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I drafted this post last Summer. I filed it away with a pile of of the “maybe someday” posts. The idea behind this post is simple, and so is the anecdote. I hesitated to publish it earlier because it felt it was *too* simplistic. then I had a “That’s the point, DUH.” moment and decided it was time to let this post fly. Enjoy.
I often think of my dad when doing business and building professional relationships. Social media growth has made me realize that I channel him more than ever, mainly because of a newfangled confusion over “the right way” to utilize social networks to build relationships, grow your network and your business. Folks want to make it seem pretty complicated. “Make sure you tweet links to your content at specific times, specific days, stand on your head when you tweet to get more RT’s…” While I love the analytics folks and I do get that patterns can be identified and leveraged when sharing content, none of that crap is the most important ingredient in building your social currency, reach, and trust. Recognizing that social media has allowed us to create a powerful word of mouth community, in much the same way our grandparents did within a small town, might be a step in the right direction. Maybe it’s time to go back to some old school thinking…
In recent years, I’ve brought up the idea that social media is really just helping us find (and be) “a guy for that” in a much larger (online) community . Throughout my father’s life, he has always had “a guy for that”. Whether it was a new car, a guy to come help hang drywall, a lawyer, a Las Vegas casino manager, a plumber, or the guy with the best garage for drinking beers and re-building hot rods. In his business, his vendors were always his “guys” too. He referred business only to the dependable, hardworking, honest guys.
Why? Because he liked them. He trusted them, and he knew he was giving a solid and valuable recommendation.
He also wanted to make sure that “his guys” got as much business as he could send. He wanted to see them do well. They always returned the favor. These guys built word of mouth networks that stretched worldwide. And it wasn’t just built on “what’s in it for me”. It was built on relationships, trust, and the occasional liquid lunch.
In my life and my work, I have my own network of “guys”. I’m the “guy” for many others. That’s how I approach building a sustainable network to grow relationships, reach, and business. Through the magic of the interwebs, I use social media tools to connect with “my guys” and see where I can be someone else’s “guy”. It’s been working since the dawn of time, the internet doesn’t change the heart of the matter. It’s about people. Making real connections. These connections can become real life conversions. If you aren’t a total douche, it’s a pretty good way to grow your business and tap into new networks.
For those of you that live and die by ROI, I have a story for you. (An example of “personal ROI”, if you will, but it demonstrated the potential power of your network, when built on nurtured relationships and trust. It had a tremendous impact on me.)
My grandmother died six years ago. My grandfather and all of my grandmother’s friends had passed before her. My father, my mom, my aunt and all of the children and grandchildren formed a receiving line at the foot of her casket. We figured maybe a few long-time family friends might come. It would be mostly quiet, and we’d just stand there and hold on to each other. This day was one of the hardest of my father’s life. And, although he would never trouble anyone for help and support through the day, the look on his face showed the need. The morning began quietly, as expected, but in the first hour something changed.
One by one, my dad’s “guys” began to file in. They all came. The plumber, the electrician, the lawyer, the used car dealer, the hot rodders, the Harley dealer, his vendors, everyone. They filled that chapel. Full. These guys and gals were more than just the sum of the functions they performed throughout the years. They had become something bigger than that. Over time, these people were many different things to my father, they were his “guys” in some capacity, and they knew how to give and take so that everyone grew. When my dad needed support most, they came and gave back something he had earned with each of them, respect.
My dad is retired now, but certainly active and social and still enthusiastically (and FREQUENTLY) referring business to his “guys” (and his “guys” kids!) whenever he gets a chance. His guys have earned it.
What would a network of “guys” like THAT mean to you? To your business? To your life? The next time you are fretting about what time of day to post something or how to tag something properly, stop. Stop fretting. Start talking. Go find YOUR guys.
FACT: Once my dad reads this, an email will go out to all of his guys, with a message like, “Sara’s talking about us again…it’s probably all over that Facial Book thing…”
AND: Last year, Chris Brogan posted a video on his blog of me talking about my dad and his network of guys. My dad and his guys had never heard of Chris Brogan before. Now they think he’s a freakin genius, for two reasons.
1. Chris *gets* what they have been doing their whole lives, and it works.
2. Chris put “Paul’s kid” on his blog, so he must be a damned smart guy.
For some time now I have been trying to put my finger on why some folks get how to use social media to market themselves or their services and some completely miss the boat. I’ve been trying to identify exactly why one person drives me completely nuts, and another person’s message is welcome, and even met with a smile and desire to share their message. Then it hit me. Social graces. Good, old fashioned manners, courtesy, humor and genuine interest in others. You know, how people have been building relationships since, well, forever. “Social networking” is still just networking, period. Networking is still about people. Just talking to people and building relationships. Hopefully that relationship has value for both parties, whether it’s emotional value or monetary value, it doesn’t matter. You define that value.
So, let’s say you met me in real life. If every other thing out of your mouth was “Read my blog!”, “Buy my stuff!”, “I’m so great!”, “Have you heard how AWESOME my blog is?”, I would run away. Seriously. I might even have to resist the urge to smack you upside the head.
(Ok Sara, then tell us. Tell us how to market ourselves without being an obnoxious doucher.) Gladly.
Ask yourself a few questions:
Am I being myself? — Seriously. Be yourself. This, apparently, is easier said than done. Even the “social media experts” that preach the ever hyped “authentic/transparent” strategy don’t always practice what they preach. How do I know this? I’ve met plenty of them in real life that are quite different than they portray themselves on social networks. That doesn’t work. Why? Because the ultimate goal of networking is usually a real life conversion. If you aren’t really who you portray yourself to be online, you lose my trust.
Do I talk about myself/blog/business too much? — This is highly annoying in real life, and amplified on the web. If the majority of your activity on social networks is telling people about all the great stuff you are doing/have to offer/etc, you are probably coming off as narcissistic. Please stop. Thanks.
Am I courteous to others? — Are you prone to hijacking tweets? Do you take other people’s ideas from one forum and re-purpose as your own on another? Do you “borrow” other peoples snark/funny/content without giving credit? Well, that’s just douchey. (And also plagiarism, asshole.)
Am I the know-it-all? — Yes, yes, you may be a genius. You may have thought of everything before any of the rest of us. We know, you have an opinion on everything. Bless you. Here’s the thing. It’s ok to just shut up every once in awhile. If you did this at a cocktail party in real life, you wouldn’t get many future invitations. Dial it back, mmmkay?
You see, when people in my social network are helpful, courteous, knowledgeable and friendly, I WANT to hear about what they’ve got going on. I WANT to advocate on their behalf. Why? Just like in real life, I want to help my friends. In turn, those friends will want to help me. Together we will both grow our networks of friends, acquaintances, clients and so on.
Unless you are painfully socially awkward, you can do this. You have been building lasting relationships your whole life. Employ what you already know! You know how to NOT be a douchebag. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your online relationships are any different. They require care and work and time to grow. Be yourself. Listen when other people are speaking. Remember it’s not always about you. If you wouldn’t do it in a real life conversation, don’t do it in an online conversation.
And keep your elbows off the table.
Do you remember the moment that someone really catches your attention? I think it’s really interesting to examine the moment in time that another human being caused you to pause and listen. A moment in time that you said to yourself, “I want to learn more about this person.” Sometimes it’s so fleeting that you can’t really put your finger on it. Sometimes it’s like a baseball bat to the face.
What I find even more interesting is that it isn’t always for the obvious reasons. Sometimes it’s the nuances that make impact. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Ungeeked Elite Conference in Milwaukee. Of the many interesting people I met there, one of them had a definite impact on me, and I didn’t even get to meet her formally.
Liz Strauss, social web strategist and community builder is a veritable force of nature. Before Ungeeked Elite, I had heard of her, followed the SOBCON twitter hashtag, and read her blog from time to time. In my quest to try to figure out why some people “get” social media (read: relationships) and why some don’t, I found her blog to be a great resource. But it wasn’t the thing that made me sit up and pay attention. It was a story. A story and a matchbook.
Liz came to Ungeeked Elite to express congratulations and show true respect for the conference’s founder and organizer, CD Vann. She told a story about her father, a tavern owner who understood relationships at a level that “strategists” today may never achieve. His patrons considered him “a personal friend”. Liz recalls a few stories here: My Father’s Saloon — A Blogging Story. These are the stories that resonated with me. It was her connection to her father and the way that she has used what she learned from him to become who she is today. Her business card today looks like the matchbook from her father’s tavern. The matchbook read, “You are only a stranger but once.” I love that. I love even more that her father didn’t just convey that message to his patrons in word. He showed them by his actions.
Liz coming to Milwaukee, in person, was what I imagine her father would have done, what I know my father would do. It’s the kind of thing I wish I saw more of these days. Real, actual effort to support others in your network. It’s a little harder, a little more time consuming. It’s an investment of time and effort. It’s the kind of thing that earns my admiration.
I truly believe that if we stop for a minute and think back to earlier generations of truly great businessmen and women, and examine what they did that made them successful in work and in life, I think we’d find that the common thread is that they actually gave a crap about their customers, friends, and community. They put forth the extra effort. They were truly invested in their relationships.
It’s so easy to talk the talk on social networks. It takes more effort to walk the walk. It takes more than just a retweet or a pat on the back to support a community. Dive in. Become part of, well, something, anything. Make an impact. Make an investment in relationships. Help someone succeed. You may find that the returns you get are more than you may have expected. It’s not new. But clearly, some people seem to have forgotten. Liz hasn’t.
That moment when Liz spoke about her father was the moment of impact. More than a successful blogger, strategist, and SOBCON founder, she was the kind of person for whom I’d like to buy a drink, and listen to her story. With a story and a matchbook, she made me want to shut my big mouth and learn something.
Listen up folks, because I think we’re heading down a dangerous path. Usually you hear me evangelizing new mobile media tactics, amazing designs that make our lives easier and allow us to consume information, entertainment and social media anytime, anywhere. I mean, I *am* the #mobilediva, right?
It’s time to put the phone down.
Lately I have become keenly aware of parents ignoring their children because they cannot disconnect from the mobile web. I recently saw a woman continually ignore her son in a grocery store because she was reading/responding to something on her mobile device. It was heartbreaking. I stood there in line, silently judging this idiot of a woman. I mean how could you ignore that sweet little boy? How many years do you think you have left until he doesn’t want or need your attention in this way? What the fuck are you doing?!!
Then it occurred to me. I’ve done this. I’ve done the “just a minute”, and the “hang on I just have to send this…” to my kids. I’m an idiot too. I’d be willing to bet a lot of you are guilty of this, at least to some degree. If you deny it, I call bullshit.
After thinking about it more, I came to the following conclusion:
If my child EVER thinks FOR A SINGLE MOMENT that whatever the heck is on my mobile device is more important than her, then I am a giant douche of a parent.
I don’t want to be a douche. I don’t want my kids to think that I care more about ANYTHING than them. I’m turning over a new leaf. I will not only be more mindful of my mobile device usage around them, but I will purposefully outlaw mobile usage during most daily family activities. In addition to potentially giving my kids a complex, I could miss out on the moments that I can’t ever get back. They aren’t going to want to build forts and snuggle up on movie night forever. They are absolutely ecstatic when I walk through the door each evening, how long will that last? For everything good that our interactive lives bring into the mix, if not balanced with actually living your life, it can be destructive.
Got teenagers? Take heed. It may not seem like they care or notice. They do. They just quietly resent you for not trying harder to connect with them. Believe that.
When you boil it all down, it’s like anything else. Moderation. Being connected through mobile technology can be awesome, let’s face it, it’s pretty cool. Let’s just use a little common sense. Let’s be GREAT parents first. (Then you have my permission to check The Twitter.)
So let’s *not* be douche-y together. Let’s put the phone down and be a family. Who’s with me?
Read the following in Jimmy Fallon’s Barry Gibb voice:
“Talkin’ bout mobile. Talkin’ bout mar-ke-ting!”
I know, I know. Right now you are all thinking, I want to go to there. ;)
Previously posted on the BLOG@ROLL at http://whyroll.com
Sara Santiago will be speaking at unGeeked Elite on May 14, 2010. Sara will be talking about mobile marketing strategies and trends. It’s highly likely that she’ll also talk about beer. And moustaches.
(*sigh* We just don’t question it anymore…)
More information on unGeeked Elite:
Milwaukee is hosting its first nationwide unGeeked Elite event. Guests from all over the world are welcome to attend this social media, marketing and branding event. For three days, May 13-15th, you will have an opportunity to engage face-to-face in an open forum with eight social media super stars such as Chris Brogan, Jason Falls, Sally Hogshead, Virtual Technologies, Scott Stratten, Hubspot, Dan Schawbel and Olivier Blanchard.
The loose format allows all attendees to take the microphone to engage and brainstorm with presenters and attendees. No long slide shows or short FAQ sessions.
And because at Soho we still feel you should receive more than just a great social and networking experience, cost to attend includes the following:
- Continental Breakfast
- Daily Lunch Buffets
- Books from best selling authors: Chris Brogan, Sally Hogshead and Scott Stratten
- Attendee only parties at three locations
Sohobiztube.com is also launching a series of smaller more personal unGeeked Elite seminars, designed to help you Engage (your internal and external audience), Enlighten (inform and educate your internal and external team), and Execute (internal and external campaigns) and Monitor (brand position, persona and value).
Join us as Milwaukee invites the nationwide social media, marketing and branding community to our lakeshores. RSVP at http://budurl.com/UnGeekedMay2010
In my attempt to be honest about things that grind-my-gears on Twitter, I’m really getting under people’s skin. While I’m not SO much of a jack-ass (although I fully admit to being one) to say things just to get people riled up, I put my opinion out there to get other people thinking. I figure, this is what I think. I do not expect everyone to agree. I do not assume I am an authority on, well, anything. I am merely expressing an opinion, right or wrong. If everything I said was agreeable to every person, I’d be a total fraud. It’s not possible to make everyone happy or to make everyone see your point of view. I’m totally ok with that.
You may not always like what you get, but you know you’ll always get me.
Recently, I expressed my opinion on Twitter about whining (and keeping the small things in perspective). I had no individual person in mind. It was more of a thinking out loud type of rant. Twitter is, among other things, a place where people like to complain. A lot. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s thought provoking, and sometimes it just gets on my damn nerves. I used SEASONAL allergy symptoms as an example in my rant. I can’t even count how many times a day people tweet about their terrible runny nose, how itchy and puffy their eyes are, how very very miserable they are. I get it. It sucks. But, my point is…that’s LIFE. And if you live a life where what you have to complain about is a runny nose, your life is pretty damned easy. Really, the point is not about allergies or any one thing in particular at all. It is about PERSPECTIVE.
I have watched too many people suffer seriously debilitating illness, injury and loss, and do so with such grace and dignity, NOT to realize how precious this life is. And to be grateful for what I DO have, even if it’s not perfect. I mean, good lord, we ALL have stuff wrong with us. Some people have it harder than others, I’m not dismissing that. I’m just saying that each of has a choice to make. You can live your life as a victim, complaining about everything wrong in your life, or you can adjust your attitude, grab a dose of perspective and say, “Hey, maybe this sucks, but I’m grateful for this life. How can I work to improve this situation?”
Be your own hero. Don’t live your life as a victim. If you are lacking perspective, just open your eyes. The world is full of true suffering: genocide, crimes against humanity, poverty, famine, incurable and vicious diseases, the list goes on. If you feel your “First World problems” are too much to bear, volunteer to help someone out who has it worse than you do. Maybe that will help you get off the complain-train and live your life with gratitude and generosity.
And before anyone jumps down my throat about how I don’t understand, blah blah blah… Stop for a moment and think before you type. Just because someone chooses not to complain about their own life, doesn’t mean they haven’t been in your shoes, or worse.
Until just a couple years ago, I didn’t need outside motivation to run. It fit neatly into my daily routine, and I was accustomed to just getting a certain mileage in each week. Having generally been a solo runner, I never had an interest in running clubs, or even a running partner. Other than the occasional run with my sister, I’d just hammer out some miles and get on with my day.
In the last few years, that began to change. Life got a hell of a lot busier. The kids, getting older, have schedules, my husband has a schedule, and my schedule has, of course, gotten insane. Why? Because I’m the mom, that’s why. In juggling family, business, random life crises, etc. I stopped paying attention. Missed days turned to missed weeks, turned into “run? what’s that?” My trainer recently said, “You didn’t lose who you are, you just stopped paying attention.” I like that. Makes me feel a little more confident as I reflect on when and how I started to lose focus on fitness, and begin to find myself again. Life changes, we change too. We need to find new ways of reaching goals. We need to grow.
One of the things absolutely vital to this process has been an online community called dailymile. I was turned onto it by my friends Anne (@bananza) and Tracey (@tmgessner). Here I am, the “lone runner” turning to a community of runners, cyclists and athletes for motivation and support. Never thought that this kind of community would be a good fit for me, but times change. I love my dailymile friends. Some days they ARE the difference between a pity party on the couch or a solid (even if its slow) run to keep me on track.
There are athletes of every fitness level in this community, from marathoners to nightly walkers. Our common ground is a desire to be healthy and to achieve our best level of fitness, as different as our actual goals may be. I love to watch the younger, child-free crowd train. It brings back memories of a Sara-that-once-was. It motivates me. And I couldn’t train the way I do without the parents on dailymile that are juggling all the same things I do, and still get out there and train. I have found a good balance of “push harder Sara” and “keep your priorities (kids) in focus too”. I owe them so much for that level of support and camaraderie.
I am so fortunate to have found this amazing group of athletes. I am glad that I have graduated from “solo runner” to “dailymiler”. Turns out, it’s the perfect place for a #beerrunner like me, who needs a lot more running and a little less beer. :)
I love Twitter. I really do. But if you tweet on the regular, you cannot escape the gigantic amount of bullshit floating around the twitter-webs. There are many kinds. Luckily, I have found a number of tweeps that are pretty down-to-Earth, no bullshit kind of people. I like them. A lot.
So why are some people so bullshitty? They are afraid of losing friends, losing potential business, losing *GASP* followers. Every single social media expert on the planet has warned them about “damaging their personal brand”. So, they are told to keep it nice, and polite, and well, kind of boring. I’m guilty of it too. I routinely ignore things that I might otherwise respond to because I hesitate for a second and think, “Is that going to be hurtful? Will they read too much into it? Will they be terribly offended?” Then I usually just leave it be.
Even “THAT GUY”. You all known him (or her). Yeah, I have even ignored THAT GUY when what I really wanted to say was, “You irritate every single person on Twitter. Are you okay with that, or do you want to dial it back some?” We all have a THAT GUY in our streams.
If you don’t have a THAT GUY in your stream, it may be you. You’re welcome.
Twitter is one of the very first places I go for feedback, recommendations, fast, real, information. If everyone is just being nice, where does that get me? I will love you MORE for being real! Be funny! Be angry! Be YOU! (Just don’t be douche-y.)
So, in honor of the real, genuine, AWESOME conversations happening all over the interwebs, I will be taking a shotgun to my personal brand once a week.
For one night a week, Monday night to be exact, I will provide honest, uncensored “no bullshit” feedback on a particular topic. Maybe I’ll pick it. Maybe I’ll let someone else pick it. I don’t know. Whatever I feel like. I get to make the rules.
This isn’t to say that I won’t offer up my opinions, unsolicited or otherwise, during the week. This will be more direct question/answer forum.
So there it is, no bullshit.
Oh, and thanks to @TheGlenn and @TeeCycleTim. This is 100% all your fault. ;)