A big disruption brought about by social media and online social networks has been in the transition of power in a conversation from the organisation to the individual. Effective conversations are more important than ever.

Whilst many organisations are taking social media seriously for business, there can be a tendency or desire to focus on deploying readily available technologies without appreciating the importance of the human role in the process.

Salesforce recently wrote an article about four sales and technology trends nobody is talking about. Three of the four centred on the importance of developing effective communications skills. Not just what you say, but how you convey it:

  1. Young sales reps lack traditional skills

     Whilst today’s graduates are very sophisticated when it comes to using technology, they are often not so smart when it comes to people skills and a nose for sales

  2. Buyers are making decisions without human help

    The sales person’s role is no longer to provide information about a product. Their role now is to add value by understanding the needs of a customer

  3. Video sales enablement is in and phones are out

    Only so much can be understood through words, while body language is much more effective

Tim Brown, CEO at IDEO, recently wrote about the need to improve communications in an increasingly complicated and interconnected world. He quotes Peter Drucker:

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said

That quote, pardon the pun, says it all! You can’t just recruit people to manage social media channels based on their knowledge of modern technologies and having grown up surrounded by social media meaning they ‘get it’. In most cases, there are still real humans behind every online account. A good conversation requires being able to relate to the other person, the individual.

To give an example. Guy Stephens recently asked if the @NHSDirect account lacked empathy:


It wasn’t the most sensitive of responses to a distressing situation.

Whilst the information may have been accurate, the response takes no notice of the emotions conveyed behind the message. Scanning through the past two weeks of tweets, the tone is consistently efficient delivered in a light-hearted and friendly manner. In most cases, that approach works works very well. But here’s another example where it falls flat:


When somebody includes the hashtags ‘so ill, ‘need advice’ and ‘please’, I’m not sure ending your response with a smiley face is the best choice. There is no variation in the tone of the @NHSDirect conversation. No adjustment based on the sensitivity or severity of the question or comment. A novice mistake.

In comparison, a local police Twitter account manages to combine serious and useful updates with light-hearted banter, as demonstrated in the images below:


A serious question is given a serious response that they can act upon, immediatley. The @NHSDirect version would have probably been along the lines ‘Sorry, we can’t give out legal advice, you could try this page <link>. Take care.’

For the light-hearted approach from @SolihullPolice, this still remains one of my favourites:


It’s a fine line between what works and what doesn’t. Varying the tone based on the situation can play a big part in determining how people react to information. Investing in conversational skills is a must for organisations to be effective in social media channels. And I suspect many organisations will fail to recognise the natural talent they already employ, as demonstrated in a related article – Networks need individuals who care.


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p.s. If you’re wondering why an image of a horse was used for this post. Horses can’t talk but that doesn’t stop them from communicating…

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