Zuckerberg meets Grunig: a marriage made in dialogue heaven

Facebook. Online genius. The Social Network. Billionaire.  Who doesn’t know the name Mark Zuckerberg?

One of the first social networking platforms I started using as a teen was Facebook. I like to think of Zuckerberg as some sort of founding father of what social media is to me. Back then (timeline tells me 2007), I was (and still am) fascinated by the liberating social possibilities that Facebook offered. Getting a notification from a friend commenting on something I had written or taken a picture of was almost as exciting as receiving a letter in the mail. Making friends with people across the world was easier than making friends with my neighbour, AND we shared interests.

These days, I can ‘Like’ the brands I like, make complaints about those I don’t and discuss products and services with people before I buy. Bottom line? Social media allows me to engage with brands and businesses in ways that were previously inconceivable.

Drawing on my experiences in both PR and as a student of communications, social media is helping businesses and organisations practice ‘excellent communication practices’. Pioneered by James Grunig, two-way symmetrical communication is the essence of social media.  Not only does it facilitate consumers’ ability to talk directly to each other, there is an open channel for communication between consumer and organisation.

Social media is the ESSENCE of two-way symmetrical communication

Social media is emerging as a primary communication channel. It is magnifying the impact of consumer-to-consumer conversations (only 14% of consumers trust brand ads compared to 78% of consumers who trust peer recommendations – SEO optimise). Robert Young speaks of social media as shifting the balance of control for production and distribution of content between corporations and consumers. If consumers are gaining a more powerful voice, businesses need to change their communication approach.

Ignoring the power of online word of mouse is no longer an option in the digitally interconnected world where consumers are liberated from centralised / monopolised sources of information. Using social media is equally about brand reputation and risk management. Our use of social media today begs the question: “Can brands afford to forgo social media?”


7 thoughts on “Zuckerberg meets Grunig: a marriage made in dialogue heaven

  1. Simply put – no – brands can not afford to forgo social media. Whether organisations choose to get involved or not – people are talking about them. Social media can be a very powerful tool for organisations by acting as both an early warning system for potential issues, as well as identifying positive opportunities.

  2. I’m amazed by the amount of brands that use social media, especially in the last year or so. As a consumer, when I see my facebook friends “claim a deal” from Baker’s Delight’s facebook for example, my first instinct is to check it out to see what kind of freebies I can get. It’s such a simple method of advertising, keeping a product in the forefront of a consumer’s mind and is literally a click away. Any consumer-based business that isn’t tapping into social media, is in my opinion foregoing free advertising and possible future market share.

    • You’re right Kenrick – there is so much opportunity in the social media world – from marketing / advertising to customer service, profile building and reputation management.

  3. When you love a pair of shoes, do you tell the manufacturer or do you tell your 6 best friends? The interesting thing about Grunig is he developed his theory of two way symmetrical communication as a historical timeline, but then it just stopped almost 30 years ago. Zuckerberg understood something Grunig hasn’t really accepted – two-way symmetrical communication isn’t enough – communication is multifaceted.

    Brands need to also adapt to this notion, that communication isn’t just with the customer but also involved their 6 best friends, and their families and … you get the picture!

    Social media is highlighting this real and integral nature of communication.
    Cheers, geoff

  4. Something that I have been thinking about today is that fact that while Facebook encourages dialogue between its users, it seems the company needs a lesson in two-way communication.
    I have been blogging about the Jill Meagher case and was reading reports about the fact that Facebook refused to censor content that may interfere with the murder trial. This is understandable from a censorship perspective, however I was inreasingly seeing that Facebook as a company was declining comment, not returning calls etc to both media and regulatory officials.
    This isn’t the only instance. How many of us have had our own privacy rights restricted on Facebook with no notification from Facebook themselves?
    Not sure they practice what they preach!


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