December 28, 2008

8 Ways to Start a Conversation: Social Media Style!

By Ken Stewart of ChangeForge (Twitter/FriendFeed)

The purpose of social media is to be social of course, right?

It helps social butterflies among us stretch across continents with the strokes of a few keys and allows the geeky introvert to have a voice. Starting a conversation has never been easier, has it? A friend of mine, Ken Allan, and I were having a conversation across blogs over the last few weeks. Both of us started our blogs for varying reasons, but primarily it is to reach others and extend the conversation.

But how do you extend the conversation if no one on the other end reciprocates? Blogging, Twitter, FriendFeed, and Facebook all share one thing: You have to have followers to talk to in order to even have a chance of starting a conversation. This is often hard work, but to some it comes naturally – some few names have risen to the top as conversation starters. Whether by wit or will, these individuals stand out in my mind – exemplifying how you start a conversation, and even keep it going:

Mona Nomura (Pixel Bits / FriendFeed / Twitter)
- A picture is worth a thousand words!

Mona consistently posts interesting material on Friendfeed and Twitter. What sets Mona apart, though, is her avid use of images in her FriendFeed posts. This quickly draws your attention, and the images she chooses really make you want to laugh, cry, and most of all - comment.

Leo Babauta (ZenHabits / Twitter)
- The guy that you can relate to.

Leo comes in with almost 80,000 subscribers to his blog, and coins himself as just a regular guy. With over 250,000 estimated uniques, Leo offers advice and observations on things from productivity and frugality to parenting and happiness.
People love to read his blog because it makes sense in a hectic world.

Louis Gray ( / FriendFeed / Twitter)
Let me show you this new … !

Interested in new discoveries, including new technology, services, and content, Louis Gray is an animal – devouring content at more than a healthy rate. The name sake of this very post you are reading has been blogging for over 3 years. He has recently hit a dramatic upswing in popularity, and his blog has become the host for many up and coming bloggers. Chances are if you are a new technology or service, Louis will be using you, and chances are if you are new blogger, he will hunt you down.

Darren Rowse (ProBlogger / FriendFeed / Twitter)
- Do what I say, and what I do. I even wrote a book about it!

We all know and love Darren as the founder and chief blogger at, Digital Photography School, and the new TwiTip. Nearing 70,000 RSS subscribers and an estimated 450,000 uniques on ProBlogger, Darren has carved out a niche as a blogger who makes money blogging, and even wrote a book on how you can too. Darren uses social media to actively engage his readership, and is a genuinely nice guy.

Jason Calacanis (Mahalo / FriendFeed / Twitter)
I is what I is, and that’s what I is.

Founder of Mahalo, Calacanis officially gave up blogging back in July of this year, citing that e-mail was a more personal way to interact with 5 or 10 - thousand - of his friends. (He never replied back to me, I wonder why?). Many saw this as a media stunt, since Jason has quietly resumed his blogging after this announcement. Calling him a blogger or not seems irrelevant at this point. Maybe that’s a sign of arriving in itself?
Whether you are upset with Jason for pulling a fast one on his loyal readers or think of him as being a true trail blazer, none can deny he understands how to start a conversation.

Chris Brogan ( / FriendFeed / Twitter)
- Community and Social Media.

His tagline says it all. Chris is famous for being able to stir people into movement, and often showcases others as the hero. For instance, his Rockstars page showcases blogs of all shapes and sizes.
Chris understands that by scratching others' backs, they will return the favor - or at least pay it forward.

Mike Arrington (TechCrunch / FriendFeed / Twitter)
- Evil Genius or Shrewd Entrepreneur.

Mike has been called an evil genius by some, but his website,, has seen an estimated 1.4 million uniques. Obviously, Mike knows how to get eyeballs on the page regardless of where you stand.

Robert Scoble (Scobleizer / FriendFeed / Twitter)
- Is there a difference between conversation and controversy?

Robert has been doing this for a long time. Now part of the talent at, the Scobleizer has a knack for starting both conversations and controversies. Robert is the kind of guy that loves to be in a noisy room of 30,000 geeks, and even tries to listen to all of them at once. Robert took time off from his blog this past year to jump feet first into Twitter and FriendFeed. He now has over 23,000 followers on FriendFeed and over 44,000 on Twitter, logging an estimated 2000 hours on these services alone in the last year. Between interviewing up and coming tech-execs, blogging, and participating heavily in social media, Robert’s name always comes to mind when thinking about social media conversations – and is perhaps THE name when thinking TECH in general.

Final Thoughts

So it has been a banner year for social media, and this list comprises some of the heavy hitters that you might look to when thinking about how you want to start – and continue –your conversations on the web. With conversations happening in more places than just your comment queue, seriously consider not only your message, but how you are going to broadcast it. By the way, this list is not exhaustive, and is solely my opinion.

I would love to hear from you! Who knows how to do it right – and why?

Ken Stewart’s blog,, focuses on the collision between the constantly changing worlds of business and technology. To learn more about Ken, visit his about page. You may also find Ken on FriendFeed, Twitter, and LinkedIn.