Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Whose language is your business speaking?

Anyone who uses language in their work and business — and who doesn’t? — would do well to consider the perspective of evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel. Because chances are the language of your business is hurting more than helping your success.

Papua New Guinea, an island somewhat larger in size than California, is home to fewer than seven million people and more than 800 languages. There are places on the island where you can encounter a new language every two to three miles, according to Pagel. Some would say that’s cultural diversity at its finest. Pagel would say it’s “very peculiar, even bizarre.”

Source: petersbar via Flickr

The reason? Humans, Pagel said in his TED talk last month, originally devised language some 200,000 years ago as a means of sharing ideas, knowledge and wisdom. “Language is a piece of social technology for enhancing the benefits of cooperation,” Pagel said. So it was “bizarre” that humans should have gone on to create thousands of different languages. (more…)


Branding in world of monkey minds & popcorn brains

Anyone who’s meditated for even a minute knows the mind is in a habitual state of anarchy. A random thought arises, shouts for attention, only to be elbowed aside by another and another in rapid succession. This most human of conditions has been called monkey mind.

Now imagine our minds as we bury ourselves in social media, the Internet, smartphones, laptops, game consoles and televisions — often at the same time! This experience repeated often enough is producing what one University of Washington researcher calls “popcorn brain” — described as “a brain so accustomed to the constant stimulation of electronic multitasking that we’re unfit for life offline, where things pop at a much slower pace.”

So here’s something anyone with a brand, story or message might want to ponder: What happens when the monkey mind meets the popcorn brain?

Monkey mind on speed or monkey mind squared? Living life online has to be the best gift the monkey mind has ever received. The monkey is blissfully free to swing from tweet to video to blog to Like to text to app to TV to email to search to … you get the picture.

The monkey is in heaven. Businesses and nonprofits that want to capture someone’s attention, not so much. Even before “online” existed, organizations had their work cut out to get noticed. Humans are easily distracted. What’s changed – virtually overnight – is the breadth and depth of distraction made possible by new networking technology.

What’s an organization to do?

If you listen to the advice of social marketers, the answer is to move online where your audience is. Build your social media “presence”: your Facebook fan page, Twitter stream, smartphone app, YouTube uploads, search engine optimization, blog, sharable content and on and on. In other words, feed the monkey more popcorn. Everyone else is!

And therein lies the problem for marketers and storytellers.

Instead of slowing the world down so we can listen, be heard, build a relationship, create and keep a customer, we’re collectively speeding it up, threatening to create some mutant form of attention deficit disorder.

Still, we can’t ignore the staggering numbers of people and increasing amount of time spent online. As communicators, we have to be where our audience is, right?

The more pertinent question is how do we get someone’s attention once we’re fully online? A monkey mind on speed is not exactly an optimum candidate for engagement.

Building rest stops

Here are three suggestions for getting noticed and, even better, starting or deepening relationships with people who matter to you most:

  • Simplify your message. Maybe this was optional once upon a time. Today it’s an organizational imperative. Make our audience work to understand you and what you’re offering and they’ll be gone in a click or tap. Simplifying your message involves what authors Chip and Dan Heath call “finding your core.” I strongly recommend their book, “Made to Stick.” Their recipe for stickiness? Simple Concrete Credible Emotional Stories.
  • Build rest stops. Can you slow your audience down as they flit across the Internet? Give them reasons to hit the pause button, take a deep breath, maybe even engage you in conversation. Show them you’re not in a hurry and are genuinely interested in who they are and what they want. Maybe then they’ll be open to knowing more about you and what you have to offer.
  • Be generous. Once you slow your audience down, they’ll linger longer if you freely share valuable content. Valuable equates to meeting a need. Chilean Manfred Max-Neef defines nine fundamental human needs: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity and freedom. Which among these needs can you meet with content that is also consistent with your core business and identity?
A world of monkey minds and popcorn brains begs for more discipline, concentration, calm. Organizations that can master these qualities are bound to draw an audience begging for a break, if only for a moment or two.

Looking for the brand among all the branding

I left a day-long conference on branding this week inspired in several new directions. But I couldn’t shake a nagging question: In our fascination with the new tools of branding are we forgetting what we’re supposed to be building—namely, the brands of our businesses?

I found inspiration in the material of several speakers who persuaded me the latest mobile devices we otherwise call cellphones are a cultural game changer. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say their impact will be as great as radio, television, personal computers and the Internet were when they emerged on the scene. I understand why marketers are salivating at the prospect of turning these smart devices into conduits for branding and promotion. The conference also deepened my appreciation for the branding possibilities of social media. One presenter says they’re transforming our customer dialogues into “multilogues.”

Lost in all the buzz this conference and others like it generate around mobile and social media and other leading-edge branding techniques is the brand itself. We seem to be taking the brands of our businesses for granted. We assume our businesses have a clear, shared understanding of what we stand for and what makes us different and relevant. So rather than concern ourselves with the basics of the brand, we obsess over how to use the hip branding tools du jour, such as Facebook, Twitter and iPhone apps.  

As marketers, we can’t afford to confuse branding with the brand itself. Branding is doing, brand is being—it’s who we are as a business. It’s easy to let the doing of marketing consume us, especially when there are far more cool ways to connect with customers than ever before. We get into trouble when our eagerness to deploy compelling technology blinds us to why we exist and who we are as a business or brand. These fundamental questions of being are unchanging, whether for humans or for human organizations. They’re also questions many businesses and marketers avoid. They require a period of introspection and reflection that many businesses feel they can’t afford. They’re moving too fast, they tell themselves.

Or perhaps the existential questions of purpose and meaning make us uncomfortable—what if we discover there’s no there there in our business? So as marketers we busy ourselves with the doing, the branding. And we add the likes of Twitter, Facebook and mobile marketing to the still unfinished business of perfecting blogs, websites, webinars and other digital channels. We end up building brands in the way improv artists make up the story as they go along. The process may be entertaining, but the resulting brand is purely random.

In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll probably end up someplace else.”