True Like

Friday November 02, 2012

True Like

I tried a social experiment on Wednesday.  A few minutes after strategically positioning myself between the cold meats and the cheese counter at a local supermarket, the first test subject approached.  As he hesitated to do the three way control between his trolley, the handwritten grocery list and the cryptic description on the overhead isle contents board, I intervened : "Hello!  I'm from a company called PropertyEngine!".  Before he could gather himself, I continued: "We offer an amazing service to guys just like you; responsible parents (I spotted the Wet Wipes) who want to live in a secure environment with their family". And then followed the pièce de résistance.  With all the charisma I could muster, looking him in the eye, I asked :"will you like me?". His expression shifted from confused to perplexed, and then mild panic.  As it became clear that he was going to Bear Grylls right out of Pick and Pay, I scurried along behind him, waving some vouchers for free stuff, should he change his mind.

OK, so I dramatised this encounter a bit.  But the point is, in the "real" world, begging someone to like you is just not on (unless you are in primary school, which did not turn out well for me either).  

If Facebook was a country...

...we'd have some serious social problems on our hands.

But Facebook is not a country.  It is a place where we are seemingly OK with the idea of bribing people to like a brand or business, even one that carries our name.

This is about to change.  Grovelling for acceptance is already becoming as (un)popular as a drum under the Christmas tree.  Desperate is not cool, and that goes for any relationship.

Read that last sentence again. Any relationship.  Including the brand you are building.  In the near future, successful online interaction with one another is not going to be more technical and complex, rather, it will closely resemble the way in which we have a "normal", in-person conversation.  A one-on-one chat is guided by a certain etiquette, and this applies directly to all your social messages pinging the world. Listen at least twice as much as you speak, don't interrupt, ask for permission, and so on.

Yes, it is a challenge to stand out in a world bursting at the seams with information overload, one in which your audience have learnt the skill of actively tuning out all the noise.  But, at the same time, the opportunity to be heard, and heard by the right people, has never loomed larger. Here are a couple of route markers along your way to social media acclaim :

Be authentic

People can spot fake a mile away.  You will be surprised how well some honesty, and maybe even a touch of vulnerability, will draw the right crowd to you. People you actually want to hang with and learn from. Bear the market realities in mind, but keep it real.

Be original

Originality does not mean that it has never been done, as Kirby Ferguson illustrates so brilliantly in Everything is a Remix.  Give two cooks the same ingredients, and watch how the one creates a unique and beautiful dish, whilst the other can only deliver more of the same old conveyer belt fare. Resist the recipe book, and don't be afraid to make a hash of it. Some flavourless puns, but you get the idea.

Don't chase the numbers

One hundred like-minded people can create a symphony, whilst a crowd of one million nameless faces will drive you nuts.  Imagine what you could achieve with only a handful of people who truly share your enthusiasm and way of seeing the world?  History bears this out unequivocally. By the way, we've tried the opposite route.  We've chased some numbers till the decimal system waved a white flag.  The low-down on that experience is coming soon.

One last word of advice: next time you bump into a strange, but sincere, voucher-toting guy in the supermarket, at least hear him out.  Who knows, we may just become friends.