Whether you’re looking for customers or followers, you’re going to want to read this.
There are any number of ways to think of the Internet. It’s a giant information portal, for instance, a repository of code and data streams. It’s also a hyper-charged entertainment and shopping platform, powered by a vast network of workstations and server racks.
Beyond that, however, the Internet is essentially one massive, ceaselessly spiraling, barely containable cornucopia of conversation. Actually, scratch that. It’s more like a sprawling cocktail party spread out over millions of gigabytes of cyberspace, with side conversations going on all over the place. No matter where you go on the Internet, somebody’s talking about something. That’s what it’s there for.
On the World Wide Web, almost all media has become social media. The old days of simply reading something are gone now. We don’t just passively consume content anymore, the way we would a newspaper or magazine. We now engage with it in a variety of ways. We share it, comment on it, like it, favorite it, retweet it, and so forth. Not only can we comment on content, but we can comment on other comments and then comment on comments that are about comments – ad infinitum. Sounds like a conversation to me.
The impact that all this online conversation has in the offline world is monumental, too. We buy products, eat in restaurants, and even vote in elections based on what we encounter online. In fact, the two most recent presidents found their way to the White House via some form of Internet conversation. Just think about it. What comes to mind when you imagine the current commander-in-chief? Why yes, of course. His Twitter account.
There’s no question, then, that conversation matters. To make an impact in cyberspace – and thus the physical world – you need to play a sizable role in the conversations that matter to you. Some might even say you need to “own” your conversation, but that’s a questionable assertion. A conversation is not a wrestling match, after all. Think of the last time you encountered a person trying to dominate a conversation at a picnic or cocktail party. How did they come across to you? As obnoxious? A boor? Something worse? Thus it goes with online conversation as well.
The better approach is to slowly develop what is called ‘conversation share.’ And what, precisely, is conversation share? Simply put, it’s the percentage of an online conversation that belongs to you. The basic formula for determining it is actually quite simple. Its your contribution to a given conversation divided by the entirety of the conversation within a certain domain, such as Twitter. Let’s say you tweet 50 times about stopwatches in a one-week period, during which a total of 500 stopwatch-related tweets go out. Your conversation share for that week is therefore ten percent. See how that works?
You might think it would be ideal for a brand (or person) to have 100% of a conversation, but no. If you contribute the entire input on a given topic then no one else is talking about it. And if you own 98% of a conversation, then you’re drowning other voices out, which really isn’t acceptable either. Remember the last TV commercial you saw one too many times? Remember how sick of it you were? That’s what happens when you have too much conversation share.
So how much conversation share should you have, exactly? Well, it depends. Some conversations are simply too large to dominate. Think of topics like “health” or “cooking” and the millions upon millions of searches performed on those terms every single day. It’s unrealistic to think you’re going to dominate in those arenas. Instead, you want to try for a percentage of a smaller conversation that’s well defined and navigable. You’ll never own ‘fitness,’ but with enough diligence and effort, you could have a sizable share of the ‘boot camp workouts’ conversation. See how that works?
There’s no denying that conversation share is a dense topic that requires a great deal of unpacking. Just look at how much cyberspace we've burned up already. In fact, there’s no way it can be adequately covered in a single blog post, let alone three or four. No sooner is one topic brought to light than a new gaggle of questions appear. Am I talking to the right people? Am I saying the right things? What kind of tone should I take? How can I contribute something meaningful and impactful? And which conversations should I even be participating in?
Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be exploring the topics of online conversation and conversation share in greater detail. We’ll look at strategies you can use to broaden your reach and extend your impact. For now, though, feel free to join in on this conversation. I invite you to leave your comments and questions below, follow EdgeTheory on Twitter and Facebook, and even shoot us an email. I’ll be back in a few days to dig a little further into conversation share.