Designing the Conversation

Recent research revealed that chat apps are more popular than textingfor the first time,and Im not at all surprised. Why pay for SMS when you can download applications like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger that let you do the same thing for free? And on that note, why would you take the time to call and personally engage in a conversation with someone when you can just send an email? You can easily sustain a relationship with someone without ever knowing what they sound or look like.

Cynicism aside, Im truly a believer in the art of face-to-face conversation. Which is sad, because I see it fading before my eyes. And even more unfortunately, I see it fading away from me personally.

Like many Millennials, the majority of the communication I have with the outside world throughout the workday is digital. Yes, I work in an office and converse with those around me€”but that doesnt mean emails arent still exchanged with those same desk neighbors.

And it gets worse. Its gotten to the point where my roommate and I sit in our respective rooms, G-chatting each other YouTube links and commenting on each others Facebook pictures. Sound excessive? Yeah, its not exactly something I take pride in.

So whats the benefit of writing a comment rather than just saying it directly to someones face? I know I can write a wittier, funnier, smarter comment than I can say it on the spot. And instead of just having one person hear it, now my entire Facebook network (plus my friends network) can see it, too. Facebooking, Tweeting, Instagramming, Vining, or whatever other digital social outlet Im already falling behind with are more than ways to express yourself online€”theyre ways of carefully crafting conversations and branding yourself.

This whole train of thought€”sparked by the chat app research€”ultimately led me to think about how social media marketing has become an entirely new way to design a conversation about brands. The power of digital marketing for brands isn’t necessarily anything groundbreaking, but it is if you think about the way it’s crafted€”it’s all designed.And if youre a good writer, a good content curator or a pro at summarizing in 140 characters of less, you have an advantage in this digital race. Whether you realize it or not, you’re a conversation designer.

It seems that a lot of social media and digital marketing consultants will try to sell you with more “likes,” and that’s nice for a short-lived ego boost. But what I think is more important is the engagement you create and the communities a brand becomes a part of. Your online personality can say just as much€”if not more€”about you than your living, breathing self (or product). Smart and shareable content designs and drives conversations.

And, like my thoughts on personal conversations, this by no means delegitimizes the power of word-of-mouth marketing. It just brings it to a different level. It’s another€”but not a completely alternative€”way to get people talking.

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