When the Conversation Goes on With or Without You

Mashable had a piece about Prince (you know, that artist who was formerly known as a symbol), who proclaimed that the “Internet’s completely over.” Well, Prince should be sent off to marketing camp with former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska to be schooled in how the Internet works and its effects on our society, not just in the U.S., but globally.

Prince has been at this whole “the Internet is evil” thing since 1997. The problem is, while he’s bashing everyone on the Internet from YouTube to eBay and even his own fans, the fans are talking about him, and not in a very favorable way. He may not be involved in conversations occurring in social media communities and may be a bit clueless to their actual power, but that doesn’t negate their influence on other fans, or the executives that would produce and distribute his music.

As a result, Prince loses fans and respect. By dissing the very places that could help him further his reputation as a music superstar (at one time he was – who didn’t want to party like it was 1999?), he doesn’t recognize the power of community.

The Community Is Deciding if Prince Is Crazy, Not Him

One search on Twitter for “Prince” brings up a number of sarcastic responses and people making fun of Prince’s latest quote, including one that’s been retweeted over 60 times.

And then there are people questioning whether the guy is still sane, including a pretty respected source such as CNET:

The problem is that Prince isn’t out on the Internet conversing with his fans or even respected media like a lot of other musicians, actors, and comedians have begun to do. They recognize that whether they like it or not, people are talking about them, so why not influence those conversations a bit?

Joining the Conversation Has Its Benefits

Alyssa Milano embraces Twitter. She talks back to her followers and even retweets things of interest to her unrelated to the entertainment industry. She lets people see a different side of her and gets involved with the conversation. She has a pulse on her fans and knows what they’re thinking about her newest efforts in her career. She understands that whether or not she’s involved, her fans will still talk, so why not join in?

For any company, the same should be true. Just because you don’t think the Internet, or maybe just social media, is important doesn’t mean you should ignore what’s going on. Whether you realize it or not, they’re talking about you; social media has just made that a lot easier to do with a lot more likeminded people.

Prior to the Internet, word of mouth was limited by geography. It was pretty tough to show people things if you were talking to them on the phone or in a letter; in person was the most influential way people had to talk to one another. Social media has made geography irrelevant when it comes to conversations. People can share photos on Flickr, videos on YouTube, PowerPoints on SlideShare, and PDFs on Scribd.

Ignoring the Conversation Can Be Costly

A few years ago, Kryptonite, a bike lock manufacturer, found out just how badly not being aware of or involved in the conversations could hurt its business. Kryptonite’s mistake landed it on the front page of The New York Times and its business suffered greatly. This all happened because conversations were going on about just how easy it was to pick its “invincible” bike locks with a ball point pen. Once someone shared a video with a bike messenger community about how simple it was to pick the lock, Kryptonite was sunk because they weren’t paying attention.

There are other examples as well, such as a coffee shop in San Francisco where the owner didn’t know people were talking about him on Yelp, and not in a very nice way either. Instead of jumping in and asking his patrons “what am I doing wrong?” he decided that posting a “No Yelpers Allowed” sign in his window was the route to take. You can only imagine what happened after that.

In today’s world of Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare, and so on, playing the “oh I didn’t know” card doesn’t work for businesses anymore. It’s very easy to converse and influence others without any company representative being involved. Ignoring that fact could cost you a lot more than you think, just ask Prince…just don’t use the Internet or social media to ask him about it.

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