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?