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Is Social Media for Conversation – or for Broadcasting?

“Social media is for conversations, not broadcasting.”

That’s a common bromide among social media gurus.  But is it true?

This matters to traditional broadcasters, because so much of what we do is built for broadcasting – it’s built for “one-to-many.”  Should we shoot for more conversation or more distribution?

For blogs, “conversation” means “comments.”  But Zarella found no significant correlation between the number of comments a blog post received and the amount of traffic that blog got.  Nor did he find a correlation between comments and links to a blog post.  In other words, conversation did not drive traffic.

For Facebook, Zarella looked at two popular pages and again found no correlation between the amount of conversation (comments and likes) on a wall post and the number of people who see that wall post.

Finally, Zarella took on Twitter, and here’s what he discovered:

I found that highly followed accounts tend to have a lower percentage of their overall tweet stream starting with an “@” sign–they’re less conversational. So then you may ask me, if “engaging in the conversation” doesn’t work to increase my reach, what does? The answer is simple: broadcasting more interesting content.

Shocking!  Broadcast more interesting stuff over Twitter and you’ll attract more fans.

Okay, not so shocking, but a super-important reminder.  Especially when the flawed consensus tells us it’s more important to converse with fans than to publish more interesting content for them.

Zarella continues:

When I analyzed those same Twitter accounts and looked at the percentage of their tweet streams that did not start with an “@” sign but did contain a link, I found that highly followed accounts tend to share more content.

And the same result is shown for blogs.

The more interesting stuff you publish (whether by blog, Facebook, or Twitter) and the more often you publish it, the more followers and fans you will attract.

Attracting an audience via social media sounds a lot more like radio than you might have expected.

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