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

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 a bar after work. But if we spent too much time in conversation during working hours, the boss would (understandably) break us up and send us back to our desks.

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, if you’re self-employed, on billable work.

Naked conversation advocates will tell me that without their never-ending online gossip sessions they would not be able to keep their fingers 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 useful conversations 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.

[Ed. Note: Social media is relatively “new” when it comes to marketing. To excel at any form of marketing, you should master classic direct-mail principles. .

And be sure to sign up for Bob Bly’s Direct Response Letter, which is packed with ideas for strengthening your marketing.]

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.