A new chapter, and a look back.

The stated purpose of this blog as of this writing is to foster discussion about the connection between human challenges and business challenges.

Over the last 3 years or so, we’ve talked about giving to others, being better communicators first, being curious about (and with) those around us, handling our fear, dealing with loneliness, de-emphasizing our egos, adjusting when conflict arises, focusing on context more than eventsbeing compassionate, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, giving ourselves a framework for creativity, sharing and connecting through our storiesnot dwelling in the negative, and even about some reflections.

Loch Alsh - reflection
Image via Wikipedia

These topics are ones that a lot of us (myself certainly included) struggle with regularly. What has been interesting is that the same things that we struggle with as people are also things that companies struggle with, and that we can use the same tools that we use to address challenges in our interpersonal lives to begin to shift how companies operate, inside and out.  This is what I’ve tried to point out more often than not here.

The fractal, scalable nature of what keeps us connecting (and keeps us from it, as well) is truly remarkable, when one is attuned to it.

Trying as best I can to avoid us vs. them thinking in my own head through connecting with people has really led me to begin to see the patterns (the “Matrix Code”, to geek out for a moment) behind many of the interactions that happen.   Being able to channel what I’m learning into this blog and have it resonate with even one person is so rewarding.

What I’m thinking about now is: What’s next?   There are thousands of blogs covering communications, from the perspective of tactics, strategy, psychology, life coaching and productivity, Buddhism and even parenting, each sharing variations on a theme of connection.

I’m certainly not the only one who talks about these subjects, nor the best or most regular blogger, but I’m proud of what’s happened here on my little corner of the interwebs, I’m ever grateful for those of you who choose to spend a few moments reading and responding (although selfishly I wish more of you would chime in and join the conversation happening in the comments).

As I begin the next chapter in the evolution of me (with some stuff that I will be announcing soon), I wonder how I can be most useful to you?

My intentions for this blog moving forward are to try to document my refocus on what matters to me (talking with passionate people about what matters to them, and collecting those stories into a cohesive overall story), and the process of making that into my full-time vocation.

What say you?

What’s Next? Changes ahead. Permission to move on granted.

I must tell you that I stopped writing about social media for 1 year plus and it was one of the happiest times of writing I have ever had. I restarted because of a new book last summer. I hate it. I have to do it professionally, but I hate it.  –Geoff Livingston

[This post is inspired partly by my friend Jennifer Leggio’s “No One’s Influencer” post, and partly by Tamsen McMahon‘s recent enthusiasm for writing again.]

When I started on Twitter in 2008, I was lucky enough to be able to be part of the conversation with a bunch of early adopters, many of which became friends or at least people I’m friendly with, and several who have become leading voices in the social media and online marketing space.

Being a part of this community led me to work on finding my voice for this blog.  Up until late 2008, it was much more of a personal music recommendation & cool links destination (which was admittedly not all that popular).  It gradually moved toward posts focused on how we communicate on the Interent, which includes what some call “Social Media.” (you can actually see the exact moment the focus shifted, with this post about podcasts which features Chris Penn).

Since this shift, the blog has grown in readership to a respectable number (if one cared about such things), and I’m appreciative of every person who takes the time to check out even a single thing I’ve written.

Time For Change

My blog output here has been slow in the last few months.  I know this.  Part of the reason is that I’ve felt trapped by the subject matter, and feeling (rightly or wrongly) like the people reading (i.e. you folks) have come to expect something specific from me.  Because of this, and because I’m stupidly stubborn (I am a Taurus, after all), I’ve kept myself from getting too “off-topic” here, beyond the occasional personal/professional rant.  But that needs to change in order for me to be fulfilled, to keep sharing, to have any agency at all.

I’ve never been a “Go social media! You have to do it this way in order to not be a megafail!” type blogger (I’ve written a bunch about why in posts focused on writing evergreen posts, and why social media isn’t a game changer).  I’ve been called out not infrequently for not being on the bus, and for occasionally being a grump.  Yes, I am sometimes guilty of that.

For me it is so frustrating to see people making friends and giving all the credit to a website, instead of owning the connection themselves.  Twitter doesn’t create friendships, twitter is a channel for people to meet and cultivate a connection.  It is the least interesting part of the process.  And here you see where I get labeled a naysayer, a skeptic, a grump.

It’s never been more clear to me that for me writing about Social Media is akin to writing about newsprint or phone wires.  I cannot wring any more substance from the tools.   I cannot both be true to my core and keep the sole focus of my writing to “how companies can connect with consumers”.  The whole enterprise (given recent political events, as well as my upbringing as the child of artists) rings hollow.

There are now hundreds of worthwhile bloggers covering best practices, concepts, toolkits, and even philosophies behind the sea change.  I just cannot bring myself to be passionate about “…and here’s what it means for your company”.  That’s not what communication that manifests online is about for me.  It never has been.  In this way, I guess I’ve never really ‘fit in’ as either a marketer or a ‘social media person’, and although my resume makes it seem like I am, I’ve never felt “in my element” as a marketer or a strategist.

These last few months of being unemployed have given me ample time for self-reflection and some new directions are starting to become less fuzzy.  Taking a look across the blogger landscape, this particular reflection seems to be a growing trend (Jennifer “Mediaphyter” Leggio, Gapingvoid via Copyblogger, and even the illustrious Amber Naslund have recently weighed in on the topic).

Upon so recognizing my limitations, my interests, my challenges, I take a deep breath and embrace scary change, because it is the only thing that can lead to growth.

All who have for whatever reason decided to keep me in your reader (or even just click through to posts as they show up on the feed) are not just here for my posts about social communication, right?   There are a lot of things that I’d like to talk about with you, things I’d like to explore and learn about from you.  I hope you will continue on with me on my little corner of the interwebs, but if this isn’t what you signed up for, I totally understand.  Maybe I’ll cry a little, but I understand.

I have not yet decided about the specific aspects I’d like to cover here.  Will some of the posts be about how we communicate online?  Undoubtedly (and hey, I still have a backlog of half-finished posts to complete).  But it will not just be that, it cannot.

There’s a huge amount of music  I’d love to share.  There are a lot of bands out there that deserve your attention.   I’ve not written nearly enough about my time creating podcasts at Sony Music, exploring the stories behind the albums many of us love so dearly, and why I believe in the anecdote as a social object is so powerful.  Also, I’d like to not be so deadly serious all the time.

My goal is truly to build something that reflects all of me (and takes cues from your feedback), and not simply focus on this one part that aches to steer the community away from “OMG chrysler just cursed on twitter” (this reference is probably already dated by the time you read it) and toward “what can we do now that 2 billion of us can connect with each other.  Can we save the planet? Make each other laugh? Remove the concept of ‘the other’ from our vocabularies? From our children’s vocabularies?”  Those discussions are happening, I will contribute to them on others blogs who say things more eloquently than I.

Anyway, this is what has been on my mind.  Thanks for your attention and indulgence, as I know posts like this can be gratuitous or dramatic (which is truly not my intention).  I simply have not been able to post, and I felt I owed you all an explanation and myself a kick in the pants.  And to all those that may be feeling similarly, consider this your permission (nay, encouragement. nay, DEMAND..tion) to blog about whatever the fuck you want.

So… What’s next?

Reach vs. Engagement, once and for all.


Reach is a measurement of who exists to be engaged with at any given time. How many people are on your Facebook page.  How many Twitter followers do you have?  It is quantitative and does not translate very well into a qualitative model.

The reason it doesn’t is because reach and engagement are rarely if ever linked.

Engagement is a  measure of the bi-directional interactions between you and another party or set of parties.  It is a qualitative measurement, ideally based on a series of interactions over time specifically leading to a desired action.

Having low reach and high engagement leads to high ROI.  You are building transactional value among a subset of users who choose to interact with you, your engagements educate you about your audience and allow you to engage more usefully.

Low reach, high engagementConversely, having high reach and low engagement leads to miniscule ROI.  Your quantitative numbers may be high, but the quality (i.e. value) per user is low, and remains low.  This means that you end up with a large number of apathetic respondents.

Of course the ideal is high reach, high engagement.

How do you get there?

Well, the first step is separating reach and engagement in your strategy and day-to-day discussions.

The next step is to put “reach” on the other side of the equals sign, and focus all your efforts on engagement.

The funny thing is that it turns out that having highly engaged users actually will go out of their way to build your reach for you.

Quality before quantity.

An intervention, for my Corporate Marketing friends

Intervention (TV series)
Image via Wikipedia


It’s time for an intervention. We ‘ve been worried about you. You’ve been spending an awful lot of time at marketing conferences, talking about marketing with other marketing people on Twitter and Facebook, reading newsletters from Chris Brogan, CC Chapman and the WOMMA team. Maybe you’ve even taken it upon yourself to write a blog post or two about the importance of “Joining the Conversation”.

You proudly proclaim that you “get it”. Out with the old, in with the new. Community, collaboration, crowdsourcing. Empowering the consumer. Push vs pull.

Let me share with you how your experiences have affected us.

  • We don’t feel connected with you anymore. You proclaim you know what’s good for the amorphous mass known as consumers, wholly excluding yourself and what you know to be true about how you want to interact with companies, instead choosing to focus on statistics, anecdotal stories shared by others with similar worldviews, and what Google Analytics’ home page tells you.
  • For someone so focused on the power of others, you sure do spend an awful lot of time talking about what you’re up to.  Your Facebook pages (and those of your clients) have the unmistakable tone of “Look at what we can do for you! Aren’t we great?” We think you may be missing the point a little.  When you say “It’s not about us anymore,” and then twitter about your new launch party, people may come to the conclusion that you and your clients may be a bit insecure and overcompensating by talking about yourself. You know, the whole “Enough about me, what do you think about me?” thing.
  • Relax! We like you! That’s why we followed you on Twitter, fanned you on Facebook, checked out your blog, maybe even subscribed to your newsletter.  You don’t have to tell us how cool you and your company are all the time.  Just be cool, and show some interest in what’s going on with us.  You know, like an actual conversation, rather than something one of you came up with to sell books.
  • When your company’s communications are about how many units you’ve sold or how popular you are? Yeah, we don’t care.  We also don’t care about awards you’ve won, chart positions within your industry, or how innovative you are, or how much you’re pushing the envelope.  It’s great for you that your company is meeting its financial goals, but for us, it comes off more like “look at how much money you guys are giving us!”
  • We think you might be forgetting that we are the reason your company has those sales numbers, and the reason we are the reason is that you’ve done something to make our lives easier, more fulfilling, more fun.  The monetary transaction is a result of us weighing the pro’s of giving you our money vs the con’s of not getting access to your product or service. That is what drives us to invest time and money in your company, not your company’s sales, awards, or the pretty new website that your web team worked so hard on.
  • This is kind of awkward, but… You know when you talk, blog or tweet about meeting your business goals publicly? We’re a little embarrassed for you.  See, the thing is, we don’t care about your business goals, unless we do.  We know this is complicated to understand, but think of it this way: If you get some great news from a friend, you congratulate them.  If some guy from your high school that ignored you the entire time you were there is in the paper talking about how he’s now a millionaire and marrying the prom queen? Yeah…not so much.  We care about your success when its our success too.  You making money is not our success, it’s a reminder of our money that your company is now spending to send out a press release about all the money its making.
  • We’ve noticed you’ve taken to calling us  advocates, audiences, influencers, milennials, and talking about our psychographics and our clickstreams.  Can you see how this could make us feel like less than people, and how we might think we’re not that important to you?  We know, on some level, that you need to aggregate how we interact with you in order to best serve us in the future (that is what you’re doing, right?), but we don’t need to know how the sausages are made.

So, we hope that you will take these in the spirit in which they were intended.  We really do care about you, and we want whats best for you. We recognize that maybe you don’t see how what you’ve been doing has affected you and the people around you, so we wanted to gather together and let you know, for your own good.

With love

-People on the internet

Scale it down until you can do it: Applying the GTD rules to everyday life

Alice in Wonderland

I have a confession to make:  There are a lot of tasks in my life that I just can’t will myself to get done.  Do you have a list like this?  I’ve lived in my apartment for almost 5 years now and only managed to put permanent blinds in my windows this past weekend.  I just bought a coffee table.  I still don’t have a passport.  I’m not sure what keeps me from getting these (seemingly small) tasks accomplished, but somehow they feel ‘big’ in my brain, so I put them off.

As a digital strategist, I think sometimes that our clients and companies in general that are not yet engaging with their customers online feel like the prospect of “getting social media done” is a daunting prospect, and it ‘feels too big in their heads’ (whether they’re able to articulate it that way or not), and so come up with all kinds of rationales to not move forward (‘no resources’, ‘no time’, ‘legal wont let us’, ‘can’t justify the ROI’).

I think we all do ourselves a disservice when we try to respond to these individual points (though we have the best intentions) to quell the fears that exist rather than trying to address the underlying issue.  The same way that having someone say things like “well, you want to be able to travel, don’t you?” in order to encourage me to get a passport, saying things like “customers expect you to engage” won’t alleviate the underlying ‘this is too big to handle’ illusion.

Instead, what Dave Allen’s Getting Things Done system recommends is that we “Break tasks down into actionable steps.”

What this means to me in both cases is:  Scale it down until you can do it.

Too scared to start, monitor and maintain a multi-channel social network presence? Try a monthly blog.  Or a personal Twitter account.  Keep scaling it down until you feel like you can act on something.  Don’t worry about how much you took off the table.  Don’t worry about how much the competition is doing, or how many other things are on your list.  Tiny progress is exponentially better than no progress at all.

The dirty little secret is that even when you feel like you are pushing yourself outside your safezone, you really aren’t.  What you’ve done is realize that your safezone is bigger than you thought it was.

So, maybe I can’t put a “done” mark next to “Get Passport” just yet.  But maybe I can fill out the form so that when I’m ready to take that next step, there are fewer things getting in the way.

That I can do.