Social Media Day was a rollicking good time, and my friends at Pinqued couldn’t have done a better job. And still, that guy showed up. This time, he took the form of a Clear Wireless salesman that stood out like a Bush ’04 bumper sticker on the back of a San Francisco Volvo. But even if you weren’t there, and didn’t meet our shiny-toothed sales schmuck, you’ve met that guy before. He’s the guy at the wedding that tries to rope you into his surefire pyramid scheme. He’s the hustler on the subway that makes you pretend you don’t speak English so he’ll avoid talking to you. He’s your cousin that asks you for a payday loan when you know he doesn’t have a payday coming.
Social media makes it easier than ever to become that guy.
For most of my career, I’ve been a salesman. I don’t do it anymore, because I constantly felt like I was overstepping my bounds to get the close, using “real” relationships to rake it in. Social media made my life easier. I was a hundred times more ballsy, brazen, charming and, ultimately, believable when I was selling via the social web. Heck, I was good at tweeting, blogging and pinging people, and I had a lot of fun doing it.
But when you stop hearing the click of the phone and the “not interested”, you may start to think everyone likes you. Hardly anyone’s going to chew you out over Twitter for being too pushy—they’ll probably just ignore you, or keep their replies short and polite. Culturally, social media is much different than the real world. You have to be an utter jerk to catch serious flak on your blog or someone else’s. A general politeness abounds, probably because our online utterances are public and exist permanently in various databases and files.
Don’t mistake that @reply for a relationship.
I have met seriously good friends through social media and related events. But just like all relationships of substance, I put in the time to get to know them. By traditional social standards, before you ask someone for a favor, you get to a place in your relationship where it doesn’t feel like you’re unduly burdening them, or at which you have the means to somehow reciprocate for the larger requests.
Damn if I didn’t ask for favors from people I met during my social media job search. Usually it was just a reference, or some phone advice, or for input on my Facebook ads. Occasionally, an existing friend would make an introduction to someone I “should know”, and we’d grab coffee. Even then, I was hypersensitive to crossing the line. But people like Grant Turck, who had been through it all before me, were more than happy to help. In all likelihood, I could have asked a bit more of people without rubbing them the wrong way.
And then you see those people with that look in their eye. It’s not determination, or a can-do freakin’ attitude. It’s the “how can I use those in this room” look. They’re the ones that approach you because of who you work for or who you know, without any thought as to who you are. All that matters to them is that you’re a potential asset.
- They don’t ask you to grab coffee with them, they expect you to.
- They talk more about themselves and their connections than they listen and learn.
- They tell you, flabbergasted, that they applied for your job, but were rejected—and oh, by the way, can you help them get another at your company?
- They tell you how many followers on Twitter they have before they tell you why the hell that should matter to employers.
Why do they think you’re on their team? Because you have interacted in the social space in some way that wasn’t negative. That’s not a relationship. That’s simply the lack of an adversarial relationship. Because I’m not going to call you out for bugging me on Twitter, trying to sell me stuff I don’t want, for instance, in the same way I’d do so if you shoved flyers in my face or called me on my cell about time shares. It just doesn’t work like that.
Being the guy to talk to feels great.
How can I complain? After all, I’ve written much of these posts on finding jobs in social media in order to help others. And I understand if that’s not enough, and if people want to get additional, specific advice. My priority is going to be helping those that take the time to know me, to do things like comment on my blog, or attend an event I’m promoting. But I’ll never want to help those that have that look in their eye. Although they are few in number relative to the cool people I meet everyday, they’re especially prominent in social media, where the boundaries are blurred.
Use the phone test.
Every time you’re about to ask for something from someone (like I did 100 times during my job search), ask yourself this: Would I feel comfortable picking up the phone and doing this? And if so, how would I expect them to respond if I did?
Although I’m right in the thick of the content curation definition debate, I’m starting to think it’s fundamentally a distraction from real innovation. It’s a bit like beginning a project by holding a meeting in which all you do is plan future meetings that will—ostensibly— lead to project completion. Maybe we should focus more on doing, and less on defining. What content curation “means” will sort itself out once we see more and more good work that can’t really be called anything else.
And isn’t this how we should want it? This is the Internet, after all, and we’re not particularly into fixed definitions, unbreakable rules or governing bodies. Consensus, orthodoxy and formulas don’t interest me, nor do they interest those in this world on the bleeding edge of innovation. I don’t think it’s really a dichotomy, either; talking about curation and actually doing it well aren’t mutually exclusive. But my sense is that the people that will truly lead in whatever content curation becomes are doing a lot more walking than talking, even if they’ll engage every so often in a little public thinking out loud on the subject.
These are the guys that are letting the conversation swirl around them while they tinker away on something about which we’ll soon say, “now that’s curation,” in the same way we say, “now that’s a car” when we take a spin in our friend’s new Audi. Of course, there will always be those things we can point to and say, “sure, that’s curation, too,” which we might follow up with, “but it’s no X”. Because a real, holistic definition isn’t just something we apply to the best-in-breed—there will always be unremarkable and uninspired curation out there, and it’s important that we apply the term to even the stuff that doesn’t wow us. Bad art is still art, bad music is still music.
The doubters and critics of the promise of curation seem to apply the term almost exclusively to “bad” examples, whether they exist yet or not. For instance, Paul Bradshaw quotes a museum curator that dismisses content curation as nothing more than “selecting”, a sentiment with which many (including myself) would disagree. And so the term curation also risks becoming unfairly pejorative.
That’s it for now. What say you?
I’ve been wondering a lot lately about the readership of my company’s social commerce blog. Who are they? Where did they come from? Which type of content are they looking for? Recent findings, like one that found that “80% of blog traffic comes from first-time visitors“, have only made me more curious.
Ways of asking for feed back online tend to be annoying, ineffective and ugly as sin. So imagine my surprise when I came across a toned-down and unobtrusive pop-up survey on my friend’s excellent real estate industry blog. It took me all of 10 seconds to fill out, and I pinged him immediately after to learn whether the surveys had been effective–they had.
So I signed up for the white label version of KISSinsights ($19/mo., required for more than 30 survey responses per month) and gave it a shot. Installation on our WordPress blog was a 10-minute breeze, and setting up the first survey was equally painless.
You’re able to choose between a single-answer survey with radial buttons, a multi-answer survey with check boxes and a text-based answer field. Any answer respondents choose can expand to request additional information, which we’ve been using for the “Other” option. Once answered, the survey will not pop up again for returning visitors, and once minimized, it will remain minimized.
Here’s where it gets really cool. Each unique URL on your site can feature a different survey, so it’s easy to get super-specific feedback on each post (just like I did here). On a post about defining content curation, for example, you might ask readers to provide their own definition. Say you’d like to conduct a larger study of your blog’s readership. KISSinsights also lets you assign surveys by subfolder, so that any page within a specific subfolder features a survey, without you having to manually assign one survey to each page within your blog.
Bloggers are given remarkably flexible control over when, if and how a survey displays. Under “Who should be prompted to take this survey?”, we’re allowed these options:
- Only returning visitors
- Anyone who has already visited at least X pages on your website
- Signed in users
- Users that have been viewing the page for X seconds
- Continue showing even if the person has already answered this survey
Once a survey has been answered, the respondent can even be prompted to follow you on Twitter, or to Like your post on Facebook.
Aesthetically, KISSinsights is superior to almost any other survey option I’ve encountered. In it’s current iteration, you’re only given a choice between dark and light color schemes, but both are attractive and neutral enough to look good on almost any blog.
Response rates on the Bazaarvoice blog have hovered between 2-5%, but our traffic is strong enough that we’re still able to gather some meaningful data. KISSinsights has a decent user interface, within which you can see a breakdown of responses by percentage and number, an IP log, which browsers were used, the referring URLs, as well as which page was being viewed when the survey was filled out.
After exporting an analyzing results from our first two-week survey run, we’re ready to begin optimizing accordingly. Instant feedback makes for instant optimization. I can’t wait to learn more about our readers.
The best ads don’t feel like ads. They don’t set off those “someone’s trying to sell me something” alarm bells that grow more acute as we mature. They stand on their own, as distinct works that punctuate the worthlessness of the other messages we encounter daily.
The best corporate blogs give to their readers before they request anything–even a click. They provide enough value, in whatever form, that readers won’t lament the time they spent on them.
In both cases, we consumers are cognizant, at some level, of the fact that we’re being marketed to. But if it doesn’t feel like it, we don’t care. What we’re taking in is well worth an increase in exposure to those “marketing rays” we normally try to dodge. And we even turn those rays on our friends without the slightest hesitation, because we know they’ll enjoy it, too. That’s good content.
In both cases, the consumer willfully suspends disbelief and gives you the stage. The following ads do the same.
They’ve got us thinking in the first few frames: What’s being said about Russia? By pairing the familiar, traditional images of nested dolls with violence, we’re led to question the notions we commonly have of the new, “free” Russia.
Lesson: The best corporate blogs offer a different take on popular themes.
This ad is about us. We are experiencing the drive from the most familiar of perspectives–our own. Naturally, we associate this pleasant, personal experience with Honda, the brand that delivered it to us.
Lesson: The best corporate blogs are about their readers.
Nike lives in the same world we do. It’s not just telling us this and hoping we’ll bite. It’s showing us, by giving us something great and getting the hell out of the way. Nike understands that we’ll associate their brand with what they give us, and they don’t have to keep reminding us as if we owe them something.
Lesson: The best corporate blogs demonstrate a grasp of their readers’ needs, desires and pain-points.
A story told through search terms? The ad has us thinking of Google in a new way, by showing us just how important something we do every day can be. We believe so much more readily when a relatable story is told.
Lesson: The best corporate blogs transform mundane detail and static copy into stories we understand.
Hang around others in my line of work long enough, and you’ll notice they aren’t chomping at the bit to tell people they work in social media. I’m beginning to understand why. It’s kind of like telling people you’re a sommelier—many do not know the work exists; those that do don’t comprehend what it can entail.
“Isn’t that the guy that picks out wine for you in a restaurant?”
“Isn’t that, like, doing Facebook and Twitter?”
Can you understand why I’ve started to just say “marketing” unless people inquire further? It’s not that the two questions above have it all wrong; they don’t, really. Sommeliers do, in fact, help patrons pick wines in restaurants. Social media managers do, in fact “do” Facebook and Twitter. It’s the thinking behind the question that gets tiresome. The thinking, most of the time, is this:
This person doesn’t have a real job.
What’s so special about this person that they have this job? It’s not rocket science.
It’s not. Neither is accounting, or estate law or inside sales. But don’t tell me that I don’t have a real job. And don’t tell me that I don’t deserve my job, or that you could do it better.
There is a need for expertise in social media. This is not to say that every company needs to hire a social media expert. Nor is it to say that the vast majority of those calling themselves “social media experts” aren’t simply opportunists who lack the acumen needed in this space. Social media is young and constantly evolving, devolving, changing, defining itself. Expertise can’t be static, or handed out via college degree. But don’t tell me there aren’t experts out there that should be respected as such.
I understand that whatever is on top will be maligned by those that can’t grasp it or don’t have it in them anymore to get there. Social media is on top, it’s hot, it’s all the rage and everyone’s doing it. Like any professional space with low barriers to entry—real estate, the arts, etc.—the successful 10% will outshine the unsuccessful 90%, creating just enough light to attract eager hopefuls, but, inevitably, a shadow large enough to hide a lot of hard realities about what exactly it takes to “make it”. Social media isn’t there yet, but it will be, for better or for worse. So there will always be suspicion of success, comparative resentment, frustration and underhanded remarks like, “We can’t all get paid to play on Facebook.”
If that was truly all I did—play around on Facebook—to make a living, would you blame me for doing it? Forget the fact that I don’t personally even enjoy Facebook, or that thinking about or studying Facebook makes up perhaps a quarter of one percent of my average work week. These inconvenient facts don’t matter to the person that has already decided you don’t work hard or have it easy. They have already decided not to respect the way you make a living, and it has a lot more to do with them than you. And I can understand this, and I can forgive this.
But until someone takes what I do seriously, I have no reason to take them seriously.
As you might have heard by now, I got the job at Bazaarvoice. I’ll be their first Social Media Manager, and the work so far has been every bit as exciting and challenging as I had imagined. It was, literally, the “dream job” in “How I’m Using Facebook Ads to Find My Dream Job.”
How I did it:
I got scrappy to win. I had to relearn the focus techniques that helped me rise above the very real, very difficult ADHD I’ve always struggled with–the same methods that let me beat the odds at UT and even become, of all things, a study habits tutor for the University. The week before my final interview I buried myself in those very same stacks every day and methodically prepared. That’s not easy for me. Singular, sustained focus is foreign to my DNA. But just like I did before every test of every semester, I told my DNA to go screw itself and willed it.
I made uncomfortable choices. There were two fantastic offers on the table by the time I even scheduled my final Bazaarvoice interview, and I was waiting to hear back from two other interviews that went well. Yeah, it was a “good problem to have”. But it didn’t make it any easier to decide. In my life, hedging bets has never worked. Neither has taking the safe one. I had to tell these incredible people that I had met, all of whom had gone out of their way to reach out and offer me a way out of this jobless, moneyless slump I was in, “no thanks”. I had to tell my family, “I got a great offer today, but I’m not going to take it because there’s a chance I’ll still get the one true gig.” I asked nearly everyone I cared about, “Am I making the right choice by taking this risk?,” and everyone I cared about answered back in the most honest way they could, “Will you be happy if you don’t?” The answer was clear and it was “No.”
I asked favors of people I had no right to ask. After the first couple pride-swallowing phone calls, I realized that people want to help. Maybe they were rooting for the underdog, or had other reasons, but I decided to stop asking why someone would help me and just ask them already. No one let me down.
What I won’t do now:
Forget the people that helped me. People, if you’re reading this and you don’t know it already, I’m there for you whenever you need it and I owe you a whole lot more than a pretty thank you card. Just name it.
Rest on my laurels. When someone hires you, they’re giving you a chance and nothing more. I may have worked hard to get this gig, but I’ll work even harder to make sure no one ever thinks twice about why they hired a 25-year-old comic book geek to steer one of Austin’s great startup success stories through the social media universe. I’m going to earn every damn paycheck.
Forget what it was like. To not have a job or a dollar in the bank. To doubt myself and wonder, “how are you gonna screw this up now, Ian?” To ask my girlfriend why the hell she chose me over the blue-blooded frat boy on the partner track. To apply to the temp agency. To max out my credit cards. To wonder if my family was telling the truth when they said they were proud of me.
No, I’ll remember it all when that kid I’m interviewing someday can’t stop his hands from shaking or looks away when I ask him about a gap in his resume or stutters or pronounces my name “Green-lay”. “That was me, not so long ago,” I’ll think. And I’ll tell him, “you’re doing just fine, now tell me…”
I’ll earn that moment, and I’ll give him that chance to earn his, too.