10 Ways to Initiate a Conversation on the Social Web

I have been doing a lot of thinking about conversations.

As I reflect on my marketing successes over the years, I realized that all of my sales happened as a
result of conversations.

Mine…and those of others who were talking about me.

I sometimes wonder if we spend too much time worried about incubators, funnels, tactics, strategies,
methodologies…at the end of the day, it seems the process is simple: First, identify someone worth
knowing. Next, find a way to initiate a conversation. This leads to a relationship. A trusted relationship
leads to sales.

So, here are 10 ways – using the social web – to initiate conversation:

1. Twitter is the easiest, simplest, and most obvious means to start a conversation. Except it doesn’t seem
obvious to about 90% of the planet. Here is a post I wrote on Intrepid to give you simple, easy-torecognize
cues to start a dialog with someone you want to know.

2. If I hear “I don’t understand Foursquare or Gowalla” once more, I am going to find a looney bin on
Foursquare…and check-in myself. If you followed the first step stated above, and identified someone
important for you to get to know, the point of using the social web is to then MONITOR them. Watch
them, listen to them, see what they are doing. If they check in on Foursquare at a cool restaurant, or at
Barnes + Noble, or at a local movie theater, it should be obvious what to do next to launch a conversation.
[Hint: ask how their meal was, what book did they buy?, what film did you see?]

3. If you read blogs, that’s great. Great learning to be had there. But if you aren’t COMMENTING on them,
you are missing out on amazing opportunities to meet and engage with people, especially the blogger
herself. So, if you tell me social media doesn’t work, AND you aren’t commenting on relevant industry
blogs, then you might as well fry burgers for a living. [by the way, if you asked my opinion on what the
most important sales task one should perform on the social web? I’d say commenting on blogs is #1, by
several lengths…]

3.5. Write and publish your own blog. Blog about things that matter to you. Blog about things that matter
to your target audience. Encourage participation. And when people comment? RESPOND! That’s the whole
bloody point. If you aren’t the number one commenter on your own blog, you deserve to be clubbed over
the head with a baseball bat.

4. Host a radio show or participatory podcast. Far and away the easiest way to meet people who matter,
people who matter to your business. So you tell me…which is easier? Cold-calling? Or inviting someone
onto your radio show… [you have one second to answer…]
I thought so.

5. My colleague Stone Payton wrote a post just last week about the power of wearing logowear. Now, we
all know I am as cool and hip as they come (hospitable comments only), and up to speed on the latest
styles. Wearing logos on your clothes isn’t very stylish. AT ALL. So why is this relevant? Because people
who wear logos on their clothes want to talk about the logos on their clothes. They are proud of it. They
have a story to tell. They want to talk about it. So, get off your ass and ask them about it.
OBVIOUS points below, but necessary to mention…

6. Got someone you want to get to know? And they have a blog? Subscribe to their RSS feed. Right now.
You will be notified when their latest post has been published. This is your cue to read the post and
comment. Easy.

7. Monitor what people are saying and posting on Facebook. Wish them happy birthday, and ask what they
are doing to celebrate. Don’t care about their family photos to Disney World? Then you are a fool, because
that’s an obvious conversation starter. Facebook gives you THOUSANDS of clues every day about how to
start conversations. Unless you aren’t reading people’s Walls, or have your head buried in the sand, there
is a long list of the things they LIKE. These are prompts for you to start conversations… [Important note:
this assumes you haven’t bought into this crap about Facebook only being for friends and family. Pull head
out of fanny and join 400 million of the rest of us…]

8. If you are a business person, you are probably on LinkedIn. But most people don’t use LinkedIn to start
conversations. Got someone you want to get to know? See what groups they are active in. Are they posing
and/or answering questions? Well then, join the fray. [I mean really…if they pose a question in a group
discussion? Come on, they are ASKING YOU TO ENGAGE!]

8.5. Oh, another thing about LinkedIn. I have made the decision to NOT connect with anyone who
forwards me the GENERIC invitation message. What a waste. What a joke. And what DAMN MISSED
OPPORTUNITY to ask someone a relevant question…

9. Be sure you apply storytelling in your marketing. People love stories. People love to talk about stories.
People love to share stories with others. Question: What do you do when you are sitting around the table
drinking wine and making conversation with close friends? [answer: for those not paying attention,
TELLING STORIES!]

10. Remember sites such as YouTube and Flickr are social interactive tools too. There is a reason videos
on YouTube and photos on Flickr solicit COMMENTS. The people posting those items would love to engage
and hear feedback… Did the video resonate with you? Did the photograph mean something to you?
So, there are “ten” ways to initiate and find conversations using the social web. There are more. Lots
more. Care to share any other ideas? Please do so in the comments.

Point is, there is a ton of conversation going on already. The world is a big stage. You are requested, in
fact encouraged, to play your part. So speak up!