Don’t Get Witty on Twitter

Photo cred: Jim Epler
Photo cred: Jim Epler

UP FRONT: I am not writing this post to continue a scuffle with Jason Tryfon.  I now know Jason is a good guy with good intentions. It wasn’t even him that said what was originally said by the tweepular account in response to my comment in frustration. I only provided those links here, for context…I hope that the argument can be put to rest and we can just discuss what we can learn from this example.

Our argument did bring up some very interesting topics, worthy of discussion…all of which I plan to cover on this blog in multiple posts.  The first topic is especially interesting for our community here after our awesome discussion about True Transparency.  That post focused more on individuals participating in a community.  Now lets look at it from the brand-to-customer relationship angle.

(This is about companies in general, whether or not they charge for their service.  That’s for another post.)

Now I’ve said many times that brands should be human.  I’m not saying I was wrong, just that I am now going to be more specific.

A brand should be human in that they’re not talking to their customers like numbers.  They shouldn’t so worried about business formalities that they can’t just talk to a customer, like you would an acquaintance in real life.  You can smile, you can laugh, you can chat, you can use (some) slang, and you CAN joke but to a point.

Jokes are human.  Everyone has a sense of humor to some extent.  It might not be a very good one, but you have one.  As a brand however, when conversing online, you can only go so far.  Many of us, myself included, have a very sarcastic sense of humor.  Sarcasm doesn’t come through in text form…at least not until you get to know someone.  I’ve given people like  Danny Brown (about his hat), Scott Hepburn (about him being wrong), and Lauren Fernandez (about everything) a hard time before, but because we’ve established a relationship, they know my personality and are not offended.  I’d even venture to say that a respectful person wouldn’t make sarcastic jokes at someone in real life, offline, until they’ve gotten to know them.  You make fun of friends, not first-time acquaintances.

So to my point, brands can be human, but we don’t always know who’s actually behind the keyboard.  And even if we do, unless the brand and the customer already has an established relationship, the brand should always stay away from sarcastic humor and comments that may come across as offensive.

Should you be human online? Yes…but should you be yourself when representing a brand? That depends on who you are.  If you have a sarcastic/offensive personality (even if you think it’s in good fun), turn the filter on when representing a brand online.

Mentor Monday: Arik Hanson

Arik Hanson
Arik Hanson

I’m going to start a weekly routine where I share the people that I consider to be my mentors every Monday.  These are people that have helped me when I needed it, whether or not I asked for it, and whether or not they even realize it.  I am extremely thankful for these people, and would not be where I am today, or where I will be tomorrow, without them.  If you know what’s good for you, you’ll connect with these individuals as well.  So onto my first featured mentor…

Arik Hanson

His blog.

His twitter.

I’ll never forget the first time I actually connected with Arik.  I looked up to him as one of those “popular” twitter users and had followed him for a while.  One day I replied to one of his tweets, and it turned out he was following me too.  He told me I was a great example of someone (young) who just dove in.  It felt great to know that someone I considered to be in a circle much higher than mine actually listened and took notice of someone as new to the community as myself.

Looking back, I know now that I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Arik in no way, shape or form thinks himself too good to connect with anyone.  He is as humble as he is kind.  After that day, I continued to connect with Arik on a regular basis through twitter.

To this day, he has been there to help me ANY time I’ve needed him.  He actually sat with me (online) for over an hour one night, after he had a long day of work, to walk me through writing a press release. I had never written one and reached out to Arik to provide me with a few tips.  I did not expect him to sacrifice his personal time to make sure that I felt comfortable with what I was doing…but that’s just the type of guy he is.

I am extremely grateful to be able to consider Arik my mentor.  You da man Arik.  Looking forward to actually meeting in person asap.

If you have mentors that you’d like to show appreciation for, feel free to follow suit with my Mentor Monday system.  Not trying to start the next big hashtag movement or anything, but I will be sharing these posts with the hashtag #mentormonday and you should to. Our mentors deserve the appreciation.

The Balance Act

Balance
Photo cred: DirkJan Ranzijn

Here’s a thought I’ve been struggling with lately…

It’s not all about community, relationships and engagement.  To focus only on these things was naive and idealistic.  These things are vital in the long-run, but in terms of building a large userbase (a.k.a. making money).  In order to scale, these ideals sometimes have to take a backseat to impersonal, systemic approaches.

Now I don’t necessarily agree with that thought…hence me struggling with having it.  As if they were reading my mind, both Chris Brogan and Dave Fleet recently shared relevant thoughts on their blogs to get me thinking even more.  Then to top it off today, I enjoyed an extremely interesting presentation by Gabriel Weinberg (Scribnia’s Dreamit mentor). He shared his story of how he found success by doing nothing in terms of human engagement or community building, but rather by developing a deep and thorough understanding of the system.

I know different approaches work for different situations, but I’m quickly coming to the realization that these social media concepts do not scale, at least not at first. We get caught up on the “success stories” of companies that have done nothing in terms of marketing, and have grown solely from word of mouth.  While nice to think about, to plan the same for yourself is usually idealistic and unreasonable.

So much focus have been put on these tools lately, and I pretty much soaked it all in, not quite seeing the limitations…understanding, but not quite grasping the concept of breaking down silos, as Beth Harte would explain.

I’m learning that the only thing that really matters in the end is numbers…number of users, of customers, of traffic.  Regardless of how you get there, that’s the game.  These are harsh realizations but realizations nonetheless.

So I guess in the end, all you can hope for is a balance. I will never sacrifice my passion for community building and human engagement, but it’s looking like there’s a lot more to it.

I’m sure many of you already know this, so help me through this one…what are your thoughts?

True Transparency?

Photo cred: Jey-Heich
Photo cred: Jey-Heich

This is a post I’ve been pondering for a while, but was hesitant as up to this point I haven’t necessarily practiced what I’m about to preach…and I’m sure a lot of people won’t like what I’m about to say, but I’ve decided it needs to be said.

I love social media (or at least the concept that is referred to as social media). I love what it does for communication.  I love what it does for community building.

One of the major concepts of social media is transparency.  Be yourself, act human, don’t lie or cover up anything, just be open about who you are and the things you do and your followers/readers/customers will appreciate you.

This concept has brought out the best in many, as the social web, namely twitter, has become a go-to location to find advice or answers when you’re facing a problem.  Almost everyone is ready and willing to take time out of their day to help you when you need it.  Everyone is supportive of (it seems like) everyone.  It’s truly amazing…but is it truly transparent?

Are we replacing the “formal”, nontransparent restrictions of the past’s professional community with restrictions of nontransparent, kindness?  Is this really who we are ?

Maybe the answer is yes, and I’m confident that given the career path chosen by those involved in this community, many of us are good people with good hearts.  Is it a matter of bringing out the best in us? Or, are we becoming overly kind and complimentary just to appeal/conform to the community?  Has the concept of sharing and contributing to the community committed us to sharing and contributing things that are not actually worthy of such promotion?

My point is that we preach transparency, but are we truly being transparent in our online communities?  Is it a bad thing to be so complimentative and supportive of each other? It’s certainly better than the alternative, cut-throat business values.  The problem is it’s laying a veil of falsities over the people and content we share, placing value on things that are not actually valuable.

There are a few people that this does not even apply to.  The people that are able to be generous, sharing, helpful etc…but still call it as they see it.  They’re not afraid to call issues or people out, respectfully, and keep true to their true, transparent personality.

Don’t replace honesty with a false concept of transparency.

Please…share your thoughts.

Are You Good at Social Media?

Photo cred: Hamed Parham
Photo cred: Hamed Parham

Look at the traditional tools like commercials, ads, press releases, newspapers, etc… These are practices and tools that could be taught because they are based on a systemized strategy.  For the most part, they could all be simplified down to lists, rules, and guidelines, seperating the successful from the not so successful by who can be efficiently creative and can execute.

You may be thinking, “Well so can social media.  I’ve seen plenty of expert’s social media strategy organized into lists”.

My point is that social media is simply the set tools that allow you to communicate in a different way…a human way.  You can’t be taught how to communicate in a “real”, human way.  You can advise on where, why and even how to use these tools but you can’t shave down human engagement to a few rules or guidelines and it takes more than a creative edge.

The traditional tools weren’t human; marketing, email, advertising, journalism and even PR.  Many of the tools and “procedures” used by PR professionals were aimed at talking to people, not with them. They’re all tools that allowed for a “systemic” communication.  Communication was meant to be efficient, not “real”. The concepts that have developed around social media tools aim to be both efficient and “real”.

Strategy and systematic approaches are only half of the game.  You have to be real.  Can you communicate with a real customer like a “real human”? Are you good at social media?

This is a post that I’ve had saved as a draft for some time, but haven’t been able to really develop my thoughts until I read Lauren Fernandez’s post and then Beth Harte’s comment on that post. (Surprised that these two got me thinking? I’m not…)

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Facing Reality: My First Step Into The “Real World”

Photo cred: Mike Epp
Photo cred: Mike Epp

This is my second week working with Scribnia and I have already learned so much. I’ve come to a lot of realizations, some good, some not so good and some a bit scary. I hope that as I grow as a professional and learn these valuable lessons, that I can share them with you. My writing should in no way replace actual experience, but rather give those of you who haven’t been there a bit more insight, and bring in those that have been there to discuss their experiences.

There are many things that I’ve consistently heard people say in their blogs and conversations that I thought I understood. So many concepts, issues, questions and ideas on which I thought I had a strong grasp. It’s impossible to truly understand some of these things without experiencing them first hand. Situations that are easy to solve in writing become 100x harder when actually facing them. That’s the difference between conceptual discussion and experience.

One good example of these concepts is the one that goes, “every situation is different, and you have to adapt and apply.” This is SO true and is something that I understood in concept, but didn’t really understand when it comes down to actually acting. It is also something I am learning VERY quickly. There will very rarely be an “answer all” solution, in any situation. What separates the great from the good from the bad is the ability to adapt, and see what works in each unique situation. This is something that I hope to develop as a professional.

So expect to see a lot of posts about these “realizations” that I have as I experience more in my career. If you’ve had similar experiences, please share them with the community. If you haven’t, I hope that these help prepare you, but don’t take them for your own experiences…because you will only truly understand some things when you experience them for yourself.

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