Online social media can draw people to your brand community and help return humanity to the world of business but it will never get rid of one-on-one voice conversations.
On one end of the bell curve are those who wish all human interaction could be kept to text and under their personal control. They see phone calls and postal mail as 'so last century', so they shun it as much from a sense of personal style as from a need to feel productive.
On the other end are those who are offended by the new social media and the distance it seems to breed between people. Completely misunderstanding what social media is and how it accomplishes just the opposite, they fear it will erode society through disconnection and lack of community.
Somewhere in the middle are those who are learning to use all tools for what they do best. And in this spectrum will always be a very important role for voice conversations that we've always known as 'phone calls'.
Why one-on-one conversations are so important
One-on-one conversations are disruptive. It's hard to do much else when you're having a conversation with someone else so multitasking must stop while you focus on the other person. This drives some people crazy.
One-on-one conversations are so important because they communicate importance. If your goal is to communicate how valuable another person is to you, dropping what you are doing and giving them your attention is a great way to do this.
— Sociallogical™ (@soclogical) November 15, 2012
Why my Mom gets a phone call
Our family is currently expecting a baby and, as of today, we are 11 days overdue. Many people we love want to know what's going on and want to hear from us as soon as there is news. Most will find out when we post news online but my Mom wants a phone call.
To call my Mom and let her know what is happening with our baby's birth I need to set aside a few minutes to do nothing else but talk to her, just like in the olden days. But doesn't she deserve this? Shouldn't people in our lives like our mothers receive this top-level treatment in which we drop what we are doing and make them our priority for a few minutes now and then?
The same efforts that keep you close to your Mom can also keep you close to your clients.
What qualities do you bring to your business?
We value various types of communication partly based on the investment required for the communicator to share it. We are so deeply offended by businesses who automate their communication too much because we feel we deserve more. We are giving them our money, after all. We also still cherish handwritten or signed letters or even requests for a video conversation because we appreciate the cost in time and effort involved for the other person to share with us in these ways.
I'm obviously not against all forms of automated communication and I am certainly not against one-to-many social media sharing. But it's important to recognize what each type of communication costs us and what we can expect from the relationships we feed with it.
Online social media keeps people connected to us and our brands. It keeps us on their minds, adds value if we are sharing helpful content, and allows us to keep personal connections alive the same way our grandfathers used to tip their hats and share a kind word with their neighbours (and their customers) on the street. But social media only enables a personal connection if we personally invest in it.
The technology will change but 'phone calls' or one-on-one voice and video conversations will never come to an end for any business that wishes to bring people close and to build community around their brands. A business can't chat with every customer. But every conversation they do have is an investment in relationships that should matter to a business.
Call your customers now and then, just to say "hi" or offer some friendly advice. Be cautious not to waste the other person's time, but if you know your contact is wanted or even requested your interest in wanting them to stay close to you will be understood better than with an email or a social network post. And that investment is worth so much more to the success of your business than extreme efficiency in how we communicate.
Do you shun the phone or embrace it as a powerful relationship building tool for your business?
The photo above is of me talking to Santa Claus on the phone, Christmas Eve 1978 - obviously proud that Santa would take a minute of his time to call me on his big night!