Q&A: Is One-Way Communication an Oxymoron?

Every now and then, I’m asked to answer questions for other blogs and media outlets – more so lately due in part to the recent release of Engage!

The conversations that always trigger new insights, ideas, or perspectives and sometimes, I believe that the discussion is worth sharing with you, here. This is one such discussion hosted by my friend in Belgium, Jean-Paul De Clerck.


1) A thought: Social networks are merely a technological extension of our human nature to connect, be part of something and communicate, and ultimately people are the social networks. What is your reaction?

Social Networks are hubs for the contextual connection of people around ideas, interests, and passions. But at the same time, while social networks serve as the enabling technology to communicate, the relationships that people forge within these networks are more reminiscent of relations rather than relationships. These short-form engagements actually strengthen connections with each exchange. And it’s the act of causing or earning responses that seduces users toward a bottomless cycle of acting and inciting reactions.

Over time, what’s truly fascinating about social networking, is the creation of a human network, a grid of relationships that link social graphs from network to network. One day soon, we’ll have the ability to effectively engage and interact with our contacts from one dashboard across multiple networks.

2) The days of broadcasting are over in marketing communication. I never understood the one-way communication mentality in businesses since in the word communication is derived from the the Latin word “communis.” Why do you think it has taken businesses so long to understand that it’s about relationships?

One-way communication is often cited as an oxymoron in Social Media.

Social Media purists indeed believe that communication is a two-way street, and for many, it is. However, when you review the definition of communication, you might actually be surprised.

Communication is defined as a transmission or a statement, essentially implying one-way messaging. Depending on the dictionary we use, words such as relations, socializing, and conversation emerge. While we may crave communication through two-way interaction, what I believe we are truly vocalizing is the need to be heard by those attempting to communicate to or with us. Let’s not mistake the value in one-way communication though. It is necessary to share activity, updates, direction, and intentions and in these cases, one-to-many dissemination is more than reasonable, in fact, it’s necessary and useful as well.

Some businesses believe that when they speak at audiences and markets that they are communicating through correspondence or conversation. Others believe that one-to-many transmissions offered some semblance of control and falsely assumed or underestimated that any potential dissent would rarely earn the public spotlight. Now with the socialization of media and the rise of new influencers, prominence is earned through not only listening, but established through attentiveness and the corresponding actions that inspire connection and adaptation.

3) What, according to you, is the role of content in social media marketing?

Content speaks to the mission and purpose of a business optimized for the framework of the medium and always with the unique and varying audiences in mind. Content is critical towards establishing a effective inbound marketing initiative as it represents the brand when the brand representative is not present. This is why brands must become media. Strategically placing content in the networks where stakeholders, customers, and prospects are actively seeking information amplifies the findability of our value proposition, differentiation, and intentions. This is why possessing a genuine understanding of the wants, needs, challenges, and options of our markets and also where, when, and how they seek direction proves effectual. And when combined with social media optimization (SMO), our content rises to the top of keyword searches within social networks, addressing the specific needs of consumers based on how and where they search.

Content is easy to commoditize. Meaningful content rooted in empathy and value is precious and as such, dramatically increases the promise of connecting to those they’re intended to affect.

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Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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