* This post is by guest blogger, Ric Dragon. Ric is the author of Social Marketology and CEO and co-founder of DragonSearch. We continue to celebrate our 3rd anniversary of this Twitter chat as we explore how small chat can help brands connect with people more effectively this Friday, August 10th, at 5pm BST/12pm ET/9am PT on #KaizenBiz.
“Abandoning idle chatter, he abstains from idle chatter. (…) He speaks words worth treasuring, seasonable, reasonable, circumscribed, and connected with the goal. “This is how one is made pure in four ways by verbal action.”-Anguttara Nikaya
In the American evangelical tradition, the concept of gossip has been shaped by particular biblical translations, where the notion of gossip is closely associated with slander. One writer was explicit, “Satan started gossip.” [It is Written, by Kelechukwu O. Okafor]
The word “chatter” often comes conjoined with idle. In delicatessens in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, people schmooze, while others might babble, yap, yack, yatter, and say “yadda-yadda.” Business meetings across the world begin with small talk. But while people everywhere spend a majority of their conversational time in what might be called chitchat, marketers tend to maintain a chilly disdain for more informal conversation. Can it be on-brand to chitchat?
Robin Dunbar, the psychologist and primatologist that gave his name to the Dunbar Number, speculated that chitchat and gossip are extensions of social grooming. Dunbar hypothesized [Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language, 1996] that as humans evolved, and needed to cover a broader territory as they sought out sustenance, they developed chatter as a means of connecting with one another, and that as a behavior, it is an extension of allogrooming.
Allogrooming, or social grooming as it is sometimes called, is performed by all mammals. It can take the form of licking, massaging, scratching, stroking, and picking. Allogrooming has been shown to increase dopamine in the recipient, which in turn is known to provide a feeling of well-being. It has also been demonstrated that pairs of primates that provide allogrooming to one another are more likely to come to one another’s defense when threatened by a predator.
In some cultures, it would be considered rude to jump right into a business conversation and skipping small talk. People have an amazing ability to find commonality quickly. On seeing some family photographs, “oh, how old are your kids? I see they play little league – so do mine!”
Vive la Revolución!
One of the great promises of the digital media revolution is that brands will come down off of their high horses and soap boxes of broadcast messaging, and talk with people one-on-one. Marc Pritchard of P&G has cited one-on-one relationships as a substantial objective of their brands. Yet there is an interesting difference between how most brands use social media and the way it is used by the average Jane and Joe. Community managers of brands by and large avoid the more personal conversations.
While a formal study has not been performed, I’ve often observed that if I enter a social community and begin with an informational post, even if I was sharing the cure for cancer, I’m met with silence. Yet, if I enter the community, share some small talk first, and then share the big news, I tend to receive a warmer reception (resulting in people visiting a blog or retweeting).
A 2009 doctoral thesis from the Karolinska Institutets discovered that people who feel disconnected from their managers are more likely to get sick, miss work, and even suffer heart attacks.. At MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory, researchers have determined that teams will be more creative and energetic when workers have more time to socialize away from their work stations.
In order to join the social media coffee klatch, brand marketers will need to rethink the gospel of “staying on brand.” They will need to put more effort into defining the brand voice and personality and sharing it across the social media team, and develop acceptable ways to be more human.
- How uniquely American is the reluctance to engage in chatting?
- What other countries view chitchat negatively?
- How does a company use chitchat to promote its brand?
- How can companies avoid seeming manipulative in engaging in small talk 1st & later offering latest pitch?
- As community managers come & go, how do companies keep their “voice” consistent?
- What could “staying on brand” look like in a social media world where chitchat is the norm?
- How likely is it that brands can master building 1:1 relationships in social media?
About the author: Ric Dragon is the author of Social Marketology, a columnist at Marketing Land, and a frequent contributor to numerous blogs and publications, as well as a speaker at events such as Blog World, Brands Conf, Socialize Conf, and SMX. Dragon is the CEO and co-founder of DragonSearch, a digital marketing agency.