Social Media Conversation Basics

Talking with people on social media is different from talking face-to-face and talking on the phone. While some people easily adjust to online conversations, most people need a little practice to get really good at this new way to communicate.

  • Before You Start: You have one or more social media accounts.
  • Learning level: 3 | Building Skills
  • Article Last Updated: Saturday, March 2, 2013

Conversation Basics

When it comes to conversation, we all have different skills and comfort zones. Perhaps you are:

  • Outgoing and gregarious, and feel comfortable being the center of attention.
  • Shy and retiring, and stay on the edge of conversations.
  • Able to find conversation topics with anyone you meet.
  • Uncomfortable starting conversations because you struggle to find conversation topics.

In general, a conversation takes place when you have these components:

  • Speaker. Someone with something to say.
  • Message. The idea you want to share.
  • Listener. One or more people who hear your message.

People take turns being the speaker and listener, so you sometimes speak and sometimes listen. This is true no matter where you have a conversation.

Social Media Conversation Features

Whatever your conversation style, you can be successful on social media. Social media conversations are different from other types of conversations you have with your customers and the public.

With social media conversations, you often start a conversation without knowing who is listening or who will answer. You have time to think about what you want to say, and you can include words, pictures, videos, or links to online resources with your message.

Social media conversations tend to be one-to-many communication. You post a message that you want to engage many people in your online community. In some ways, learning how to talk on social media is more like public speaking than one-on-one conversations you have in real life.


Much of the time with social media conversations, you speak without getting any response. The communication process still took place. You shared a message with one or more listeners. However, the listeners didn’t share anything back with you. Or, they shared by liking your post, or retweeting it, or sharing it with their friends.

Without responses, it’s hard for you to know what people thought about your message. You can’t tell what happened when they read your message.

  • Did people choose not to respond because they didn’t see any value in your message?
  • Did people like your message but chose not to respond because they didn’t have anything to add?

While both of these situations have the same outcome (no response), they are very different situations. It’s really important for your to get feedback to understand how to talk with your online community.

If you are not getting a lot of responses to your one-to-many messages, shift gears and start building relationships with one person at a time.

Warming Up Relationships

One of the smartest ways for you to get great feedback from your online community is to start conversations with individuals. And the most effective way to start conversations with one person is to respond to something he says on social media. This means that you put aside your agenda and the things you want to say, and listen to what individuals in your online community are saying.

Spend some time each day reading what other people are sharing on social media. Jump into existing conversations, or reply to something posted. It’s important that you add something to the conversation, and don’t simply agree or like what they said.

One of the quickest ways to start a conversation is to ask a follow up question. When someone posts on social media, ask them for more details, or ask why they feel that way.  Not only do you get the chance to learn more about the topic, but you learn more about that person and start to build a relationship.

As you begin building warm relationships on social media, you start getting the feedback you need to fine-turn your message for your online community. You start to build relationships with people in your community. And you discover that you being getting more responses to your one-to-many messages as well.

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Your turn: Do you spend time with both individual conversations and one-to-many conversations on social media? Share your insights and experiences here.

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About author:

Charlene Kingston is the small business person behind the Social Media DIY Workshop.

6 Responses to “Social Media Conversation Basics”

  1. Lynn Lekander says:

    Thanks Charlene – this is a really terrific post.

  2. Charlene Kingston says:

    I’m glad you found it helpful, Lynn.

  3. Charlene, always great posts, thanks for this. I think one of the biggest problems with Social Media is that people get all caught up in quantity and forget that there are people at the other end of that one-to-many broadcast. I decided awhile ago to not worry too much about who responds and who doesn’t; just to concentrate on trying my best to put value out there. Ironically, since doing that, I’ve had some great conversations with people, all over the world!

  4. Charlene Kingston says:

    You’ve got it figured out, Susan. My mantra is: small and mighty, and I use it for everything related to people and my business. I feel this way about my email list as well. I’d rather have 500 interested followers than 5,000 barely paying attention followers any day on every tool! Wishing you continued success.

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  6. Susan makes a great point about the fact that we tend to forget that there are people at the other end of that one-to-many broadcast. Recently I checked my Twitter feed and realized that all the casual postings I was making on Facebook, as well as all my likes on YouTube, were posting to my Twitter (obviously I had set it up that way). This provides no value to my Twitter followers and in fact, just clutters up their feeds. I haven’t changed my settings yet but it’s on the top of my “to do” list.

  7. Charlene Kingston says:

    It’s always good to do a little account auditing, Barbra. When we go back, we often see what we are doing with fresh eyes. And what we see may please us, or add to our “to do” lists, as you mentioned.

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