is asynchronous. You can't have asides (other than DMs). You miss out on any and all non-verbal communication (which is the lions share of how we actually communicate).

    The real problem is expectation management. Jaffe coined "conversation" (wisely), but it's a misnomer. Other than a tweet back and forth, etc. it's really not possible for a company (or even a one person show like me) to have true conversations within social media - and certainly not with any real scale or breadth. That's why the iPhone still makes calls.

    Now, there's a difference between striving for conversation and settling for broadcasting. The success path must lie somewhere in the middle of those too boundaries. That's why "humanization" is - at least to me - a better and more accurate description of what companies and individuals can and should aspire to achieve on the social Web. Opening the kimono and giving customers and prospects a better sense of who is part of the company, how that company operates, and what it stands for in a less formal, more spontaneous fashion is doable. Real, meaningful conversations? Not really.

    And that's not about people focusing on their personal brands and refusing to converse, it's a byproduct of technological realities that do nothing but create obstacles for true conversation. If you wanted to create a system that replicated as best as possible the physical act of two people speaking to one another in the same place at the same time, would you build Twitter, or a Wordpress comment system? Absolutely not. We can't continue jamming a square peg in a round hole hoping it will eventually fit.

    But yet, the fact that true conversations per se are unlikely shouldn't serve as sufficient cultural permission to turn social media into Headline News.

    Reply
    • I love where you have taken this concept, Jay - thank you.

      I do believe we have confused the idea of feedback and openness with a construct of conversation. That being said, I am starting to believe that there is a conversation - here, there and everywhere - it's just a new conversation (don't make say, Conversation 2.0) - which is much closer to the stuff David Weinberger wrote about in his brilliant book, Small Pieces Loosely Joined. The idea that all of these fragments and shells of content do have a strange, digital lineage that holistically is a kind of conversation.

      It's almost as if we have to envision a conversation as pieces of contents that are either directly or in-directly hyperlinked together in text, images, audio and video - with all of the variances blended in across the many channels and platforms.

      Yes... "oh my!" was exactly what I was thinking too.

      Reply
      • Posted by Jay Baer
        Mitch Joel

        Yes. If we're going to stretch "conversation" to include the collective, asynchronous flotsam and jetsam about companies and each other that exist online via our direct participation or indirect, API-driven mining, I agree. Although I'd consider that to be more of a "pixel scrapbooking" phenomenon that's perhaps more akin to new means of branding and reputation-building, rather than new means of true interaction.

        That's why what Facebook is doing, positioning themselves as the plumbing of the social Web, scares me. To have one company and its API serve as the curator for so much of what we "know" about each other and about brands is the digital equivalent of Murdoch or other media barons striving to have a stranglehold on dissemination and discovery.

        We have a hard enough time truly communicating already, despite the explosion of ways in which we could theoretically do so. The last thing we need is a referee to determine when and how we reveal character traits, (dis)likes, and other tidbits that make us human and real.

        Reply
        • As much as I agree, it is us - the human beings - who are "giving away the farm," so to speak. Whether it's with emoticons or a bunch of "LOL"'s we are devising new forms of conversation, and part of it is becoming very asynchronous (in a very scary way). The challenge comes in figuring out if the conversation is dead, or is our version/definition of a conversation the one that is dying?

          Reply
      • Posted by Heather Rast
        Mitch Joel

        Jay, Mitch--I'm working with someone now - a professional business writer/coach - who believes the business world is sorely lacking basic communication competencies. Without standards and a renewed interest in business writing (hold the emoticons, please), what does that suggest about our values in more genuine, personal modes of communication? Left free to follow, friend, and unfollow at whim and encouraged to compress a real sentence into an abbrev 140 char, is it any wonder we may be discounting the importance of formal communication channels? A little off track, but I see some parallels. Thank you.

        Reply
        • I don't follow that train of thought. I think people can communicate in emoticons and I believe they can communicate in 140 characters... but I do agree that they have to be good at communications. I worry when we say things like, "the world is going to hell in a handbasket because we're loosing our handwriting skills." The world changes. People adapt. Regardless of platform, being able to communicate well is important.

          Reply
  • Posted by Becky Johns
    Mitch Joel

    This really got me thinking, Mitch. I think you've made some important points but two big things keep coming to mind for me.

    1. It has always bothered me that comments, by default, are organized in chronological order. I get that a timeline of who-said-what-in-response-to-what is important, but I don't think it's the most important factor anymore. If comments were organized more like webs, it would be a lot easier to navigate the conversation topics that break off from the original idea. We could choose to comment topically and people would likely be more engaged if they could participate in conversation around specific side ideas than if they had to scroll and scroll and skim for nuggets of relevance in a stream. The web gave us real time. Awesome. But now, we need it to do a better job of helping us organize information based on how we want to interact with it.

    2. We need a better mainstream service that allows us to organize all our interactions with a particular person in one place. So, if I open up "Mitch Joel", it would show me your RSS feed, anything posts I've commented on, any tweets we've exchanged, show if we're connected on Facebook and LinkedIn and Foursquare, etc and things (links, videos, blog posts, etc) we've both shared or talked about recently. Then, arrange all of that in two ways, in a chronological timeline stream, so we could see how our relationship has developed and how we've interacted over time AND in some sort of tag cloud (or something similar) so we can build deeper conversation around what we have in common or what we're both spending time thinking about these days. It seems like little pieces of something like this exist individually, but if we could really organize all our connection and conversation points with people, doesn't that make more sense than trying to have conversations in so many different places and then somehow expect them to become more than the sum of their parts?

    Thoughts?

    Reply
    • It would be nice... wouldn't it? What you're proposing is a big undertaking (Google or Facebook should be listening). It's not just a challenge from a usability standpoint but more in the curation and aggregation - along with the buy-in of those who are engaged.

      That being said, if someone is doing that I'd love an alpha invite :)

      Reply
      • Posted by Becky Johns
        Mitch Joel

        Yeah, maybe I've got my head in the clouds on this stuff, but it kind of seems like where we're heading. Or where we should be heading. Or at least something we should be prepared for if we're all going to continue to use the web this way.

        Really thought provoking post. You got my gears turning. Thank you.

        Reply
  • Posted by Colin Whitney
    Mitch Joel

    Agreed w/ Jay. At my workplace we use Yammer to throw comments / ideas / links / whatever back and forth. Now this is great, but... we've got the bossman asking where these ideas and conversations "go" after. He's worried about it just all being very topical. And rightly so.

    Of course all he sees are the links and ideas. The outcomes or next step in the conversations of those ideas happen off-line. There, they get dismissed or developed.

    I'd argue that this stuff isn't meant to "be the conversation itself" but exists in terms of opening the door to talk about ideas, or have conversations in the physical world.

    Is our expectation of "conversation" to high for social? Or is it a great starting point?

    Reply
    • The problem still lies in the fact that Marketers have pushed brands to be a part of the conversation, when - in reality - it may just be a bunch of feedback and thoughts in a world of those small pieces loosely joined (as David Weinberger wrote).

      Reply
  • Posted by Derek McCarty
    Mitch Joel

    there's so much here. and i fear that i'm falling into the "feedback" realm, but i wanted to take a step back and talk about something higher level: writing. are we programmed to only express our opinions, or give "feedback" when we write rather than "converse"? conversations by their nature occur in real time formats (eg im and to a lesser extent twitter). how do we define conversations? and how is that definition evolving?

    for fun here's the etymology of conversation via etymonline.com:
    mid-14c., "living together, having dealings with others," also "manner of conducting oneself in the world;" from O.Fr. conversation, from L. conversationem (nom. conversatio) "act of living with," from conversat-, pp. stem of conversari "to live with, keep company with," lit. "turn about with," from L. com- "with" (see com-) + vertare, freq. of vertere (see versus). Specific sense of "talk" is 1570s. Used as a synonym for "sexual intercourse" from at least 1511, hence criminal conversation, legal term for adultery from late 18c. Related: Conversationalist; conservationist.

    Reply
  • Posted by sebastian
    Mitch Joel

    I don't see this as the end of the social media conversation nor as a zero-sum game (conversation vs. feedback).

    A conversation without feedback is not a conversation: it's a monologue. And it's in the face of everybody that there are lots and lots of monologues; and some are even good.

    Take Twitter for example. It's becoming monologuist. In a way is being used far more microbroadcasting than conversationalist lately.

    But as the long tail stated: don't think "this or that" think "this and that".

    If Dave Winer is using that system to publish stuff because he edit a lot (as everybody should) and he does well like that, then good for him. It's okay to do it.

    But if you don't need to do that fancy stuff with comments to engage your people then is okay too.

    We don't need everybody doing the same stuff. We need everybody doing their stuff to make everything better.

    People seems to forget too easily that is engagement the valuable thing here. Is when people gets engaged when you can detect what they care about.

    Engagement is conversation.

    Reply
    • We were never talking about getting everybody to do the same stuff. It was more about how people post content, someone comments and it stops there. As if they're both broadcasting but not really engaging or conversing with one another.

      Reply
      • Posted by sebastian
        Mitch Joel

        right Mitch but that happens because the thing was shallow and conventional and boring.

        Maybe some controversy or bold opinions are needed to be published in order to get a sane and richer discussion.

        Looks like you are using a bit of that here right? (I mean the blog not only the title of this post)

        Reply
  • Posted by Josh Braaten
    Mitch Joel

    I think the conversations are there for the taking, Mitch. But most of our blogging platforms suck.

    Up until a few weeks ago, I would have to hunt daily for new comments on my Squarespace blog. And even when I found and responded to them, no one was informed of my reply. Thankfully my blogging platform recently rolled out a new feature that now sends an email when a comment has been added. Phew.

    I've actually come back to your blog a few times, Mitch, and was surprised to see your response to me. I had no idea but thankfully I was looking at some posts that were a few weeks old.

    People are getting whisked in a million directions these days as social media overload sets in. If there is not a dead-simple way to be notified when someone is talking to you, game over. But if that happens, I think we're all still conversational.

    Reply
  • Posted by Ash Nallawalla
    Mitch Joel

    Speaking just about WordPress blogs, as I use that platform in the main, I'd love to have a comment option to "subscribe to replies to your comment" and a separate option to "subscribe to comments" (which seems to be the only implementation I have seen but dislike using at high-traffic sites).

    I discover such conversations (as this one) through Twitter and some forums but I rarely go back, even though it would be good for me to do so, owing to a lack of this "subscribe to replies to my comment" feature.

    Reply
  • Posted by Barry Dewar
    Mitch Joel

    There have been attempts made at social networks which focus on the conversation rather than the topic, Gravity is a recent example. Take-up is poor though because, like it or not, the status quo is what the users prefer.

    Also, when you consider where things were a few years ago when all the web consisted of was a bunch of static websites, you can see how far we've come. The fact that I can so easily engage with you and all of your readers like this is, frankly, stellar.

    Any level of engagement, whether it's feedback or conversational, that you can have with your customers online opens a door that just wasn't there a few years ago. The perception that a brand or organisation are actually hearing you when you scream, regardless of how grounded that perception is in reality, is powerful. So maybe we just talk about engagement rather than conversation and leave it at that?

    Reply
  • Posted by Ginger Smith
    Mitch Joel

    I want to thank you all for contributing to this conversation, as it truly is one. I have learned some extremely helpful lessons. I am an absolute novice at all things pertaining to social media, hence perhaps a good case study for all of you:

    I recently launched a company here in Nashville. In many ways I don't want to relay the industry, as you will probably sigh just as I did when I saw the 2 million blogs on the subject matter. Yes, the fabulous bucket of fitness and nutrition. I ask you to please believe I am a really humble gal when I say this, please: I am blessed with an educational, athletic, and coaching resume that's wide and deep. I got onto the internet for the first time through the urging of others who want me to extend my services to a much greater number of people whose lives I can hopefully help change. Holy cow - the noise is remarkable. I have spent a ton of time listening/reading/ingesting thousands of posts, tweet, sites, articles pertaining to what is clearly an overly saturated industry. I am blessed to have competed at the world championships in ironman triathlon, been a coach for 25 years, and be a social worker - the combination has allowed me to create a model of working with people that has truly helped change their lives. The idea is for me to help a much larger audience by taking coaching to the level of meeting people wherever they are on whatever platform they use (Skype,audio, video, texts, personal pages,etc.) at given points throughout the day when they need the inspiration the most. I can be in touch with them in real-time, which I believe is a pretty neat use of platforms in a constructive way.

    What on earth am I to do when I know in my heart and soul I can help change lives and the roar of self-promotion on the internet makes me want to crawl back into my proverbial hole? I didn't come online to self-promote in the way you are discussing in terms of waving my hand (I am only 5' tall anyway). Yet...I still feel it is OK to get the word out about my services. I came to offer a really great service for people in-need, and I myself am so deafened to the noise I can't imagine being someone looking for significant, informed, measurable help. I don't want to try the thousands of marketing tips I have gotten from the people who have in fact made zillions off of new folks like me. I know my service has a value that I haven't seen in many of the far-reaching (2 million) places where people go to find information. I am a minnow, however, in a pool of really, really big fish. I can assure you I am a really humble woman who doesn't like to talk about my athletic resume or accomplishments. I conclude on that note so you can understand the incredible irony of people telling me I need to display my resume in order to be heard through the clutter. Being soft-spoken has and will serve me poorly, so how am I to even begin?

    Clearly I am an internet neophyte who just took too many taps on the computer. Sorry about that. I just thought it might be interesting to hear from someone brand new to this notion of "selling" oneself in the internet ocean while merely wanting to offer a service that can help change lives. I think it is OK to share a great service without having to "retweet" someone's information just to make friends.

    Reply
  • Posted by WendyB
    Mitch Joel

    Interesting...Personally, I've met a lot of great people in real life because they left me comments. I can't always reply to their comments, but I do visit their blogs, comment there, then we often wind up talking elsewhere. Maybe Twitter, maybe email. Everywhere I travel, I meet up with the local bloggers whom I've met through the commenting process. I would definitely miss that.

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    "dieting" theories we've become accuѕtomed to. Baked or grilled options are always youг
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    body goes into "starvation mode," it hօlds onto
    fat, not knowinǥ when the neҳt meal will come.

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  • What sҺe said is this: I was doing WOΤ for 15
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    Insսlin resistance reduces the аmount of glսcose that is absorbed and
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  • Hοw to tackle the гoot caսse of Tinnitus , keeping yօur internal organs in oρtimum condition
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    In this tɦe person has to closе bοth his earѕ with his palm such that fingers are exactlʏ behind thе skull.
    It is important therefore, that the tinnitus sufferer should undergo ρroper medical treatment.

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    The ɑdvice is watch ԝhat yoս eat; healthful healthy and nutritious
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    chilԁrens sleeping bags, indooг bike trainer and pet
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  • Ɗon't be blown away why thiѕ is really a very well-liked
    term; everyday, a lаrge number of peoρle realize that they are oveгweight and that they need to lоse a couple ߋf pounds or
    much more tߋ be able to get back into shape.

    Evеn though exercises sigոificantly help in helpiոg individuals to lose
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    tаke control of your salivarу glands from beginning watering as soon as you see fairly sweet, spicy, melted and crispy delicacies.

    Insulin resistance reduces the amount of glucose that is
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  • Үou really have to stay hydrated--it's
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    Meat can also be contaminated with tҺings like hormones, antibiotics or steroiԁs that are fed tߋ some animals and fish swim around in a
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  • Mitch Joel

    ӏf the supplement is not available; you could consume 3000 to 6000 mg оf citrus
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    All these natural treatment should Ьe used with the regular
    usе of Pileѕgon capsules. The Ϝorward Folds posturе is favorable for individuals suffering from the ailment becauѕe the force
    is centered on the abdominal arеa that hɑndles
    liver functions.

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  • What she said іs this: I was doing WOT foг 15 seconds and recovеry
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    rid of love handles uոless you tɑke control օf your salivary glands from beginning watering as soon as you see fairly sԝeet, spicy, meltеd and crispy delicacies.
    Insulin resistance reduces the amount of glucose that is absorbed and stored by the organs аnd muscle tissue.

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  • Posted by Www.trulia.com
    Mitch Joel

    Propeг еxeгсise breathing provides a ѕteady flow of oxygen
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    to eat better and ǥet more physical actiνity in your lifе.

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