The art of conversation

By Chrissy Styles

You want a social media presence. Of course you do, everyone does. What better way to spread your message to potentially millions of people, for free, in seconds? The general public are out there, primed and ready to receive whatever it is you have to say (or are trying to sell).

Except it’s not actually that easy for everyone.

I find myself in a lucky position. As a twenty-something working in a job that didn’t really exist in my parents’ time, I may as well have been born with a smartphone in hand, instagramming a quick selfie with my poor mum on the way out. I never consciously ‘learned’ how to use social media; it's something I’ve picked up gradually since before the idea of Twitter had even hatched.

Learning how to use social media is like learning a language – it’s best to immerse yourself over time, not hurriedly learn a couple of phrases and shout them out, loudly and slowly, to anyone within earshot. And just like with a foreign language it’s all too obvious to those who are fluent when someone isn’t a native speaker. It’s #jarring #and #doesn’t #flow #naturally.

Twitter tells you to join the conversation – but conversation goes both ways, and you need to listen as well as talk. The relationship between brands and consumers is more equal than it has ever been, and the flow of information now goes back and forth rather than top-down like it used to. Social media users are fickle folk. It’s all too easy to let your feelings be known if someone's content annoys you, and much easier to hide or unfollow them all together.

Imagine Twitter or Facebook as a crowded party where every person is trying their hardest to get noticed. Some might be engaging others in interesting conversation or entertaining with a witty skit. Others might have opted for a whacky hat. There will always be some, though, who decide that going on, and on, and on about themselves VERY LOUDLY is the best way forward. In a way they’re not wrong – it’ll definitely get you noticed. But if you’re standing near the guy who’s yelling about how great he is, you’re going to move. Probably in the direction of the person with the really interesting conversation who you’ll tell all your friends about the next day.

It's all about the quality of your content. Social media users are savvy people; we know when we're being sold to and we don't actually mind – as long as the way you go about it engages and involves us, rather than irritating us with information regurgitated from your website or newsletter every 15 minutes.

Maybe if you don’t yet have anything interesting to say, don’t say anything at all.