Social media marketing essentially evolved from The Cluetrain Manifesto assertion that markets are conversations. The world of social media then exploded and conversational platforms, tools and networks evolved. Markets are conversations … whatever that means. When you translate it into the practical, not the etherial, you have to try and figure out conversational marketing.

How do you have conversations with people with the intent of promoting a product or service? Or, to borrow Chris Heuer’s seemingly altruistic fantasy of marketing, how do you have conversations with people with the intent of helping them buy a product or service? More specifically, how do you have these conversations in mediums (social platforms) where people’s participation is theoretically predicated on the belief they don’t want to be marketed to?

Conversations by Yuri Arcurs on Shutterstock.comResponsible social media advice is that conversational marketing occurs when you build trust and relationships, provide value to your audience and become the go-to resource when that audience is ready to buy what you sell. But if we are to truly build trust and relationships with our audiences, a problem arises:

The trust you build is largely dependent upon the ability to convince them your intent is pure.

Our intent is to market. While relative, our intent is not wholly pure, is it?

The stereotype of a car salesman is they are interested in the sale, not the customer. The stereotype of the public relations person is they’re interested in the placement, not the media member. A marketer, in the public’s eyes, is a salesman. Our audience is predisposed to not trust us.

If we act, though, not as marketers, but as members of the community, network or environment in which we’re participating with the audience, do we chip away at that mistrust?

And if we do, how long does it take before we earn enough of it to accomplish our goals?

Or does accomplishing them prove the mistrust was justified?

Conversational marketing success is only possible when your genuine participation — not motivated my marketing goals — earns your audience’s permission to share information that is.

Still, you can interrupt someone saying they need to buy a watch with, “I sell watches, can I help?” and earn a sale.

Conversational marketing is an inexact science. But isn’t it fun to explore?

IMAGE: Conversations by Yuri Arcurs on Shutterstock.com

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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