I remember when I first joined online communities. How foreign it all felt. Who was “out there” that I was tweeting to? Who was going to read the blog that I was writing on? I spent my energy in real-life relationships more than online. I would poke my nose in and not “get it” very well. I knew it was important and everyone said to start doing more of it, but other than that…I was pretty much clueless. And then just to prove the point, about six months into the Twitter experience, I was getting ready to do a book launch and turn to the online world to do it. I wanted to do the best job possible to get into the world. I tweeted about it at least once every hour, which was – I now see – relentless. And it appeared as it was: self-serving.
So, I say this with great compassion to all the self-promoters out there.
It’s okay to promote yourself. Once. Then move on. Consider promoting some other people and their ideas, too. Mix it up a bit. Constant self-promotion is a turn-off. In the last few weeks, Geoffrey Moore of Crossing the Chasm fame, and Condaleeza Rice (of the Bush administration) joined Twitter and did very much the same thing I was doing a few years ago. Their agents probably asked them to “build their Twitter platform” since they both have new books out. And they are making classic mistakes; not engaging, but espousing. But they, like I, need to show up to share something that we will care about. They need to turn their Twitter feed from a channel away from themselves, into a showcase for good ideas. (Moore has actually made huge progress since joining Twitter; someone must be giving him some good advice.) They need to get into conversation to exchange ideas, not just espouse ideas. They need to move from pushing their “product” or having their ego stroked to sharing things that we all care about and building a platform for the idea.
I share this #facepalm moments with the intention that we can all learn from this. What people do individually, companies do also, and the lesson carries over. Companies that talk about themselves as the center of the universe get it so wrong. These companies might think that when we “like” their products and company online, we are “liking” them. That’s not true. We consumers care about what we want to achieve in our lives. If a company happens to match to our interests and values, then we signal it by liking a brand.
When we like Nike, we might be saying that we like fitness, or an attitude of personal responsibility. When we like Starbucks, we might be saying we like indivisibility, or we like having a place to go when we don’t have a corporate badge. When graphic artists like Adobe, they might be saying they value having the most amazing creative tools. When consumers like Patagonia, they might be saying that they value recycling or that they want to support environmental justice. When we like “Oreilly Media”, we might be saying that we think geek is cool.
The difference between 20th century marketing and the social era is simply this> In the social world, the object is not you. It’s not about your product or your business, but rather it’s about shared value or purpose.
So, please, stop making it about you.
Talking about you is one narrative. But you are then the only person pushing that narrative. You might be good at the hustle, and spin, and good at pushing your personal agenda, and for that you might get advanced. But it is a more limited narrative than a shared purpose.
When we have a shared purpose, we have a bigger surface area.
Let’s make this a visual. If you are talking at me, the volume and content created is limited to your energy and interests. If I join in conversation with you, not only does the “shared bubble” have more content (and thus more surface area), it starts to have more energy.
And, when things have energy, they move. In practical terms, shared purpose items get more easily shared. In more meta terms, shared purpose items resonate with people and the connection is visceral. If you can create a dialogue bigger than your company and its products with what your consumers care about – if you create and/or join into that bigger storyline, then both the consumer and your company will benefit.
So, if you want to be known, don’t just be pushing yourself, push an agenda because then you’re leading with purpose. (I certainly hope I’m getting better at this purpose shining through. Thanks for those of you that have put up with my learning curve.)
And, if you are a brand that wants to more relevant, realize that it has nothing to do with you and everything to with us.