In the last few weeks, a couple of events have made me re-visit the meaning and bagage that comes with dialogue. Not marital dialogue, but rather but rather dialogue within the digital and marketing worlds. And while in these worlds we often talk about conversation and dialogue with the customer, reality reveals that there are various definitions. Let's examine them...
One Way Dialogue
The leak earlier this week that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been aggregating broad swafts of phone call meta data was troubling on a number of levels which we won't go into in this posts. What has been interesting is the response from the White House administration (WH) both through the press and via other outlets such as social media and email. Which is to say that the issue has not been addressed in any way via social media and email. On the contrary it's business as usual, with their latest communication being about immigration. This is reminiscent of behavior by big brands during the early days of social media and their crisis response strategy which can be summed up with the go-silent-than-ignore-the-crisis approach. Needless to say for the WH as a brand this can potentially be a devastating blow to their credibility and the ability to muster the troops and donations in future cycles.
Often employed by startups, there are two subsets of limited dialogue. The first is a limited period of full dialogue often followed by a request for funds or help of some kind. The second, is a tiered approach to who can enter into full dialogue with the startups. While it's entirely conceivable at the latter is based on resources and scalability often, those who can enter in limited dialogue are established personalities or other entrepreneur. Both behaviors can also be detrimental to the brand or entities credibility and overall brand image. Launch.co employs this particular strategy which has meant that over time, the initial excitement associated with being a user at the early inset of a startup has been replaced with a feeling that your voice doesn't matter, regardless of whether you contribute monetarily (I do). A feature which exemplified this was a policy which only allowed select people to comment on a story. An interesting strategy to keep the quality of comments high, but one just needs to look at quora to see it isn't necessary
While, seeking a dialogue with users is nothing new and for many startups and company a standard part of the product development process, it has often been as feedback to confirm or validate a decision that had already been made. For the last few weeks i've been beta testing a web app that is getting close to launching. And the difference with say a Launch.co is startling. With this web app, the dialogue between app makers and audience has been direct and plentiful. I've even been part of a session where the designer refined some of the UI as we Skyped. And i has been clear throughout this process that audience and app makers are co-creators. It's something that has been very interesting intellectually, and very satisfying personally.
In every initiative there are drawbacks and advantages. Dialogue or conversation is no different. Many brands today are stucked at the partial dialogue phase, seeking confirmation for decisions or or contributions of some kind. But if your differentiation as a brand is dialogue, it needs to be full, transparent dialogue, where users are trully equal partners in the creative process. The real danger of not adopting full dialogue, is not just the loss of auhtenticity, but rather the loss of insight when it comes to your products and their true value, their True North.