[Make that "Genuine HUMAN Conversation." See comments to this post.]
The best scene in the 1999 movie The Big Kahuna (see wikipedia review) comes at the end when Phil (played by Danny Devito) -- a world-weary "marketing representative" (ie, sales person) for an industrial lubricants company -- puts down Bob (played by Peter Facinelli) -- an idealist R&D guy.
Bob has just come back from a late night conversation with a rich businessman (The Big Kahuna) that Phil and his partner Larry (played by Kevin Spacey) have been trying to close a deal with. Bob, however, only talked about Jesus with The Big Kahuna and neglected to talk about industrial lubricants at all.
At first, you thought that Bob was making a genuine human connection with the businessman and that this would eventually win the account, but Phil views its as the epiphany of "ingenuine" human conversation.
Thanks to YouTube, here's the scene.
"It doesn't matter whether you're selling Jesus or Buddha or civil rights or 'How to Make Money in Real Estate With No Money Down'," says Phil. "That doesn't make you a human being; it makes you a marketing rep. If you want to talk to somebody honestly, as a human being, ask him about his kids. Find out what his dreams are – just to find out, for no other reason. Because as soon as you lay your hands on a conversation to steer it, it's not a conversation anymore; it's a pitch. And you're not a human being; you're a marketing rep."
This is precisely why, in my opinion, no marketer -- and certainly no pharmaceutical marketer -- can carry on a real conversation with people via social media no matter how many times consultants and new media mavens urge them to do it.
Show me a marketing person that does NOT want to steer the conversation and I'll show you a marketing person that should be fired!
Marketing is not about conversation, so stop trying to fit that square peg into a round hole. I'm not saying that marketers cannot participate in discussions and try to steer them -- I do that all the time. Just don't call it genuine.