Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

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.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

Please consider reading my brand new book, Engage!

Get Putting the Public Back in Public Relations and The Conversation Prism:

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25 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Q&A: Is One-Way Communication an Oxymoron?”

  1. juliacassidy says:

    Great! “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.” That sentence is perfect to define the use of social media for business purposes. I've enjoyed the article very much. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Dara Bell says:

    I agree with Julia Cassidy. Great content is great content (linked to business mission) and I agree with all of the amazingly intelligent things she said too about frameworks and the meduim. Ah you said that Brian, just skimming through as we speak.

    I think the latin description you mention on communication is uselful too Brian. We are increasingly communicating in packs, in groups and tribes around technology. I am reminded of old media models of transmission and reception.

    Most of the Media Studies are learnt at University will be dead by the time I am fourty I am sure. I think one it is an oxymoron.

    • Considering how important social media has become in the past 10 years, I was surprised how little university communications programs have changed, in and around Toronto and eastern Canada anyways. If you look them up, you'll see that new and social media is a minor footnote at best and mostly nonexistent at all. As with you, I'm expecting that to change, but I thought it would already have come a lot further.

  3. Thank you Brian, I enjoyed doing the interview, just like I enjoyed attending your recent webinar. It took me one hour to cover the first 4 minutes so it might take me a day to cover the webinar 😉 Engage!

  4. Phill Barufkin says:

    Corporate culture and ingrained business practices often slow the pace of adopting new marketing practices. That being said, I do agree and believe that the current Digital Revolution is changing marketing. While it is still a very new frontier and online marketing is evolving as fast as technology can be developed, it has changed messaging from being one way, directed and controlled by marketers to being multi-directional: business to consumers, consumers to consumers, consumers to businesses.

    Phill Barufkin is a strategist, account planner and marketer who deploys integrated marketing programs and has experience with digital efforts of all shapes and sizes.

  5. shox r5 men says:

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  6. Phil says:

    for the rise of social media in last decade, blogs like this has and many more has played important part

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