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.

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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