The Battle Between Our Hearts and Our Cameras

There’s this gorgeous little red cardinal that hangs out in my back yard.  I always try to get a picture of it but it’s the most elusive fricken thing ever. It’ll stay perfectly still until I point my lens in its direction, then it darts off right before I get a clear shot.

I get so frustrated because I want to record it’s beauty to be shared with the people around me…but I can’t damnit.  Only I got to see it.

I’m more concerned with documenting its beauty than I am in experiencing it for myself.

I watched Ricky Van Veen speak at the Mashable Media Summit where he spoke about this trend.  He showed a picture (seen above), from the Youth Ball on inauguration night, of President Obama and the first lady on stage. All the young people in the crowd, instead of looking at the president, looked at the back of their phones and cameras as they were taking pictures and recording video.

He said:

“We have a new generation that places documentation above experience”

It’s amazing how true this is, and it doesn’t stop there…

Because of the increased focus on sharing, and documenting experiences, there’s now this trend where we might even plan our experiences around the value of their documentation.

Could the ability to check in to foursquare and document your night determine which bar you go to?  Would my twitter followers be more interested in my thoughts on tonight’s movie premier, or my pictures from tonight’s concert?  Would a college student skip a frat party because of the possible negative facebook documentation that could occur?

Ricky gave the example of a girl deciding whether or not to go to a dance based on the potential pictures that she could take and share at the event.  Documentation is actually impacting our what we do and how we act.

We’re starting to think about the value of documenting our experiences, before the experience itself.

What happens when we can no longer sit back and enjoy something beautiful or fascinating simply for the experience? When the things that usually excite us are only exciting when documented?

The questions for you:

The point of Ricky’s talk was about content and regardless of your opinion on this trend, it’s a trend nevertheless.  So from a business perspective, is your content providing an experience worth documenting? And are you making it easy to document that experience?

Where else can you apply this trend?

Photo cred: Todd Ryburn

How Long Until Truthful Information Becomes Worthless?

Photo cred: Diego Sevilla Ruiz

Hypothetical situation: You trust me. I post an article somewhere. Your trust for me then translates to trust in the content I’m sharing, and so you trust that the article is credible. Then you share it, your readers trust you…rinse, and repeat.

Safe to say this happens often?

Today, credibility in content is determined by who and how many share it. As credibility becomes increasingly determined by sharability the value of the truth is driven downward.

Look at it from a basic economic perspective. As the supply of information increases, the price of information decreases. Supply is at an all time high, price is at an all time low. As the price of information decreases, the resources used to provide quality information becomes unaffordable. If consumers don’t pay for information, suppliers can’t invest any money to ensure its credibility.

Truthful information has never faced the competition it faces today. As citizen journalism grows as a primary source for information, the need for investigative journalism as a paid alternative decreases.

Bloggers do not have to write truthful content. In fact, many of the most successful (popular) blogs focus on SEO and on writing successful copy in order to drive ad revenue, product and affiliate sales. Their “success” in driving traffic then translates to credibility in the eyes of the reader. If a blogger gets a ton of traffic, they must be credible, right?

They’re writing to get more people to come to their site, with absolutely no check on honesty.

Truthful content still exists, but is often buried under google pages of the popular stuff. Even if you refused to take information at face value, and choose to dig deeper in search of the truth, chances are you won’t find it.

As you become more reliant on social networks to determine what information is worthy of reading, you play into a system that has minimal consideration for credibility.

Where honesty should reign supreme, popularity now drives authority and credibility.

How much longer until truthful information becomes completely worthless?

Don’t Judge People By Their Generation

Photo cred: Ian Atwater

I read this the other day: “[Millennials] are relatively laid back—until they feel they have been wronged… and then may quickly apply pressure to make big changes fast. They expect transparency and accountability, just as it is expected of them in the marketplace.”

I read generalizations of Millennials like this one pretty much every day.  Millennials are lazy…inspired…entitled…tech savvy…etc etc…

I have yet to read a description of the Millennial generation that was based on any sort of reliable statistics.  EVERY one of these generalizations are based on a limited point of view based on biased research or on personal experience and fail to take into account a number of aspects, namely socioeconomic status.

When marketers talk about millenials with these unfounded generalizations, they’re contributing to a highly inaccurate conception of an entire generation.

Even wikipedia makes unfounded generalizations, and describes Millennials based on studies performed solely in colleges.

My high school featured a very diverse range of lifestyles and socioeconomic statuses. A majority of the Millennials that I grew up with, do not fall under any of the stereotypes that marketers constantly apply to them.  With that personal experience, I’ve seen first hand how inaccurate the typical millennial classification really is.  I won’t base my argument on personal experience though…

Here are some stats from 2008 pulled from the United States Department of Labor:

  • 68.6 percent of 2008 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities
  • 56.8 percent of the nation’s 16- to 24-year-olds, or 21.3 million young people, were either enrolled in high school (9.7 million) or in college (11.7 million).
  • “…about 6 in 10 recent high school graduates who were enrolled in college attended 4-year institutions.”

My class year (2005) had some similar stats, with 68.6% of high school grads enrolling in college. Many high school graduates go right into the labor force.

The false generalizations we hear about all the time are based on the Millennials that get their college degree or are in the process of doing so.  The fact is, by basing your characterization of Millennials on this segment of the larger population, you’re making highly inaccurate assumptions.

Generations are too vast and diverse to justifiably apply characteristics to the entire population.

Tell a millennial that works 50-60 hour work weeks doing construction in the winter that he’s entitled.  Or maybe tell the millennial facing jail time for selling drugs that they were “pampered” by their parents.  I know a people in both situations.  Do they represent the millennial generation? No, but they’re certainly a part of it, and shouldn’t be neglected when discussing the traits of our generation.

Thanks to Lisa Grimm, Dave Folkens and Chuck Hemann for their help in refining this post.

How Would You Fix this Disconnect in Social Media Hiring?

Photo cred: madebytess

My friend Amber Naslund had a great post recently about the problems with social media job descriptions. I agreed with much of what she said.  So many job descriptions for social media related positions really just make me laugh.

My first reaction is usually to blame the company.  They obviously don’t get “it” and are making themselves look foolish with these job descriptions they’re posting online.

But wait…

Why am I blaming the company?

I thought we’re encouraging companies to start to experiment with social media platforms.  I thought companies are supposed to open their mind.  Now when they take their first step into social media, we judge them for not getting it right?

Amber really got me thinking.  How can companies, who know nothing about social media, know what to ask of a social media job candidate?  There’s a disconnect there.

How can companies fill this disconnect?  Should they start by approaching social media platforms with the employees and resources they already have?  Then when they’re a bit more comfortable with it, they can hire and build out a full team?  That’s what Lee Aase and the Mayo Clinic did and it seemed to work pretty well for them.

Or do they rely on external recruiters? Hire someone to hire someone?

I have my own ideas which I’ll end up sharing in the comments, but I’d like to hear your thoughts first.

What do you think?

Why Won’t Bloggers Dig Into Detail?

dig
Photo cred: Damien Sachs-Dromsön

Do we care more about the popularity of our content than the advancement of our industry?

In order to appeal to as many people as possible, professional bloggers have to make sure that their content can be consumed by readers of different levels of experience.  The beginners have to be able understand what they’re talking about.

The issue is then, what about the more experienced readers?  When the “thought leaders” limit the depth of their thoughts and advice, experienced readers get to a point where they can’t learn any more from reading blogs.

The growth of the industry is halted.

I think that blogging is slowly becoming the heart and voice of so many industries as more and more professionals are turning to blogging to learn, share and grow.  If we don’t help them grow beyong the “beginner” level, the advancement of the industry will suffer.

It’s not just blogging.  Look at conferences. Same speakers, same topics, same shit every time.  Makes sense…if a conference wanted to dig deeper, “beginners” wouldn’t find it valuable.  Less money to be made.

Will this problem become even greater as blogs grow in popularity and influence?  Could young and upcoming professionals become so used to learning and researching with blogs and social networks, that they’ll forgot how to conduct research using other methods?

For contrast, look at the science world. My friend Jon just started a blog that focuses on bridging the gap between the ivory tower and the common man.  This is because when scientists and academics write about their work, they don’t write to get more readers, they write to be acknowledged for their innovations within their industry.  They don’t dumb it down at all.  Sure it created a disconnect with the common man, but science continues to grow and innovate as a result.

If you’re used to information always being brought to you, it’s very hard to go back to seeking it out.  When there’s nothing left to learn from blogs, where do they go to continue to learn?

Help me out here…share your thoughts.

It’s Hard to Help People Help Themselves

Help
Photo Cred: Dimitri N.

A couple of months ago, I hosted an event in Philly.  It didn’t have the turnout I was expecting  and so I was a little bummed.   My friend Valeria Maltoni came up to me and said “It’s hard to help people help themselves.”

Those words really stuck with me.  I’ve given it great thought. Why wouldn’t people want to be helped? Are they just lazy?  So lazy that they wouldn’t even do the bare minimum to get something?  Or is it something else?

Then, I read Chris Brogan‘s newsletter today…and it all came together.  He said,

Look at your efforts through others’ eyes. Now, in measuring your self-worth, your own eyes are the only ones that matter, but in trying to better understand how well you’re serving people’s needs, try to see it from their side. Are you quick to pounce? Do you have their interests at heart or yours? The more clarity you can bring to this, the better you’ll do.”

So many “professionals” claim to be providing a valuable service, but are really just interested helping themselves. They have a backwards mentality.  Instead of building a more valuable product, they’re concerned with making their product LOOK more valuable. They’re pretending to help customers.

There are many of you that are really trying to help.  Unfortunately [potential] customers don’t believe that you’re actually trying to help them.  They think that you’re trying to take their time and money for your own gain.

They don’t believe you because they’ve been fooled too many times.  They’ve lost trust.

That’s why it’s hard to help people help themselves.

Are you really helping or are you just pretending to help?

Edit: Marissa Pherson left a comment on this post over on Brazen Careerist and linked to a speech that I thought was really smart and relevant.  It speaks about the difference between “helping” and “serving”.

btw…if you haven’t signed up for Chris Brogan’s newsletter yet, you’re truly missing out.  It’s really the only newsletter I’ve ever enjoyed and the only one I actually read through. I highly recommend you try it out.

Should All Customers Be Treated Equally?

Equality
Photo cred: saxarocks

I had an poor experience with a printing service recently.  After speaking to their customer service, I was still very unhappy.

Nutshell: They said there was nothing that they could do, and if I wanted to cancel my order, I’d have to pay a cancellation fee.

Being very frustrated, I tweeted a complaint about my poor experience with the company (not something I’m necessarily proud of, but that’s for another post).

After doing so, I was contacted on twitter by someone who asked me to email them.

So I did… and they went above and beyond to provide the best possible customer service they realistically could.  They were very respectful, explained the situation, and offered to waive the cancellation fee.  They even offered a discount on my next order.

Now how could you go from not being able to do anything, and even punishing me with a fee, to giving me everything I asked for and more?!

Many “experts” advise companies to approach every community differently based on their needs.  I’m going to go ahead and say that when it comes to customer service, treat every community and customer equally, regardless of their influence.

What do you make of this?  Should companies provide better service for some communities over others?

Take it further…if a customer is a brand evangelist of yours, should you provide them with more benefits?  I’ve always thought it a good idea to take care of your most loyal customers, but is it worth the risk of alienating your average customer?