What Would Conversation Agent Do?

Poltrona-Frau-chair I'm running a poll on Facebook to learn what topics are the most helpful to you here.

Go vote now, if you want to weigh in. The road to my heart and to connecting faster with me is comments and discussions on this blog, which is my home base.

After talking with and listening to many of you, I know it's time to change things a bit here. I'm taking content to where it needs to be on a more regular basis for you to use it in your work.

That's my commitment to you.

Where Conversation Agent is going

Honestly, you all think I have everything figured out, which is why I get so few comments. I see high engagement with the topics from links and shares. We can do better. So I'm shifting the content at Conversation Agent, the blog and Facebook Page, to make more room for you.

There's still plenty of me going around.

However, this doens't mean I'm suddenly accepting every pitch for a guest blog post with obligatory linkback to a site of a person who has not taken the time to build a relationship with this community.

A tip to authors — you have a better chance by going direct. Cut off the intermediary. Especially if this is the first time I hear from and about you. It will help me believe you care about making the connection — and not just getting the link back and clip.

Here's where I'm going with content. Where I shine, my tip top strength is learning and deconstructing complex information and articulating it in a way that connects, observing behavior, and connecting the dots with what comes next.

Everyone wins when I can flex that muscle.

Content advisory boards

Because of other activities I'm kicking off in the next week or so, I'm forming a couple of mini-content-advisory boards to help me see better what you're interested in and speed up the information- and question-gathering part. To get to insights and conversation faster.

To keep things simple — and make it a #winwin situation for us all — I'm doing the picking. I already reached out to a couple of groups.

I've been writing about these topics all along. I'm consolidating the content here to speak directly to the three main types of business models that are the sweet spot for the new direction of marketing and technology:

  • customer relationships — the idea is that people are more valuable when they own and use your product/service than when they're thinking about buying it. Hence the customer conversations and connected company series.
  • product innovation –  this is about the power of co-creation (also with your own employees) and enrolling people on your side, which stakeholder ecosystems; e.g., Apple iTunes. Technology, content as product, the conversation on influence, and showcasing people who are doing new things fall under here.
  • infrastructure business — this is where mainstream media played, providing opportunities for brands messages to reach consumers. Where is media going? What's the role of communicators?

What that means to you, as a member of this community, is that you can still find opportunity to get on a board and the behind-the-scenes content brainstorms, access to me, and so on, if you find and take the opportunity to contribute.

Getting the scoop

Comments are a great way to start. I still have the luxury of checking out every single link back and make the time to learn about what I see. It's a kind of in between audition and interview. Just like you'd have in a regular networking situation.

I still get to do the work of writing, editing, drawing the insights, etc.

Moving forward, I will have more help on the information and data gathering end of things. Which means I may quote those experts, interact with their content and see what they see, and they (it could also be you) get to ask me to address issues they care about.

It will be a kind of newsroom for content production. You get a seat at the table. The important part is starting. We already did. We'll prototype as we go.

Do you have something to say about my content? Ever wonder what would Conversation Agent do? The comments are yours. 


[image of poltrona Frau]

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0 responses to “What Would Conversation Agent Do?”

  1. “It will be a kind of newsroom for content production.”
    This is my first time reading your blog, Valeria, and I’m intrigued. Especially because my business partner and I have sought out to employ the same strategy for creating new content.
    The reason I’m commenting is for 2 reasons:
    (1) Serendipity in coming across this post
    (2) Explain our spin on this content production approach to possibly give you new ideas…
    I will email you this document because it is quite long.
    The Subject line will be: 2TM Co. Mastermind Alliance
    Look forward to hearing your feedback.

  2. Hi Valeria. I wonder if you might be able to share some insights, anecdotes from your travels on something I’ve been kind of struggling with in the last year.
    I’ve been trying to get the conversation started on Gearbox for a year, now, but it’s spotty at best. In the process, I’ve made my way back into the trenches of the many discussion forums I frequent, where the people I’m trying to help (my community of more than a decade) tell me the predominant view of blogs is that A) bloggers are only in it for themselves and, B) the only conversations taking place on blogs are petty arguments.
    Given the majority of the blogs I’ve seen in the automotive space, I can see where they get it. It’s more of the same build-an-audience-to-monetize, business-exists-to-make-a-profit mindset, but I know what I’m doing is different.
    I don’t want an active community so I can make money. I want an active community with a strong, mostly-unified voice, which will draw innovators to the space to participate in the discussion and help generate new ideas which genuinely improve the quality of life for all participants.
    I’ve tried suggesting the value of participation through semi-standardized interviews designed to get the readers thinking about things they have in common with one another. I’ve tried overtly asking questions at the end of every story to draw out specifics. Nothing seems to be working the way I’d hoped.
    And maybe therein lies the problem? Could it be I need a chance of perspective? I really believe in what I’m trying to do, here. In the last year and a half in operation, I’ve made a staggering number of new connections all over the world (Dunbar will be my ticket to the asylum), and many of us have helped each other out as a result, so I know this idea works, but it’s not a passive process, ya know? The things we have in common help us realize the potential in our differences, but only when we participate in the conversation.
    Over the years, you’ve shown me what it means to be a Conversation Agent, and your motto of connecting ideas and people drives me to do what I do. It’s become my life’s work. I’ve got the ideas. I’ve seen their potential, but I just can’t seem to connect them to people.
    You know I’m not in marketing; I really believe products which deliver on their promises become ubiquitous on their own merits, but I’ve got something I want to more effectively market: “You matter. And you’ve got the skills and connections right now to build a better life for yourself.”
    Thanks for the space (and for the life-changing inspiration), Valeria. Ciao.

  3. Brian, I run into the same problem with the little B2B community I help my clients market to. They’re a suspicious lot (“You’re trying to sell me something? NO.”) and while networking is very important to them, they’re more likely to do it offline — in person or over the phone — for a variety of reasons.
    Note that I said “more likely to.” They DO converse online; they just have certain communities that they do it in, and joining in is easy enough, and they even have brand conversations… but joining in (or getting busy clients to join in) is the tricky part, again for a variety of reasons.
    Is it possible that your audience already thinks they have everything they need in their existing communities? What are you promising to add to or change in their lives that is a good enough reason for them to come on over and join you?

  4. Christa, you hit the nail on the head. This is exactly what’s going on. My audience, more often than not, hails from the world of discussion forums. We’ve been getting our tech and sense of community from our respective home bases.
    These communities are generally based upon specific vehicle models, platforms, or pursuits, and my aim is twofold; to help enthusiasts recognize common ground, and to help them act on the new ideas likely to be generated in the process – to realize the full potential of our differences.
    I’m sure they have everything they need right now, but I’m hoping to inspire them to want more (and help them get it from each other). I don’t want them to leave their current communities, but to expand their horizons and to share their discoveries with each other.
    Methinks I need to get into a little more think-do-write. 😉 Thanks for the feedback. I appreciate it.

  5. As a long-time observer and volunteer (I assist Jeremiah on his Corporate Media Strategists and Melissa Hourigan on Media On Twitter), I believe the nature of brand interactions are changing from long periods of quiescence punctuated by staccato exchanges to more continuous streams of structured communication, each packet branded with a web service that happens to fit the cultural zeitgeist.
    The cycles are getting faster. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison remarked technology is moving faster than women’s fashion. In such a world, product development has greater risk. Yesterday we could not believe in a world without MySpace. That’s okay, because before that, we could not believe in a world without Pointcast. Or Excite. Or WordPerfect. I suspect future product development will look more like episodic TV, where you have pilots, formal screening processes with test audiences, and an upfront marketplace where partners can negotiate the terms of an early commitment. This last part is important: every brand is getting smarter about maximizing revenue at every opportunity, which is where revenue management comes in.
    The nature of a Conversation Agent, then, goes from what we can imagine today, to a branded ambassador tomorrow, not unlike ‘Consumer Recreation Services’ in the Michael Douglas movie “The Game”. You are either seriously outperforming your peers in your ability to engage your key constituencies, or you are slowly dying and don’t even know it.
    So where does this leave us? I’ve been quietly developing a kind of “@reply-as-a-service” that lets businesses quickly crowdsource opportunities; perhaps you’d like to prototype a “hey-here’s-a-link-who-can-give-me-their-feedback-via-video, I’d like to choose from 5 replies” service that lets you quickly poll your advisory boards and get a specific response back. The problem we solve is how to elicit action in a way that ensures little wasted effort while giving you a fast indicator of who’s available.

  6. Brian:
    So that we’re clear, Conversation Agent is the name of this blog and my company. There is a very specific meaning I attach to it, well beyond what you describe.
    Every brand is getting smart about cutting and efficiencies, yet there is still plenty of room for looking at returns.
    I’m having a hard time figuring out the relevance of your pitch with the conversation about how I’m aligning content here…

  7. I like Christa’s observations, because they resonate with my experience as well. In many instances, the more I have given, the less the community stepped forward. In fact, what worked is often counter intuitive — stepping away, mixing things up, building a service that people will want, for example a secondary market for jobs in the automotive industry (I’m making it up), or an aggregation of events they would not find somewhere else… kind of what Mashable did to break through from its beginnings. Do the ideas, make stuff happen. That’s what attracts people.

  8. Christa, Valeria, thank you for your feedback. I really appreciate it.
    I’m not so sure how well I could do the giving less thing, but I’ve recently stumbled onto an idea after watching a movie (“The Human Experience” – streaming on Netflix). The question popping into my mind after watching this movie was, “There are doctors who travel the world helping sick people in need. What if gearheads could do the same thing, helping people in need with transportation?”
    There’s already been an amazing response to the idea on the back channel and I’ve decided this is something I want to pursue, to whatever ends I can. I’ve seen similar programs – Doctors Without Borders, Engineers Without Borders, Pedals for Progress – but never something organizing automotive enthusiasts around helping people in automotive need like this.
    So, to your point about giving people something they’ve never seen before, I’m going to share the learning process on Gearbox. From conversations with gearheads about how they already work with charities in developing regions, to thoughts on how find people in need (who may not be online), to the challenges of organizing and fundraising, to whatever actually checking the toolbox for a flight to wherever this all leads – I’m going to put it out there.
    The accountability of such an undertaking scares the shit out of me, too, but ideas are wasted if not put into action.

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