People who work in social media spend a lot of time talking about conversation. We (I include myself in this category) talk about having a dialogue with customers, about encouraging two way interactions and generally being more open with how business communicates. But does the weary business traveller finally arriving at her hotel after a long flight really want a conversation? What about the embarassed boyfriend who is sent to the all night pharmacy to pick up feminine hygene products for his girlfriend? Or a mother trying to quickly finish an errand before a sleeping baby wakes up?

The point is, there are many valid business situations where a conversation is actually the last thing a customer wants. All the examples I used above are real life situations, of course, but are there similar situations online? Here are three common ones:

  1. Price comparison (using comparison engines to find the best price online for something)
  2. Bill paying and online services (financial accounts, egovernment tasks, etc.)
  3. Time sensitive information seeking (such as movie or flight times)

There can still be an important role for social media to play in each of these situations, but if it is focused on generating conversations, it is likely to fall short. The lesson in this is that conversation shouldn't be a blind ambition with social media, but rather an end that you seek strategically … and one that you are willing to leave behind when it seems ill advised or just plain wrong.