Monthly Archives: September 2008

Social media is difficult like intimacy

“Yeah, but it’s just a blog,” someone said. About this blog. My blog. We were talking about social media.

I didn’t have a response at the time. I was like George in that Seinfeld episode (he goes to great lengths to deliver a retort to a coworker), floundering for the perfect comeback.

I couldn’t come up with anything, and later realized that this person? This person doesn’t even have a blog. Pfft. How can you possibly understand the concept of social media if you’re not a participant?

Of course you can understand it on an intellectual level. Like, I understand war even though I’ve never been a soldier. But you can’t really get it unless you’ve been in it. Unless you’ve been in it to win it in fact.

So let’s clarify something. Blogging is one of the most valuable and intimate forms of social media that exists. It’s akin to writing love letters back in the day. It’s not as good as spooning your girlfriend, but it works.

And when people talk about authenticity, transparency and engagement or the newest five rules of social media, they’re really talking about intimacy. That is, being less lonely in this great big messed up world of ours.

So if you’re not participating – i.e., if you’re not responding to blog comments, or if you’re talking to yourself on Twitter, or you’re refusing to claim your name on Facebook, you lose.

If you do not participate, you are not a part of social media. You’re last year’s season. Obsolete. Outdated. Old-fashioned. And oh-so entrenched in traditional media. Do you want to be a gatekeeper or a gatejumper? I’m going to give you a hint. Gatekeepers are like those London guards in the big funny hats. I told my mother that when we visited London, I thought one guard was particularly cute. She was extremely put out.

“Remember,” she said, “it was 96 degrees and he had to stand there for who knows how long. I felt bad for him.” She felt bad for him.

Gatejumpers on the other hand, they get to go wherever they want. Even into air-conditioned buildings.

Going wherever you want, that takes some gall. It’s such a big responsibility. This is why a lot of people – and a lot more companies – fail at social media. Because we all want to connect to people and ideas, but to do that you have to go ahead and open up. You have to expose that birthmark on your ankle, the stash of Ben & Jerry’s in your freezer, and the fact that you can be hypnotized by a girl hula-hooping.

People fail because it’s scary to put yourself out there. Like Zeus and I, we’re really bad at this. Or mostly I’m bad at it, but I’m trying to be better because I understand vulnerability is good. But practicing it is something different entirely.

Companies fail because somewhere along the line, branding gurus rolled right over the fact that companies are made up of people, not a blacktop of products. Underneath the monolith that defines companies today are ideas, opinions, passion.

Social media is about synthesizing and refining ideas, opinions and passion. You know, two-way conversation, or more often than not those racy three-ways or more. And in being any way but alone, you discover value and an understanding that is difficult to grasp if you’ve never even participated in the conversation in the first place.

Related Post: Social media doesn’t create new generation leaders