Does Arrogance Build Trust in the Social Media World?

Picture 1This has been brewing in my head for a while, and to be honest, I’ve been a little hesitant to write about it, but when I saw the description of the session that Chris Brogan is going to be leading at IZEAFEST, I decided (after some advice from a few folks at Copyblogger) to speak my mind. Now,  I have no idea who wrote the description, but regardless of whether Brogan wrote it himself or someone wrote it for him,  it really rubbed me the wrong way. I know Chris Brogan is a “Trust Agent” and all, and maybe it’s supposed to be funny or edgy or something, but I find it simply arrogant, complete with the intense close up photo of Brogan looking like an angry daddy about to tell the kids to go to their room.

Here’s the copy from the site:

“If you’re dipping your toe into social media, blogging, and all the other tools related to content marketing, either ‘jump in or get the Hell outta my water!’
Businesses are ready NOW, and they want professional treatment in bridging the gap between how they USED to do online marketing and advertising and how they will in the coming months.
Join Chris Brogan for a cuss-out, and a set of next steps to take home to your teams.”

This bothers me on multiple levels:

1. “If you’re dipping your toe into social media, blogging, and all the other tools related to content marketing, either ‘jump in or get the Hell outta my water!’”…Excuse me, but whose water is it that people are supposed to either jump into or get the hell out of?  The last time I checked, no one actually owned the vast ocean that we call social media.
2. “Businesses are ready NOW and they want professional treatment” …This implies that they are ready but everyone except for Chris Brogan is not prepared now to guide them or treat them professionally.
3. “Join Chris Brogan for a cuss-out” ….Hmm, I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t spend a sizable chunk of change to attend a conference to be cussed out by a Trust Agent.
4. “a set of steps to take home to your teams” …. Let’s all hope that everyone there takes copious notes so that they can all follow Chris Brogan’s steps to success. Everyone has his or her own way of working and thinking. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for all.

I had been a subscriber to Brogan’s blog, but the straw that broke it for me was a recent post of his that detailed the minutiae of his day, right down to what he ate for breakfast. There are people who apparently care about that, because he got many comments and RTs for that post, exclaiming amazement at just how busy he is, but instead of impressing me or building trust in me, it had the opposite effect and I unsubscribed.

Arrogance is very unappealing to me. I have never been one to blindly follow or believe everything I hear, even if it is from an expert. I don’t think anyone should. I listen to all kinds of people, all kinds of ideas and take a wide range of thinking into consideration when I form my opinions and methods of doing things. But in my opinion this time, arrogance does not build trust or respect. What do you think?

screen shot from izeafest.com

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A Thousand Words Is Worth A Picture

BostonWeeklyJournal

I am a confessed antique treasure hunting junkie.  Some people go to church on Sunday, but I go to Todd Farm Flea Market in search of what, I’m never quite sure, but I know it when I see it.

This past Sunday on my usual trip to Todd, I picked up a Boston Newspaper that dated from 1858. When the seller said “a buck,” I couldn’t refuse.  When I got home, I opened it up and started to read. It’s a huge piece of  paper about 20X28 with teeny tiny type, 4 or 6pt at the most, with no pictures or illustrations, just words.  The stories are just that, stories and I couldn’t find much of anything that resembled what we would today consider to be news. One story in particular caught my eye and made me realize just how much communication has changed from then to now:

Scene In A Metropolitan Railroad Car

Yesterday afternoon, as one of the cars on the Metropolitan Railroad rolled along its rails, a lady, extensively beflounced and expansively crinolined, beckoned to the polite conductor as it was passing West Street, in order to take passage to the South End.  Her robe was in a state of delicious newness: its tissue folds were hardly cold from the modiste’s last artistic touch, and her attire was altogether gotten up evidently with a reckless regard of expense. The car was only partly filled – one side free from incumbrance. Upon its cushions she sat herself at ease with thought for her robe’s intactness uppermost, and spread its voluminous flounces carefully to their natural amplitude. She cast her eyes at the conductor with an air of composure, sang froid, and self-collectedness.

“Conductor,” she asked in the blandest of manners and most mellifluous of tones, “how many seats do I occupy?”

Taken by surprise, he glanced from one side to the other of her extended dress, and then at her. The lady’s face was serenely interrogative.

“About four, I should think Madam,” he said, wondering what would come next.

“Here are twenty cents,” she said, dropping the dimes from her lavender-kidded fingers into his extended palm. “ I do not wish to be disturbed.”

One would have thought the possibility of disturbing such a supreme embodiment of composure rather impossible; but having secured herself from the chance, in spite of stares and whispers, the quadrupled-fare pursued her way happily and uncreasedly  to her destination. It was a spectacle to admire. We commend her example to all ladies of similar balloonish dimensions.

Now in today’s language, this article could easily be reduced to the 140 characters of Twitter:

Wealthy woman wearing a big fancy dress, pays four times the trolley fair for the four seats she and her fluffy garments occupied.

But does that fill you with the image that the 19th century version does? I recently read a post on Copyblogger about editing your writing, only saying what you really have to say and not “falling in love with your words.”  But take a look at the adjectives and adverbs used in the article: beflounced, uncreasedly, crinolined, delicious newness, lavendar-kidded fingers, balloonish dimensions – what can get better than that in conjuring up a perfect image of this fine lady of Boston.

Yes, editing is good, unnecessary words are bad, but in this world of  OMG, BTW, LOL, don’t forget to serve up a few tasty adverbs and adjectives now and then. Just choose the right ones. Writing is an art that has the power to create powerful and clear images, depending on the words that you pick. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with falling in love with your words. There’s got to be some kind of passion behind what your are doing or saying or writing or there is no point.

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Local Press Is Global Press

dailynewsMy husband and I were at a trade show in the Boston area recently that was full of vendors from around the world. We sat down to take a look at one vendor’s sample books when the rep looked at the two of us and said, “Oh I know you. I saw a picture of the two of you with your line of shoes.” No big deal, right? But this was someone from China, who we had never done business with before, never met before, and the picture she was referring to was one that was taken by my local newspaper, which serves a little community north of Boston.

My husband and I founded a children’s footwear brand about two years ago, and the first piece of press coverage I secured was in the local newspaper called The Daily News. I figured what the heck, I’ll start with my local paper. I pitched the story to them, they grabbed it and sent a photographer and someone to interview us. I had no idea that this one piece (not that well written and complete a few misquotes, I might add) would prove to be probably the most powerful and widest reaching pieces of journalism about the brand and the story. I since went on to get coverage in key national trade and consumer magazines as well as lots of blog coverage and even got some TV and celebrity placements. But I have heard from more people about that one little silly article in our tiny local paper than the editorial placement in Parenting or Parents Magazine or any of the other national publications that have massive circulation. That article has been seen and read by investors, vendors, customers both wholesale and retail, as well as other press, all contacting us because they read this seemingly insignificant article.

How did that happen? My small town Daily News has an online version. Most magazines do not, or if they do, the content is completely different, or they only  feature a select few articles that were in their print versions. Most local newspapers duplicate their print copy online, and in turn the articles are picked up by other sites, reproduced and word begins to spread.

So when you think that local doesn’t matter and won’t have any impact globally, think again. National coverage obviously is important, but don’t sell local short. Local can have the power to go all the way around the world and back again.

What’s your strategy? What has your experience been with local going global?

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If I Give You A Free Hamburger, Will You Be My Friend?

I was watching TV last night and saw this commercial for T.G.I. Friday’s announcing their new hamburger giveaway campaign:

In the commercial, Woody, a presumed faux customer and big time fan of the restaurant chain, announces a new Facebook campaign for Friday’s that pitches the viewer to become a Woody fan on Facebook and receive a free burger. Maybe Woody is the real #1 fan of Friday’s, but I’m not buying it, and even if I did, it doesn’t matter.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the whole point of a brand participating in social media to build brand awareness through a real engagement between a real person from a company and their real consumers? To me, this campaign crosses a line between social media and advertising. Advertising is a wide-open venue where a company can create characters to act like a customer. Consumers understand that. Social media is supposed to be real. You can’t buy customer loyalty by having a fake customer giving away free hamburgers.

Creating a character to give away hamburgers and build a following on Facebook is fine I guess, but what’s the point? After the hamburgers are given away, will anyone remain friends with Woody? What is Friday’s trying to do here, create a slacker version of Ronald McDonald? Dress a clown in a pair of jeans and a beanie cap, and he’s still a clown.

Like all companies, Friday’s must have a couple of real life characters wandering the hallways at their corporate headquarters that would perhaps be more effective in leading a social media campaign. Consumers don’t want a hired character to chat with about hamburgers. They’ll take his free hamburgers, but they don’t care about him. It comes off as having something to hide, an avoidance of letting down the guard and opening the door for a real conversation, which sometimes might not be positive. Consumers want to feel like their voice can be heard and that what they say matters to the brands that they are loyal to. Involve your customers, ask for their opinions and suggestions and if giving something away helps as a thank you, then go ahead, give something away. But that can’t be the only benefit. It needs to be an ongoing engagement.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that Woody will indeed get a huge following of “friends” simply to get their free burgers, but the friendship won’t last long. They’ll take the bait; they’ll eat it, and then abandon poor Woody after their bellies are full. If you offer a shallow campaign, then the response will be equally as shallow. Free stuff is great, but it’s not good enough to sustain a lasting relationship. I think Woody will be looking for a new job and new friends in no time.

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Excuse Me, Your SEO is Showing

underwearshowingNot to date myself here, but I started writing before SEO was part of modern vocabulary. I learned to write with conviction and clarity, to creatively communicate meaning, and to carefully choose words that would draw in a human reader rather than attract a robot. I learned the craft of writing as an art, not a science.

Writing has changed now with the desire to have a strong online presence and to show up first in a Google search or on Digg’s front page. Writing, at least the online sort, seems to have taken a turn for the science, often abandoning the art. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of SEO in online content, but it seems that SEO has become of primary concern in most online writing. There are an overabundance of SEO keyword dense headlines and articles floating around out there, and it always seems so obvious which are written with SEO as the primary goal.

Keyword driven headlines and content may be search friendly, but when they show up in a search, are they compelling enough for a human to respond, click and read? Or does that not matter anymore? Copyblogger recently posted an article by Dave Navarro about the importance of headlines. In the article, it was stated that, “it’s well known that many Digg users vote on articles based on article titles and descriptions without ever actually reading the stories.” I find it a little disheartening that people aren’t reading content anymore, just headlines. If this is true, does this mean that the written word, the actual meaning the words has taken a backseat to searchable terms?

The creative soul that I am can’t help but want to make a pretty sentence that a human might read and respond to. I admittedly spend way too much time crafting and editing everything that I write. I have to consciously force the science in once the art is done. In my book, art comes first and science comes second. Just the same, the scientists among us also have to try to remember to bring art into their writing. Take the SEO formula and add a few swipes of a paintbrush to it, so it is compelling and appealing to humans as well as robots. I guess the trick is for the artists and the scientists to begin to mingle and mix it up a bit. You know, like in the old Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup commercial: you got peanut butter on my chocolate or you got chocolate in my peanut butter. Maybe art and science should rub up against each other a little bit more. When the two elements are put together in the right amounts, they can actually taste pretty good.

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Is Your Blog Content Killer or Filler?

ingredientsWith many bloggers feeling pressured to post something daily or multiple times daily to maintain their level of engagement, I think content can begin to suffer. No matter how much of an expert or guru someone is, the stuff can start to get recycled, irrelevant, tiresome or forced and often a bit too rich with keywords. Getting these posts in my inbox a couple of times a day, even from a “thought leader,” starts to feel a little spammy.

I do get the concepts of interruption and engagement, but being interrupted by the same person several times a day crosses the line for me. It has, for me, actually created the opposite effect. I am finding myself disengaging with some of the engagers, and have recently unsubscribed to several blogs for this reason. I have decided that since I now know that these blogs are there, I’ll choose when I want to be interrupted to read what they have to say. I’m taking control of my inbox back from the invaders.

I am a true believer in quality over quantity any day. A post for posting sake (and you can usually tell which ones those are) is a waste of both the writer’s and the reader’s time. There have been a couple of posts I’ve read recently that talk about the panic of writer’s block. These posts have given numerous suggestions on what to do and how to find something to say, including recycling older posts. My advice: don’t say anything. Wait a day (or even two) until you make an observation about something or read something, or see something or have a fresh idea worth sharing. Squeezing out the words like a stubborn pimple is painful for the writer and for the reader. Wait a little until the words flow more easily. It will lead to a more successful post that will truly offer something valuable, rather than simply supplying more verbiage to fill someone’s inbox.

What’s your take on this? Do you think it’s essential to post daily or multiple times daily, or are you inclined to be more conservative about it and post when you are driven to by a thought or idea that you need to share?

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How To Stand Out Like A Genius In A Crowd Of Clowns (literally)

I saw this amazing video and it made me think about what it means to stand out from the crowd.Take a couple of minutes to view this to the end and read on…

Here is a guy who juggles. Big deal, a juggler, right? I can go to Faneuil Hall in downtown Boston on any given day and see jugglers juggling while telling jokes, dressed in silly clown outfits, on a unicycle, or while standing on someone’s shoulders. But when I saw this guy juggling, I was amazed and riveted because I was seeing it done in a way that I have never seen it before. This juggler takes it and makes it his own. He, I would say, is a juggling artist. It’s part juggling, part dance, part performance, part conducting, but it’s all passion.You can see it on his face. The guy is lost in what he is doing because he loves what he is doing.

Here’s a quick recipe for standing out from a crowd of clowns:

1. Do something you are passionate about.

2. Mix in some innovation and originality.

3. Add a dash of artistry and smarts.

4. Leave out any artificial ingredients.

5. Mix well and serve.

I’d love to hear from you about what you do and how you try to stand out from the others…

(By the way, the juggler is Chris Bliss)

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How To Draw People In Like A Dust Bunny To A Vacuum Cleaner

dustbunnySo, you have a great business, a great product, a great idea or a great blog, but no one is paying attention. Consumers, retailers, subscribers, investors, sponsors or whoever it is that you are trying to get to notice you, are ignoring you instead. How can you get them to be drawn in to you like a dust bunny to a vacuum cleaner? The first step is to tell them a good non-fiction story, your story.

For example, Terracyle is a company that I think has an incredibly great story and is very successful at telling it. The founder and CEO, Tom Szaky had a great idea, a fabulous and greener than green product line that also serves the greater good not only in it’s greenness, but by engaging, motivating, and benefiting the community in the success of his brand. Terracycle takes trash that would normally be non-recylable, gets people to collect it and sent it to the company, and then Terracycle turns it into really cool, practical and usable products and sends the collectors a check to be used to support a non-profit oganization of their choosing. Szaky tells his story, his product’s story and motivates a call to action. I stumbled upon Terracycle through Google, and I thought the story was so great, that I went out and bought his products for my son’s back to school needs. It also motivated my son and his best buddy to start a Terracylce “brigade” to benefit his school, and in turn, Terracycle’s business. It also impressed me so much that I am now writing about it on my own blog without being asked to or paid to. That, my friends, is the power of a great story.

Whatever your tale is, tell it like it really is. Tell people about your great idea, tell them where it came from, tell them who you are, what motivates you, and offer something to them to engage them so much that they will be compelled to act on your behalf without asking. Let people know that, like them, you are a human, not a corporate robot, and you will find that you will begin to have more fans. Humans like humans. Humans are savvy creatures that are not fooled by corporate speak or carefully crafted, altered or unnatural histories.

Everyone has a real story, but we have always been told to weave our stories in a certain way in order to present the company or the brand or ourselves in the best light possible, but not necessarily natural light.  I know I can tell an airbrushed story when I read one. Don’t be afraid of the thought of having some stranger tap you on the shoulder and say, “Excuse me, but your humanness is showing.” Tell the real and natural story and you’ll find people will be coming in closer to listen. What’s your story?

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