The Busy Trap Trap, Productivity and Distractions. Solved

Cyril the squirrel up for a challenge 15:54:50I decided I would refuse to be “too busy” to write this blog post…

For a while, I have seen friends and others struggle with the Productivity Question: are they too distracted by email, Facebook, Twitter et al to actually get something done? As someone who likes to have 27 things going on at once (and usually does just fine, thank you), I say – usually – no. You are as distracted as you allow yourself to be.

Now comes a New York Times column about the “Busy Trap” – how we keep ourselves busy in order to…gah, I don’t know. Read it here. I eventually did, though I was kind of…busy. There was something about the author’s tone that galled me, that being “busy” was a bad thing. That not being able to drop everything to put your invitation on my calendar RIGHT NOW somehow means I’m deficient in my personal organization (as opposed to simply not preferring your company, you pompous person). The example in the column suggests an invitation was during work hours. Don’t flatter yourself, bub.

I’m less troubled by some folks’ criticisms that the article did not consider the feelings of people who need to work long, hard hours to support their families or simply eat. He covers it in the beginning of the article, I finally noticed on my third or fourth scan.

Something else I noticed on a later read – the author’s name, Tim Kreider. I’m usually too busy to read bylines. If your writing stands out, I’ll come back and remember who you are eventually.

I’m more troubled by the breathless linking to this article by people who (like me) may or may not have paused long enough to read the whole thing, let alone understand it. This is not some new way of living (like the 4-hour work week, another bad idea that seems to have worked for one person).

So, how do I get from this to productivity? I think they’re related. People like me crave constant stimulation, and when we are being good to ourselves we turn it off to concentrate for short periods. Banning things like Facebook (even via self-imposed ban), Twitter or email will not prevent one from inventing other distractions – they are just gimmicks to try to trick you into doing things you don’t want to do – e.g., work. If you want to work, you’ll get it done, no matter what’s going on around you.

Further, I’d argue we need the distractions. For one thing, many of us have jobs where we need to zip from task to task or monitor multiple things. All of us simply need breaks to free our minds to solve problems (to his credit, Kreider mentions something like this in his column). Walking away – and taking a walk – is sometimes the best  productivity tool. My best micro-example of this: whenever I lose something, I almost always find it right after I stop looking. Let’s stop trying so hard.

The article on the other end of this strained logical rope is n article on “Winnowing Windows” by Clive Thompson in the most recent print version of Wired. Yes, I think it’s cool to read print sometimes. Yes, I think it’s dumb that the articles aren’t online anyway. No link for you, sorry. Thompson talked about one feature of the upcoming Windows 8, called Metro, which limits the number of screens on the desktop. The idea? Focus your attention. Thompson’s conclusion? Hated it. I would too. I have at least 6 windows open as I write this (but lovingly focusing on this one at the moment for your benefit, dear reader). Praising this feature as “Good” reminds me of the people who say they prefer working with monotasking tablets because they can focus on one task at a time. I don’t believe that for a second, especially if there are squirrels outside your office window (squirrels…!).

Yeah, and this cartoon. Hah, hah. True, but not really true. If my boss put this up in the office, I’d tell him to expect me not to read any of his emails.

Ok, so I didn’t really solve anything here. But let’s stop blaming the distractions and just teach ourselves to use the stimuli for good. Your results may vary, do what works for you.

Photo credit: exfordy on Twitter

The Facebook Password Conundrum, or Why I Shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout

There's No Place To Go But Up! - Boy Scout LawI have been reading lately about employers asking for job prospects’ (or even employees’) Facebook passwords as a part of the interview process. I’m not going to try to judge the legalities or ethical implications of all this, but I will put myself into the position of someone being asked to do so. What would I do? I want this job, I want to work for this employer, and I get asked this. Would I do it?

Turns out this whole thing reminds me of something that happened when I was 17 and 18 years old. I shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout, but the way things went down, I am.

When an older friend in my Scout Troop went for his Eagle Scout Board of Review (the Troop and local Council representatives interview the prospective Eagle Scout upon completion of merit badges and other requirements), he reported back that they asked him the following question: “since part of the “Scout Law” is “A Scout is Reverent,” should a Scout who doesn’t believe in God- an atheist- be allowed to be an Eagle Scout? His natural answer was to say “of course,” but a well-placed kick under the table from a well-meaning parent got him to change his answer to the BSA-accepted “no.”

I couldn’t believe this. I determined “reverent” to mean not only “respectful of your own beliefs” but also respectful of others.” Apparently some folks thought the Powers that Be in the Boy Scouts of America begged to differ. I swore that if I were asked the same question at my Board of Review, I would answer it my way, even if it meant giving up the Eagle award. I could live with that.

I steeled myself for my review a year or so later, and… they never asked the question. Or any other question I was uncomfortable with. Damn you, Boy Scouts, for robbing me of the chance to take a moral stand. I shouldn’t be an Eagle Scout- by the standard set forth in that question- but I am. Just as well, I would make more nuanced decisions as an adult, weighing my disgust of the BSA’s ban on homosexuals with setting a more practical example for local youth. Everything’s a choice.

But back to the point- what would you do if an employer demanded access to your social networking passwords?

Photo Credit: StarrGazr (thanks Tracy!)

Social Media Top 5; Pinterest Copyright, PR Defined, More Infographic Atrocity

babauPinterest and the Copyright Bogeyman

Pinterest has captured the hearts and minds of social media shiny-object navel-gazers. It’s great, it’s simple, it’s visual.. but back in January, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were copyright issues. Boy howdy were there. While I now wonder if the current hysteria over copyright protection on Pinterest is a bit overblown, it is worth considering for both individual and corporate users.

Individuals now worry about being sued, and even being responsible for legal fees incurred by Pinterest (according to their Terms of Service). Companies need to worry not only about inappropriate use of their trademarks in sharing images, but in being liable themselves (and being bigger targets for suits) even if they merely “repin” something a fan put on the site.

A bigger issue- will companies see Pinterest “pinning” as flattery, fans liking their things and even linking back to their sites and shops, or as a violation of their marks? There will be cases for both all over. The question for Pinterest is, will this scare off users? Not sure about that.

For now, the real force behind copyright issues seems to be photographers, who are historically aggressive over their online intellectual property rights- hence Flickr introducing Pinterest-disabling code. It will be interesting to see if this gets hotter or melts away.

Defining PR- Pinch Me, Am I Dreaming?

I have had a complicated relationship over my career with industry associations. Hence my ambivalence towards the entire process of trying to define public relations. The attempt to “crowdsource”  a new definition for the industry skirted the fine line between listening and letting the inmates run the asylum. Further, it’s not really clear it was an open process more than it was a “mad-libs” exercise, as some friends have described it. Whatever the faults or favors, here is the new, unveiled definition:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

I am…whelmed. It’s vague, pretty, and hopeful. Everything a guy could want in a sweetheart. To be honest, I’m not sure PR needs a definition. We need to do better work to prevent being defined by our worst actors: the apologists for ethical villains, the liars and loudmouths. I’m not going to knock this definition, but I’m not celebrating in the streets either. Back to work, people.

Zynga Tries to Show it Can Breathe without Facebook Life Support 

I hate Farmville, and all Zynga games are prohibited from loitering on my Facebook lawn (dagnabit), but I thought it was refreshing to see Zynga launch its own independent platform. The doubters that didn’t see a long-term value in a Facebook-bound platform (or any company dependent on a third party platform for sustenance) are right. And investors should be happy that Zynga has been smart enough to realize it. I’m assuming this has been in their thinking for a long time. So, here’s to long-term thinking.

Infographic Naughtiness: I Think You Meant “Exhausting”

With all due respect to my friends at Hubspot, who do a lot of great things, this infographic made me cry. Forget whether or not this is truly an “exhaustive history of marketing,” I’m not going to get into factual accuracy or point of view. As a visual, is this comprehensible? Do you get the entire thesis at a glance? Are the minute details optional, or better yet, elsewhere? This is the sort of indigestible infographic that makes it rain dead kittens even on a sunny day. I sized it to fit on this page, just to the right. Tell me what you think:


Grammar Nit of the Week

Saw someone use the phrase “good common sense.” I could only think, “what’s bad common sense?” What would that look lke? I’m pretty sure I don’t want to know.


Image credit: “babau” by skesis on Flickr


Why Aren’t We Experimenting More?

omsi volcano experimentIf you bother to check out my blog regularly (thank you), you’ll notice a couple of odd posts recently. The first was in some ways an accident. Being a smartass, I decided to react to some random subscriptions to both of my Posterous blogs with a post telling people not to subscribe there. There’s no point. Of course, my hope was that some people would subscribe anyway, despite the complete lack of any benefit- in fact, the explicit promise of no benefit at all. Why? Because it would amuse me. What surprised me was that the post all of a sudden showed up in my RSS feed; for this blog. I forgot I had set up automatic cross-posting, but was reminded of my penchant for experimentation.

The more recent post was a Storify experiment that I decided to demonstrate live in front of colleagues as an easy way to post to your blog. By George, it was in fact quite easy!

I feel that someone doing social media for a living should experiment. Often. Most of us who do this (come on, admit it) have blogs and other social media channels that are not meant to be polished business honey pots, but are repositories for our thoughts which are brilliant at best, a strange hash of trails at most times, and only a failure when it lies empty. Too many of us either do very little in social media because we either don’t want to be public (there are ways around that), or feel too much pressure to make our blogs look professional all the time, because, damn it, we are potential book authors or professionals.

Are either of you types of folks kidding? This is the place to experiment, to go out and  figure out the possibilities of tools and of raw content. What types of posts/topics/titles/words/calls to action, for example, get people to respond to your blog over other types? We should be doing more, not less, shouldn’t we? Why are some of us polishing our blogs into tepidity (though I do understand that some folks are in business for themselves and use them to show their polished, professional sides), and others letting their blogs and other channels lie empty?

Empty, you say? In 2011, I published about half as often here (42 posts) as I did in 2010 (85 posts). That disappoints me.

My publishing on this blog has been less frequent for a number of reasons:

  • Work keeps me busy. Though I absolutely hate the “I don’t work on my personal brand because I’m doing billable client work” excuse- it is true from a “note enough hours in the day” standpoint.
  • My most interesting thoughts are too closely attached to current client work, and there’s no way I’m going to reveal the inner workings of things, especially when that would require permission (and might better reside on the Voce Nation blog anyway)
  • I write for other blogs (primarily Voce Nation), but not really that much. That’s pretty weak.
  • I can’t write the same opinions about the same social media topics as everyone else. That’s kind of weak too, but I do get topic fatigue and have no desire to be a “me too” social media marketing blogger any more.
  • I can’t write the abstract “advice” or “state of mind” posts about strategy and how to live your life or think or blog or whatever. At this stage in my life they come off as the blatherings of someone trying be sound smart or inspirational, rather than actually just being smart (and it looks like that in all the other blogs I read- is that mean? Too bad). Also, admit it; the title of this blog post made you throw up in your mouth.
  • I took part more voraciously in private discussion groups rather than publishing longer, more one-sided screeds like this.
Wow. That’s a lot of excuses not to be writing more often.

So, why not more experimentation on this blog rather than feeling a need to be controversial, relevant, brilliant, or topical every time out, or failing to do so because I don’t want to tread water in my writing?

Why not indeed. Far from a promise to do things, it’s a thought I would like to follow up on. I may need a few more kickses in the pantses.

Or should I just pile on and write about whatever, like I used to? Feel free to yell at me in comments. 2012 is a new year.

Photo Credit: Mavis (Flickr)


Is “Social Business” Just a Buzzword? Oh, I Hope Not

My “Buzzword Radar” is oversensitive, honed over years in the PR profession, where the temptation to go the lazy route “”leading provider of robust, scalable solutions” was often too great (or driven by inexperienced managers and less sensitive clients) to resist. This is a great example of a web site from the 1st Internet bubble that had many PR pros- and most all media hacks- nodding in agreement at the same time they were burying their foreheads in their palms.

I’m a fan of plain speaking, and most of the gibberish I lay out is in the spirit of absurdist wordplay.

When people in my industry started plastering the word “social business” everywhere they could over the last several years, my buzz-dar went nuts. What could that term possibly mean? Sure, it’s two simple words put together that could have a simple explanation, but my instinct was to run far away.

However, I saw that organizations and people I trusted were latching on to “social business,” so either it had gained a respectable definition or it was simply too late. Being a cynic and a pessimist, I chose the predictable path at first.

In the past week I attended two events that referenced “Social Business” heavily. The first was the annual Society for New Communications Research (SNCR) Symposium, in a room filled with people whose intelligence I respect. I expressed my differing feelings on Twitter and got more smart responses.

From Hillary Boucher, what I dubbed an “elevator pitch:”

[blackbirdpie url=”!/hillaryboucher/status/132115289121886208″]

From my friend Rachel Happe of The Community Roundtable:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/rhappe/status/132159963425538049″]

Rachel’s longer definition lives here:

smcboston Andrew Carusone

Lowe's Andrew Carusone at Social Media Club

Later, I attended the Social Media Club Boston chapter meeting where the subject was, you guessed it, “Social Business.” IBM, the host, has actually co-opted the term (defining a social business as one that has engagement, transparency and speed), meaning social business has either achieved legitimacy or been consigned to the big-time corporate buzzword dustbin.

It seems, for now, to be the former. One of the evening’s featured speakers, Andrew Carusone of Lowe’s, spoke with conviction about the company’s efforts to build a “social business” (not necessarily the phrase they use), from the inside out, and the successes they have had so far. I had the chance to speak with him beforehand, and wondered aloud whether “social business” is replacing “Enterprise 2.0″ as the catchphrase. I suspect that’s a matter of semantics, as the “experts” on Quora can’t seem to decide either. Carusone himself had been happy with “E20″ as late as last year  so the I’m guessing any distinctions will be steamrolled by those not inclined to nuance.

Is “Social Business” a meaningless buzzword? It seems I can’t dismiss it. Don’t any of you all go around ruining it for everyone else. I mean it.


Social Media Top 5: The Ten Deadly Plagues of Google Plus (aka Growing Pains)

Google Plus an Afterthought?

I attended Exploring Social Media Boston last week (ok, Burlington is NOT Boston, but I hope the traveling speakers got a good tour of scenes where Paul Blart Mall Cop were shot). My thoughts on the overall event are here at the Voce Nation blog, but one thing that struck me…

With all the talk about tactics and strategy for social media, Google Plus, the hot shiny new social network, didn’t even get a mention until about 3:30 pm, an hour before the event closed (thanks, Laura Fitton, for ruining the perfect game).

One friend suggested that the lack of focus on tools was to blame for the lack of mentions. That’s fair– strategy before tools, we all say– but I also call BS on that, as Facebook, Twitter, and countless other platforms were mentioned throughout the day. Why would a bunch of social media’s smartest minds fail to mention Google Plus?

Because, when it comes to enacting social media programs, it’s not on our minds.


I still contend that Google Plus will most likely matter. The search engine ties are too strong, Google too big, and the features (and potential features) too rich and simple to use. Facebook killer? It’s silly for anyone to say that, but I won’t say no either. I continue to preach patience.

Locusts and wild flowers

Flickr Photo by Jonathan O'Donnell

As I pick up my own personal use of Google Plus, I am struck by the number of animated GIFs being posted. Animated GIFs? These are only thing more insipid than cat photos (being a cat owner, I’m a bit more forgiving of those). Not just a stream of animated GIFs, not a river– but a plague.

Which made me think: perhaps there are a series of plagues that Google Plus must endure before it matures; ten, maybe?

Perhaps this list is a clue- not exactly frogs, locusts, or death of first-borns, but perhaps more a set of growing pains (but nonetheless listed with the corresponding historic Plagues of Egypt):

  1. Beta invites; the first stage that create a divide between the “ins” and “outs,” which Google managed to screw up in the process, denying entrance to those who had been promised access as a way of controlling the early traffic (Water)
  2. Social Media “gurus” and whatnot declaring that Google + the next big thing before it has even publicly launched- to the extent that “Google + for Dummies” and “Google Plus for Business” are being written before all- or even many- of the real facts are in (Frogs)
  3. Other gurus declaring Google Plus “dead” because they perceive a dip in traffic, whether that dip is real or not- again, before the product is really finished (Mosquitos)
  4. Getting “circle” follows from people they have never met, from halfway around the world. Once Plus opened up to the public, people seemed to randomly follow anyone, willy nilly, confusing folks like me who know very few actual people in, say, India (Flies or Wild Animals)
  5. Animated gifs (and cat photos) (Unhealable Boils)
That’s the first five– what may the remaining plagues be? Here is a guess.
  1. Opening of business accounts; Yes, I know that’s a planned feature, but it also may be akin to the Plague of Locusts to some users. As a consultant to corporate social media programs, I am looking forward to what it may bring (Locusts)
  2. Malignant virus or phishing attacks- that should be a no-brainer (Disease on Livestock)
  3. Over-wrought discussions of Politics and religion, made worse by the invasion of mainstream news media outlets (Hail and Thunder)
  4. A network outage – surely, that is not impossible? (Darkness)
  5. Google will kill off useful and interesting products as they have in the past– will it be in the service of, or despite the success of, Plus? Google Buzz is already out the door (Death of the First-Born)
A bit over the top? Hey, let me have my fun- and tell me in comments  if I got my list right.

Google Plus: I Thought I Told You All to be Patient


Flickr Photo by merwing✿little dear

A few weeks ago, I wrote over on the Voce Nation blog, pleading for patience regarding the new Google Plus social network; patience from users, businesses, social media marketers and Google itself.

It seems that everyone but Google failed to listen to me. What is wrong with everybody?

Seriously, what is wrong?

I see an old friend I  respect selling a webinar about using Google Plus for business, seemingly minutes after Google said they were holding off on business profiles for Plus until they figured it out. Then other friends get vilified for pointing that out. Simmer down, folks.

(Oh, and the same BlogWorld blogger suggests naming names when we talk about things. I actually agree, Allison Boyer. So the above flap includes Chris Brogan, Gini Dietrich, and BlogWorld’s Rick Calvert (for the record, I don’t think Gini owes Chris an apology any more than Chris owed us a defense of a webinar some people were willing to pay for. This all started as a good discussion, but hey.)

I see a social media pied piper (oops, names- Robert Scoble) declaring that Plus is awesome because it was made for geeks, and our mothers will never join. I think he had a point, but I’m not sure the Google business model calls for a geeks-only social playground. True, the Google geek culture tends to roll out things that mortals have a hard time grokking in the first go-round. Remember Google Wave? Yeah, takes them a while to remember people might want to use the products.

I see a TechCrunch story that gleefully (it seems) reports on a dip in traffic after a whole month- Google Plus must be cooked, right? Even in “social media time,” most startups get more than a month before the buzzards tuck in.

I’ll give propers to my friend Chuck Tanowitz, whose post seems at first to be down on Plus (lighten up Eeyore!) but really takes a more pragmatic stance that I largely agree with.

This doesn’t get Google off the hook- where’s the Google Reader/Buzz integration? That would be fantastic. If it’s there I can’t find it. The Android integration is pretty cool at times, but I wonder what the iPhone folks are thinking? Also, please add Flickr/Twitter/Facebook cross-posting integration and open up your API and get on Tweetdeck or Seesmic or something.

You want to keep me? Feed the “integrated products” beast that this GMail/Reader/Buzz/Analystics/Feedburner/YouTube user wants to be. Put it all together and make it work (but again, I’m willing to wait for you to work it out).

See what you all made me do, you made me write about Google Plus again. Sheesh

Be patient, you’re all giving me a rash.

Social Media Top 5: Through Being Awesome, Content Quality & My Checkins Are Interesting

One: OK, You’re Awesome- Now Get to Work

We hear a lot in the social media world about being “awesome.” some of the people who espouse this are great friends, others are simply well-known within our little industry. I’m all for building up our confidence with supportive epithets like this, I’m all for building up our own egos to the point that we are not afraid to do great work- but at some point we just need to show the work and stop speaking in bromides.
Maybe it’s just me– I’ve always had an aversion to the “self-empowerment” tropes, because. they tend to cross the line from helping people become self-assured into a tiresome Cult of Me. whatever happened to Being Awesome and not pushing other people to do it your way? Blah, I digress.
By the way, the word’s not just “awesome.” It can be anything, I’m just hearing that one a lot again right now.

OK, you’re awesome, I’m awesome- stop talking about it now and get to work and show your employers and clients that awesomeness.

Two: Levelator on video– simple media quality tasks
I am a big booster of “good enough” multimedia. By “good enough” I don’t mean “good enough to get by,” but “meeting a minimum technical requirement without taking your attention away from good content. People- and companies- have fallen hard for the “Flip cam” mentality of do-it-yourself style content. This make it easier to get things produced, but does not excuse poor content. What’s the floor? How about and audio podcast that is on a fascinating topic, with an interview of a fascinating person, but is unlistenable because the sound levels are all over the place? That helps noone– it just wastes everybody’s time, including the podcaster and interviewee.
That’s why I’m always happy to point to posts like this one by Christopher Penn, a step-by-step tutorial on using Levelator (I’m a huge fan) to improve audio in movies you edit with iMovie. It’s pretty simple, and can keep you from wasting your time and that of others.

Three: Someone Cares About Your Post– Don’t Listen to the Haters.

I have recently seen posts by people (I’m not even going to link because we all post silly one-off rants that may or may not represent our overall social media personae) looking down on what I call “mundane” checkins. For example, if you use Foursquare, Gowalla or Facebook Places to check in to your daily Starbucks visit, well, that’s just a waste of space and nobody’s interested (bevause, perhaps, there are no celebrities, natural or man-made disasters, or free schwag involved).


Noone should be telling you what is interesting or what is not when it comes to personal posting. I publish my checkins at the YMCA because people frequently comment on or like them, whether as inspiration to work out themselves, or to encourage me. Often I don’t even know, but appreciate it.

Brands certainly like it when you mention them. People near you may be interested, and the more context you add the better, but even the fact you are at a place or doing a certain thing is a signal to people you  know. People who don’t care are wasting time asking you not to bother– they need to filter better.

We talk to our friends a lot, and some of the messages are subtle and passive. That’s OK. To the haters, well, ignore and move on — but don’t tell us what’s worthy– we, in turn, should ignore you. Yeah, I posted the following photo of my lunch to Twitter.

My lunch IS a celebrity

"My lunch IS a celebrity"

Four: I went to the Bruins Rolling Rally (and Yes, I checked in)


Five: I Got Nothing Else– I Hope You All Had a Great Father’s Day.

The Iconoclast’s Guide to Social Media

Rules are for the weak. #fb

Rules are For the Weak

There are many guides, books, ebooks, blogs, podcasts and conferences about how to use social media effectively. “Influencers” make this world go around. However, I think people, at times, need to approach social media from the “Iconoclast” rather than “Influencer” point of view. Here are the symptoms that you might need to shake yourself up a bit:

– Blindly agreeing with the social media “A-Listers” and posting “Great post!” comments on their blogs?

– Can’t eat your morning scramble without the latest news from Mashable?

– Obsessively reading every social media book, even if you feel like you are reading the same book, over and over and over again?

You need to take an antidote. Become an Iconoclast. It doesn’t mean you have to become a jaded, cynical, mean-spirited jerk, but it helps. The option is becoming a too-agreeable, sycophantic, bland jerk. The choice is yours.

As a help, here are a few rules for the Social Media Iconoclast:

Do Not Take Yourself too Seriously

This is key to having it both ways (I prefer not to call it hypocrisy). Not taking yourself too seriously is important in case you become a popular blogger or (gasp!) an Influencer or (horrors!) a social media keynote speaker. It’s a great trick and it works. This is the first rule because it allows everyone in– even you, Mr. Social Media Influencer, can become an Iconoclast too. Just make it believable, or the rest of us will flay you.

Relax- You Jerk

Non-Iconoclasts are uptight, even defensive. Non-Iconoclasts (not limited to  “Influencers”) have endless reserves of energy. Non-Iconoclasts talk about social media 26 hours a day. I like sports, music, films and family activities. I need at least two hours per day for non-social media activities. I forget if I included sleep in my figuring. Perspective allows you to deflate the gas-bubble of social media importance.

Feed the Trolls- For Fun

Go ahead, poke a stick in the lion’s cage. I’m not sure this is really constructive, but I would like to see some of you try it to see what happens. The rest of us will learn from the consequences.

This is tricky, because a real Iconoclast won’t listen to this advice and stay far away from relentlessly negative Internet trolls. However, the best Iconoclasts can get away with troll-sparring. It’s an art, a master skill. The only way to find out is having the rest of you try it and see who succeeds. Let me know how it goes.

Ok, now that the troll-baiters are gone…

Befriend Your Critics/Criticize Your Friends

Befriending your critics isn’t Iconoclastic, but it makes this section header sound better. It does make you better to befriend your critics- rather than being defensive every time someone disagrees with you. Embrace it. Improve yourself. After all, those people may also be Iconoclasts.

Criticizing your friends is important, because it makes them better. Don’t be afraid of their objecting, or of their minions attacking you. You, sir or madame, are an Iconoclast, and can take it.

Check the water before you splash everybody

It is tempting to jump on the Internet and start ripping everyone. Don’t risk real collateral damage, as fun as it might be to come out guns a blazing and be That Person (not necessarily a Troll) who challenges everyone 24/7. A That Person is not an Iconoclast.

Once you are sure of your surroundings and know the water is good, however, perfect that cannonball. Splash everyone.

Have a Thick Skin

Remember criticizing your friends? Your friends may be Iconoclasts. They are coming after you. Take it in the spirit in which you would like it to be intended, and be secure in your own competent yet fallible self. Does that mean you are an Influencer as well as an Iconoclast? It happens. Remember I mentioned something about having it both ways.

Represent a brand? Go nowhere near your corporate accounts with your personal accounts

There is no room in an Iconoclast’s repertoire for torpedoing one’s own professional brand by being an idiot. Don’t accidentally post your brilliant, yet personal, snark on a company Twitter account (do I really need to link to the popular examples of such?). Keep those accounts far away from each other to lessen the chance. There is also a matter of nuance. Iconoclasm serves debate, scholarship, and improvement, not boorishness and name-calling, If you resort to rank name-calling, you are a weasel.

Have a stomach for others’ imperfections

You are not perfect. I am not perfect. The “Influencers” are not perfect. That’s okay, even if they don’t know it. There is a difference, however, from it being okay being imperfect and not pointing out those imperfections. Point them out. Privately. Publicly. After all, Iconoclasts exist to improve the Influencers’ material. Love the blemishes, while making sure the whole world sees them. Be a friend. Be an Iconoclast.

There you have the rules for being a Social Media Iconoclast. I dare not call it a manifesto, as manifestos (manifesti?) are things I reserve the right- as an Iconoclast- to pick apart.

Oh. and rules are for the weak. Start shredding.


What Made Me Your Audience?

This post originally appeared on Voce Communications’ Voce Nation blog.

One of the things that frustrates me most about being in the social media bubble is the fact that we all (social media marketing, PR, and other folks) seem to be each other’s audience; reading each other’s blogs, books, Tweets and newsletters and commenting on them in some great big circle of life (note: a bubble, or if you prefer, fishbowl, is also circular).

I actually think that’s great in many ways; we need and crave each other’s feedback and when done well it makes us all better. When done poorly, it’s just a bunch of industry friends sucking up to each other in public, rubber-stamping content filled with stuff we all already know (reading that back, I make it sound like a bad thing– you decide, but as ever “it depends”). This translates to any person- or company- in any industry.

While many of us strive for “audience” outside of our known colleagues as we build up our businesses or consulting practices, or want to be known more widely as some kind of “wicked smaht” idea machine, we sometimes forget to provide context, wherever possible, to clue in this “audience,” and especially our existing inner circle, that we know who they are and why they read.

More importantly, if you are going to use more intrusive methods like email, you had better make sure you are making yourself welcome in that more personal space. Industry friends occasionally launch email newsletters; while they are generally pretty good, they don’t often tell me anything new, or more importantly, anything I feel I need to know. Worse, many of these email newsletters have a generic feel, treating me as an audience rather than a friend, colleague, acquaintance or peer.

Is that what I am to you? Audience?

Here are my thoughts on making sure your message is received

  • Create context: If you are creating something you hope to appeal to a wider audience, acknowledge those closer to you by framing the newsletter with a special message on the version they get. Perhaps it is just a note of hello and thanks; perhaps it is an invitation to give feedback as a trusted colleague; perhaps it is a separate email asking ahead of time if they would like to see the newsletter at all, and what they might like to see in it. You might even create a separate piece of content that appeals to this more sophisticated inner circle.
  • Leave people out: Alternatively, just leave people out if you know they won’t need this content– if for some reason you cannot create context, don’t risk your relationships by blasting something out that may not be something they want. Honestly, these folks will not be offended.
  • Say something unique: The hardest part of any content is having a unique take– in the social media bubble, we are all talking about the same thing much of the time– what is your niche? What is your unique point of view? We advise clients all the time to differentiate content, and for good reason. In our circle, one example I like very much is Christopher Penn’s. His email newsletter, like his blog, touches on many familiar social media issues, but frames them in a no-nonsense way that does the most difficult thing; speaks to beginners as well as advanced practitioners (even with Chris, to be fair, his World of Warcraft references may not be for everybody). He is also very upfront, not to mention unapologetic, about his distribution methods; you know where you stand with him, and you know why you’re getting his content.

  • Expand your horizons: What I mean by this is reach out, find that audience of “outsiders” if that is what you desire. While you can eventually build such an audience by building a reputation and credibility based on a history of solid content, there may be a role for that “inside” group. Rather than foisting the content on them as part of the overall audience, distinguish them as folks not meant for your message, but as equals who, when asked nicely, will forward your content to people they know can use it (I look at the rack of social media books written by folks I know, and remember how often I lend or give out my copies to people better served by the content than I).

Yeah, it comes down to those PR staples many of us have harped on for years upon years: targeting and customizing messages. Is it that simple? No, of course not, but we need to think constantly about how we appear to the people who see our content. different relationships deserve different contexts.