Conversation Era

photo by tochis

So, they have talked about it for some time. I just want to say, “it’s here.” Welcome to the age of the conversation. Don’t believe me? Leave me a comment below, and we can talk about it.

The days of standing in an auditorium with a spotlight on stage shouting while the audience obediently listens are over. The era of big broadcast messages on television shows, billboards that clutter every open space, or in the pages of your magazine are reaching the end of their usable lives. People are tired of businesses screaming at them and telling them what to buy, at what price and how many. Now consumers are talking to each other, talking to the businesses, and sometimes even shouting back, a little.

B 2 C (Business to Consumer) is redefined. Under the new definition, Business to Conversation, businesses eavesdrop on the Consumer to Consumer conversation for an opportunity to jump in:

Take Comcast, for example. Have a problem with your cable or internet connection. Jump on Twitter and start talking about your experience. I wager that a friendly tweet will come from @comcastcares trying to help–talking with you about your problems (and not just sleeping on your couch).

Have a problem with Quickbooks? I posted about the diabolic Quickbooks. Within a few hours, Intuit jumps into the conversation pledging assistance.

A friend was raving about a new wireframing application, Balsamiq, through a tweet. They reached out to him and started a conversation about the product. They not only gave him a free license to the product, they offered more licenses to friends. The online conversation that started with a tweet sprang to life as he truly had something to talk about: a great product and a company that engaged.

B 2 C is also flipped to C 2 B. The consumer now has a voice to reach out and talk to businesses. If careful and attentive a business can listen exactly to the needs of their market. What would have required focus groups and millions of dollars in testing is now just a matter listening, which is reserved for the courageous.

After listening to a few raving reviews, I wanted an invite to a cool new application, Boxee, but Alpha testing was backlogged. After my subtle suggestion, Boxee obliged the next day. By gently listening, which in this case required nothing more than a search feed, this company can organically grow their product to interested parties. Compare that with a blairing billboard.

Sometimes the Customers shout a bit more. Glenn Reynolds’ core concept in Army of Davids is that the emerging (conversational) Web and other technological enhancements are allowing the little guy take down giants. For example, conversations between a group of moms in the fall of 2008 forced the Goliath, Motrin, to yank their ads after a short run.

We are truly in a different era that is not fully understood. Some businesses lightly wade into the social sphere to “get the benefits” of the new web, but they are unwilling to truly get wet. Unfortunately, there are some still standing on the dimly lit stage, shouting and no one is listening–they just don’t get it. The age of conversation is here, just listen.

Jeremy Floyd

Jeremy Floyd is the President at FUNYL Commerce. Formerly, he was the CEO and President of Lirio, Bluegill Creative, a marketing and communications firm in Knoxville, Tennessee. In addition to managing the digital strategies, Floyd was an adjunct professor for the University of Tennessee Chattanooga MBA program teaching digital strategies and social media. Floyd blogs at and tweets under the name @jfloyd. Jeremy is licensed to practice law in the State of Tennessee and holds a law degree from the University of Tennessee College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts degree from MTSU in English and Philosophy.

  • wife

    As a consumer it is exciting to know there are other avenues to express my opinion about a product/service other than the tired phone call or in my experience unanswered email. Lets just hope that those outside of the technology world get a clue too. That way maybe after complimenting my new Vera Bradley purse on twitter I could get a small token of appreciation in the form of a coupon or free glasses case!

    Awesome blog post! I was able to read this techie info and understand it’s significance. Way to reach out the the little guy!

  • Another great link to add to your post is the bible of the conversation age – The Cluetrain Manifesto. Folks are starting to catch on where these guys anticipated in the late 90s. Many of the current cycle of books are simply recycling a few of the great ideas in this little that’s free online btw.

    Everything is changing. The company may play a role in shaping brand, but the conversation about the brand is becoming just as vital. Company can’t control brand messaging anymore than they can control customer chatter. A few years back some programmers made an online game mocking a typical kinko’s store because of the layers of ineptitude. The game was part of the brand conversation. Many of these companies ignore (or try to control/dominate) the conversation to their peril.

    While I wish the two-way conversation was authentic, I fear many companies still don’t get it and see the quick response to tweets and blogs as a gimmick. When they really get it, the conversation will enter into product development, customer service development, and other future developments for the company. Customers have as much valied insights about the future of company products and services as the internal gurus.

    Not sure where all this is headed, but I think it is part of the large transformation of the Western world that ties together social/intellectual shifts in modernism with technological developments to begin creating something we still don’t totally get.

  • Hi Jeremy

    This is just a fantastic post – expressing so well thoughts running through my head that I haven’t been able to get out. Really enjoy the style and will be back to learn more.

    I’ve picked up your RSS feed to make sure I stay in touch.

    “Welcome to the age of conversation” – Love it to bits.


  • Jeremy,

    Word-of-mouth has never been so important as today it leaves a digital trail on Google, Yahoo! and so on. This will force brands to re-think the way they are influencing, managing and looking at consumer’s conversations.

    I think that smart brands, at the end of the day, will realize how much they can add value to their equity by taking a close look at major ‘talk drivers’ such as customer services.

    Cheers and congrats on your blog!

    Gabriel Rossi- Brazil

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  • Excellent post, not seeing this happen in Ireland yet, think we will have to wait alot longer in here for companies to start listening to these conversations and then take the bold step to reach out and try to satisfy the customer.

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