Social media is now not just about having a presence but about engaging with people online to create deeper relationships. An article by Peter Senge (2012) regarding the difference between discussion and dialogue appears to shed some light on how brands can do this. In this article he suggests that a discussion is something like a “Ping-Pong game where two people are hitting the ball back and forth between each other”. In such a game the subject of common interest may be analyzed from many points of view provided by those who take part, yet the purpose of the game is normally “to win” (to get your view accepted over others). In a discussion individuals might occasionally accept part of another person’s point of view to strengthen their own, but fundamentally are wanting their view to prevail. A sustained emphasis on winning, however is no longer compatible and a new form of communication is believed to be more powerful. That of the dialogue.
In contrast a dialogue is referred to as a “free flow of meaning between people”. The purpose of a dialogue is to go beyond any one’s individual understanding. No one is trying to win in a dialogue, everyone in turn is working together for the greater good of the conversation. In a dialogue individuals gain insights that otherwise would not have been achieved individually. These conversations continue on, and start to gain a life of their own.
In order to create such communication brands need to act as facilitators who can effectively hold the context of the dialogue. Without a facilitator, individual’s natural habits will pull them back toward a discussion. A community manager or communications manager therefore need to make it their number one priority to ensure a safe space is created for individuals to express their views publicly (knowing they are not going to be shut down by others). Furthermore the facilitator must also be constantly contributing and adding to the discussion to keep this dialogue moving. Being knowledgeable and helpful in the process is the key to ensure the dialogue keeps going and is not compromised by any one individual’s overbearing thoughts. Brands effectively creating dialogues with their fans are able to create stronger relationships, deepen the trust levels and in turn create a highly unique experience for the individual (one that would be very difficult to copy by a competitor).
What are your views? Have you personally experienced the difference between a discussion and a dialogue?