06/20/2011 10:51 am ET | Updated Aug 20, 2011

Endless Conversations and the Future of Marketing

We have entered the age of Endless Conversations -- thoughts, messages, links, photos, video, SMS -- all carried along in the massive social river -- to be discovered, shared, commented upon, curated, stored, analyzed, and more.

The good news for those embroiled in the social media scandal-du jour (read Anthony Weiner) is that the conversation will literally float down the river sooner than later.

But for brands and their agencies, this concept of Conversation Marketing is not new. Seeking the "voice of the customer" has been a priority since the 1980s and there is a long history of VOC initiatives in the annals of corporations all across the globe.

But, alas, those initiatives were controlled and one-way. Today, conversation is one to one, one to many, and millions to billions. It is the social currency that is fueling social business. The challenge is to strategically mine conversation in a way that promotes and maintains trust, credibility, and relevancy.

Otherwise, you may be watching your brand sink into "conversation chaos". And that could literally undermine millions in brand equity, all because your organization does not fully understand that successfully engaging in conversation on social platforms is critical for the future of your marketing efforts.

It is amazing to me how many ill-conceived social initiatives are springing up in Fortune 500 companies today. That 'listening' is the first step in developing dialog, and 'engaging' is next, seems logical. Yet it is widely mis-understood in the corporate enterprise.

I see countless hasty and ill-conceived social media plans that are causing more harm than good to great brands. Tossing up a Facebook page and turning that over to a summer intern is NOT a strategy and won't produce measurable ROI. Just the opposite. It is the kiss of death for your billion dollar brand.

The future of marketing and establishing competitive advantage with the social consumer depends on a deep understanding of how to harvest the relevant business intelligence contained in these conversations.

That means taking the time to educate your senior teams on the power of real-time social media. As cross-functional teams learn to appreciate the value of social business, they will quickly realize that simple undiluted conversations, when curated and converted into intelligence, can provide incredible leverage to their business results.

Then the layering in of semantic analytics, content analysis, and listening engines will be the logical next step for the social enterprise going forward. And the ability to view, collect, and/or contribute to these conversations from highly diverse social and traditional channels will be exhilarating.

And it pays off. It opens the door to a wealth of information about customer intentions, identifying influencers, and locating hidden preferences that are literally gold to marketers.

That's the true return on investment strategy.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit, Inc. and the Co-Author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing. She also teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension. Follow her on Twitter @beverlymacy; @PowerRTM; @GravitySummit or email at