Be The Starting Point Of Conversations

As participation by companies and individuals explodes, social media is fast losing shiny new object syndrome.  Even those who ignore the social web probably realize that at this point social media is not new.

The advantage of being early is probably gone for most industries.  Yet, if you’ve got the right strategy which plays into the fact that many are now participating, you don’t need to be first.  More people participating means more potential conversations, more potential subscribers, and more potential paths to set your brand on fire.

A way to take advantage of this proliferation in users is simple enough that I stated it already in the subject line of this post:  be the starting point of conversations.

Conversations are a currency of the web.  Consider that conversations:

  • Can inspire links at scale
  • Act as social proofing for the places they occur
  • Are another element feeding the long tail of search on your site
  • Can be a place of direct, honest feedback
  • Are a signal to users you’re worth following
  • Compelling conversations can convert subscribers
  • Are a signal your content-based site is succeeding

And, the starting point of high-impact conversations see the most benefits.

In time, those who continuously start conversations in a niche become referential for the rest of that niche.  And once people are conditioned to go somewhere on the web for certain type of content, it is a habit that may prove hard to break.  If this place is your site, you’ll greatly benefit.  This is because we have designed the web to be  a very social place – and so the places where people regularly converge will continue to grow.

If you’re not the starting point, or the source of conversations, you’re ultimately missable.  There’s nothing wrong with reacting to content and sharing ideas – but do so in a way which also sparks new conversations.  If your ideas don’t resonate beyond your site you can’t grow.

So how exactly do you become a starting point for conversations?  Let’s go through a few ways:

Don’t be afraid to talk about the meaty topics
I notice a lot of people skip over the meaty, interesting topics, the topics with value or substance and just post filler content.  Yet, it’s those meaty pieces that act as a catalyst to action for users which generate conversations and reactions.  Don’t shy away from getting users thinking, and never feel like you need to dial the level of your ideas down.

Fresh thinking or a consistently distinct vantage point
If the popular sites in a niche are always reacting to things the same way or viewing the world from the same lens,  after awhile this becomes boring.  By tackling a topic from a new, less pursued perspective you can stand out by pointing one direction and the rest of the world points the other.  Essentially, you’ll become a beacon.

Talk about the latest news or trends – but add value, don’t echo
By reacting to the same news in the same way as hundreds or even thousands of others in a niche, what you are doing is creating a site that is skip-able.  By merely copying the words of others, you’re not adding value or starting conversations, you’re echoing.  I understand that this actually can spark conversations if you pull out an interesting quote that was missed, but it is your framing of that quote that matters as much as the bit itself.

Make your site known for signal, kill the noise
Increase your chances of starting conversations by always producing content which is worth talking about.  The web is overrun with noise, and you have no chance of being louder than the aggregate wall of sound.  Don’t fight this losing battle.  Instead become known for quality.

Bring reality to your niche
Make no doubt about it, the world is not a logical place.  Just look at what goes on in the world daily.  We’re grasping for sanity in a reality overrun with the absurd – be a dose of logic in an otherwise illogical world and you will start conversations.

Be yourself
Seriously, be you.  It’s far more natural – and ultimately easier to react to ideas that are genuinely human than overly proofed content which has been destroyed by groupthink.  It is fine to edit, but design by committee can in many cases ruin what otherwise would have been great web content.  Simply put:  we’re interested in having conversations with people interested in having conversations with us.  And those conversations that we have greatest affinity for are natural, not polished.

Conclusion
The whole “the web is a conversation” thing is nothing new.  You probably already got that.  But what is frequently forgotten is there is greatest value is being the company, media brand or person who is the starting point for conversations.  They’re the ones who have real influence, authority and trust.