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The Naked Truth About Naked Conversation

May 30th, 2008 by Bob Bly

Social media evangelists are in love with Twitter, Facebook, and their ilk because these networks enable continuous “naked” conversations.

Robert Scoble, I believe, has stated that his goal is to have at least one naked conversation a day.

When I started in the corporate world in the late 1970s, we too had naked conversations — in the cafeteria, at the coffee machine, and at the bar after work.

But if we spent too much time having conversations during working hours, the boss would break us up … and send us back to our desks, to do the work we were being paid to do.

That’s good advice: if you are spending endless hours reading posts, comments, and messages online, those are hours you are not spending on the tasks for which you are paid a salary — or in the case of the self-employed, on billable work.

Naked conversation advocates will tell me that, without these never-ending online gossip sessions, they would not be able to keep their finger on the pulse of the marketplace.

I disagree, and suggest these alternatives:

* Become a people watcher. Observe them in restaurants, stores, and at the bowling alley.
* Read a daily newspaper.
* Watch TV news and listen to talk radio.
* Talk with the person sitting next to you at the lunch counter or standing next to you in line at the bank.
* Read the Letters to the Editor in your industry trade publications.

If your only exposure is to people who are as obsessed with blogs, Twitter, and Facebook as you are, I would argue that you are talking with a limited (albeit large) cross section of the marketplace, and in a limited (online only) way.

My suggestions above allow you to participate in the conversation during your free time, not your work time. As a result, you get more work done … and make more money.

Yes, social media gives you more of a voice than the newspaper or radio. But in conversation, you always learn more when you listen than when you talk.


This entry was posted on Friday, May 30th, 2008 at 4:05 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

40 responses about “The Naked Truth About Naked Conversation”

  1. S.P. Gass said:

    Great post; I wrote a similar themed post “Local Social Networking” on my blog awhile back:

  2. Dave Navarro said:

    Good points – people kept their pulse on things before social media, and it can easily become a distraction from doing something billable. Balance in all things.

  3. Sean Deminski said:

    I have been taught to remember the 80/20 rule. Mostly for running your own business:

    “20% of what you do makes 80% of your business”

    While I don’t know the exact science- I know business owners have a tendency to focus on the 80% which only creates 20% of our results.

    Social networking, from what I have observed, can suck a lot of time while delivering little results, (or costing you a job). I agree that spending that time in “real life” social settings is not only more beneficial, but healthier.

  4. xyb said:

    Using social media *as a part of* your usual methods of getting customer feedback can be useful, *if* your product or service targets those people. I can think of plenty of areas where spending any time on social media doesn’t make sense. Think AARP, one of the biggest and pretty affluent markets out there right now.

    I love the fact that you’re standing up to make your point known. This doesn’t work for everyone/every product/every group.

    And, I love how you quantify it by saying that if you’re spending all day on it, you’re probably missing many other conversations. What was that Keller-Fay stat? 92% of conversations occur OFFline.

    Nice post!

  5. ZHereford said:

    After spending far too much time attempting to making connections on the various social media sites, I’ve realized how much time I’ve wasted when I could have spent it finding better ways to market my site.

    Needless to say Bob, I totally agree with you and my futile efforts are proof.

    While social media interactions are fun and entertaining, a paycheck they don’t produce.

  6. Lisa Solomon said:

    Bob, why do you assume that a person who uses a social media application is talking more than listening?

    Additionally, I think social media can be very helpful in giving you an opportunity to network with people outside your profession who you would not necessarily have an opportunity to meet through face-to-face networking channels. Such people can still have great value as members of your professional network. For example, I am a lawyer and entrepreneur. Through three different social networking channels – Twitter, Facebook and commenting on a blog (yes, that’s a form of social networking!) – I have started a relationship (defined by having one-on-one conversations) with a well-known public relations professional. While I am not currently calling on that contact for help in achieving my professional goals, being “on the radar” of someone like that could pay off down the road.

    Finally, as more people work from their homes, social networking applications can fill the role of a “virtual water cooler.”

    The bottom line is that, as long as you exercise self-control, social networking can be a useful tool. But, if you can’t exercise self-control, don’t blame the social networking application: work on yourself.

  7. Dianna Huff said:


    Here is a great blog post that puts this entire converation into perspective:

  8. Mordechai (Morty) Schiller said:


    When the discussion came up to set up a MySpace page for CYBRA, I said no….

    We may or may not get some more viewers for our YouTube videos. But that’s not the place to find buyers for enterprise software. I said it was a diversion and a waste of time and money.

    Does that make me anti-social?


  9. AnotherBobHere said:

    I see all this social media stuff going on and have not read any articles about anyone actually making any money with Twitter or Facebook, except for the advertisers who pray for clicks.

    Keep in mind, the ongoing joke with a hot social media outlet or at least was once hot, podcasting. If you want to make money in podcasting, get out of podcasting.

    To me, I have not seen the value.

  10. Brand Logician said:

    There may be a bit of an age divide here. As we move forward, more conversations are going to be held in these social networks and less and less on talk radio and in newspapers. Though we should not spend too much time, we are in real trouble if we miss riding this information wave.

  11. Wendy Moon said:

    I agree with you. Although I use Twitter and Facebook I have found at work, only a small percentage of people actually use these tools to communicate. If one relies solely on these forms of communication the person will lose their ability to connect with physical humans when they leave their computer’s domain.

  12. Bob Bly said:

    Lisa: my assumption is based on experience:
    1. Bloggers posting too often — commenting on everything that happens to them.
    2. Bloggers ranting and raving — taking 8 paragraphs to get across an idea or opinion that can be expressed in a sentence.
    3. Inability of bloggers to let anyone else have the last word.

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