An Unexpected Way That Social Media Is Changing Our Conversations
Posted 27 August 2014
It’s been well documented in recent years that social media is changing the way that we interact with one another. These have included positive changes – helping us to keep in touch with friends and family, connecting with new people and giving us access to the latest news and current affairs – and the not-so-positive. Critics of social media would suggest that excessive use of Facebook, Twitter and other networks can have a dehumanising effect and actually weakens our friendship experiences.
Until now, much of the discussion around the use of social media has centred around “personal use”. When we talk about social media in a business context, it’s normally referring to social media marketing and using social media to expand your audience and grow your business.
Recent research may have found another, unexpected way in which social media is changing our conversations.
The results of the survey, included in this recent article from Mashable, suggest that we are becoming increasingly reluctant to discuss controversial issues on platforms such as Facebook. Regarding the Edward Snowdon situation, for example, 86% of those surveyed indicated that they would be happy to discuss this face-to-face, but only 42% would do so online.
In some ways this is a surprising result. As one of the authors of the study put it:
“Some had hoped that social media might provide new outlets that encourage more discussion and the exchange of a wider range of opinions. But we see the opposite—a spiral of silence exists online, too.” Keith Hampton, Rutgers professor
Social Media and Business Conversations
An important observation is that the way that we use social media has a direct impact on the way that we interact conversationally. This has various implications for the way that businesses use social media.
The first is that you can probably give more employees access to your social media channels than you’re comfortable with. If you have a thorough social media strategy and policy then there’s no reason why most of your staff shouldn’t be able to contribute to the updating of your social media accounts. It would seem that we’re becoming increasing cautious about what we do and don’t post online, which reduces the likelihood of a damaging or unhelpful message being posted on behalf of your business.
The second is that if our online conversations are becoming increasingly shaped by our online behaviour then social media is more important to your business than you realise. The tone, language and content that you employ online will impact the way that your employees and customers think about and speak about your business in person. Investing in your social media platforms will therefore have a wider impact than you might expect.
Thirdly, with people becoming increasingly reluctant to share their own views, there are real opportunities for strong, engaging brands to help influence how their customers see the world. If you’re able to present your views in a winsome, compelling way then you’ll soon be trusted as an authoritative voice in your field.