Ah, sweet validation from mainstream media.

My post on finding the right social media team members was published in Crain’s Chicago’s Small Biz Blog today.

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“I was a revolutionary who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosopher who lost his integrity in crime, and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum security prison. When I escaped from that prison, over the front wall, between two gun towers, I became my country’s most wanted man. Luck ran with me and flew with me to India, where I joined the Bombay mafia. I worked as a gunrunner, a smuggler, and a counterfeiter. I was chained on three continents, beaten, stabbed and starved. I went to war. I ran into the enemy guns. And I survived, while other men around me died. They were better men than I am, most of them; better men whose lives were crunched up in mistakes, and thrown away by the wrong second of someone else’s hate, or love, or indifference. And I buried them, too many of those men, and grieved their stories and their lives into my own.”

Some books are like an exquisite meal, meant for indulgence and slow enjoyment.  Shantaram is one of those – written by Gregory David Roberts, the book tells the story of his escape from a New Zealand prison, his subsequent arrival in Mumbai, a visit to village India, and his life in the Middle Asian underworld.  Although some of the events are based on the author’s life, it is technically classified as fiction since he merged different events and characters for narrative flow.

My favorite books are the ones that immediately draw you into their world and make you care about the characters, and this one accomplishes that marvelously.  A few more choice quotes:

“The past reflects eternally between two mirrors -the bright mirror of words and deeds, and the dark one, full of things we didn’t do or say”

“Astounding and puzzling images from the city tumbled and turned in my mind like leaves on a wave of wind, and my blood so thrilled with hope and possibility that I couldn’t suppress a smile, lying there in the dark…In that moment, in those shadows, I was almost safe”

This book makes me want to jump on a plane to Mumbai and embrace the chaos and energy of the city myself.  Highly recommend it.

As anyone who knows me in real life is well aware, I recently reread The Cluetrain Manifesto, and having read the original when I was in high school ten years ago, I had the advantage of an interesting perspective.  Not only did I get a bachelors and join the working world since then, I work in interactive marketing and often tend to be the person who helps companies board the Cluetrain.  Here are my thoughts, jotted down as I read:

The relationship your customers have with your brand is more important than the relationship you have with your customers.

The feelings and emotions your brand evokes are just as important, if not more important than your actual product.

You can’t control the conversation, and it is stupid to even try.  Instead of trying to hide, be transparent.  Honesty and an authentic desire to enrich and benefit your consumers resonate far more than anything else.

People buy from people.

Instead of PR, do MR – Media relations.  One solid partnership with a journalist or blogger is worth a hundred press releases.

The second you really, truly recognize that it is not about what your customers can do for you, but what you can do for your customers, it all becomes so much easier.

It is not what the website does, it is what the user does.

Your company/brand is boring.  Your people are interesting.

Your customers are not grain and you can’t keep them in a silo.  Give them the freedom to interact, share, remix, and make your content/brand their own and they will reward you.

Anything can be a social object when properly communicated and presented.

Linear thinking will kill you.  Relationship thinking is where it’s at.

First, create something worth talking about.  Then give your audience the tools to make it their own.

We are in the API era.  Chances are someone has already built the technology you need; don’t reinvent the wheel.

The attention economy is dead.  Welcome to the interaction economy.

Minimizing the pain doesn’t make it a kiss.

Once you’re formed a genuine relationship, you’re willing to take less and your customer is willing to give more (Moroccan carpet seller analogy – the more you get to know them and their family the more you want to give, and the more they get to know you and your life the more they want to give you a better deal, since they see you as fellow human and not just a wallet).

Agility and analysis are just as important as research and expertise.

It is damn easy to turn on your user’s BS detectors, and nearly impossible to turn them off.  Build only authentic authority.

All the SEO in the world can’t help you if your content sucks (said it two years ago and got quoted by Doc Searls himself, and it holds even more true today).  In fact, this should really be “all the SEO in the world can’t help you if your content, design, and/or usability suck.”

The web and therefore interactive marketing is fundamentally optimistic.  Go the opposite route at your own peril.

Your customers are online, and they are talking. Full stop.

We’re all so used to the changes the web hath wrought that we don’t even realize it.

Ten years ago no one knew what blogs and SEO were except for the hardcore geeks.

Combining bleeding edge enthusiasm with thoughtful analysis will let you write your own ticket.

Traditional media makes the audience a passive witness to their own life.  The internet enables people to be active.

Passion subverts hierarchy on the web.

Consumers shouldn’t respect corporations, corporations should respect people.

The ideas at the fringes are the most interesting.

Gandhi had it right – “first they ignore you (no one cares about that lone voice online), they laugh at you (what a silly idea! no one will use that), then they fight you (our customers are not online/don’t read blogs, don’t use social media, then you win (adoption/conversion).”

The lure of the web is human-on-human interaction.

Everyone is granted a unique voice and perspective at birth.  It is up to the individual to take full advantage.

Every webpage you see has person/people behind it.

One-way communication is dead, and that is worthy of celebration. Two-way communication is ten times as effective.

The web has changed time from sequential to random in the sense that everything is searchable and accessible.

If your FAQ page doesn’t reflect actual customer questions, its existence is pointless.

Language isn’t camouflage, it is clarity.

If you are not funny, sexy, or useful then change your company/brand until you are.

Customers are not targets, they are friends and partners.

The future hasn’t even been invented yet.

Sure, everyone knows that when the going gets weird the weird turn pro, but you may not be aware of these equally excellent but less popular quotes:

Like most of the others, I was a seeker, a mover, a malcontent, and at times a stupid hell-raiser. I was never idle long enough to do much thinking, but I felt somehow that my instincts were right. I shared a vagrant optimism that some of us were making real progress, that we had taken an honest road, and that the best of us would inevitably make it over the top. At the same time, I shared a dark suspicion that the life we were leading was a lost cause, that we were all actors, kidding ourselves along on a senseless odyssey. It was the tension between these two poles – a restless idealism on one hand and a sense of impending doom on the other – that kept me going.

– The Rum Diary

Maybe there is no Heaven. Or maybe this is all pure gibberish — a product of the demented imagination of a lazy drunken hillbilly with a heart full of hate who has found a way to live out where the real winds blow — to sleep late, have fun, get wild, drink whisky, and drive fast on empty streets with nothing in mind except falling in love and not getting arrested…
Res ipsa loquitur. Let the good times roll.

– The Gonzo Papers, Vol 2.

The massive, frustrated energies of a mainly young, disillusioned electorate that has long since abandoned the idea that we all have a duty to vote. This is like being told you have a duty to buy a new car, but you have to choose immediately between a Ford and a Chevy.”

– Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail

*The last one was written in 1973.  I think the tide is finally turning, 40 years later.

“And I believe that good journalism, good television, can make our world a better place.”

“In emerging democracies like Russia, in authoritarian states like Iran or even Yugoslavia, journalists play a vital role in civil society. In fact, they form the very basis of those new democracies and civil societies.”

– Christiane Amanpour
These two quotes seem particularly apt given recent world events.  And by journalists, I don’t mean just the official press, I mean the courageous citizen journalists like the twitter users who are giving everything they have to make sure the world hears their story and perspective from inside Tehran.

Everyone who doubts the power/usefulness of social media should read Andrew Sullivan’s post, “The Revolution Will Be Twittered“, and then check out the #iranelection hashtag on Twitter.

The key force behind this is the next generation, the Millennials, who elected Obama in America and may oust Ahmadinejad in Iran. They want freedom; they are sick of lies; they enjoy life and know hope.

This generation will determine if the world can avoid the apocalypse that will come if the fear-ridden establishments continue to dominate global politics, motivated by terror, armed with nukes, and playing old but now far too dangerous games. This generation will not bypass existing institutions and methods: look at the record turnout in Iran and the massive mobilization of the young and minority vote in the US. But they will use technology to displace old modes and orders. Maybe this revolt will be crushed. But even if it is, the genie has escaped this Islamist bottle.

I think the days of CNN breaking the news are over – people will share their stories themselves, bypassing the mass media conduit if necessary, and the role of the media will be to verify, organize, track, and curate the information reported via liveblogs, Twitter, etc.  The Huffington Post is doing a great job of that right now with their page on the Iran elections and subsequent fallout.

Out of the Echo Chamber

August 13, 2008

Maybe it is because August is vacation month for most of the world, but staying out of the blogging/new media echo chamber is pretty refreshing at the moment.

I think it is making me smarter more original.

This article entitled “Great Unread Books: What Classic Are You Ashamed To Admit You Have Never Read?” makes me laugh.  First of all, it is highly unlikely that even the most dedicated individual could manage to read every so-called great book ever written – that list is as endless and subjective as a list could be.  You might as well try to watch every “great film” or see every UNESCO World Heritage site; sure, you can try, but that at that point you are probably doing little more than checking items off your list.

Anyways, despite having not checked every book in the literary canon off my personal list, there are not any that I am actually ashamed to have not yet read.  I also read a lot, and as a former English major, I certainly had the incentive to read and study more great books than many people.  However, there is one gaping hole in my collection.

Since I am a female writer, people tend to assume that I am a fan of Jane Austen and the Brontë sisters.  Now perhaps I’m a bit of a traitor to my gender, but I have never actually finished any of their books, and I don’t intend to do so any time soon.  I’ve never even made it all the way through the movie versions, although there is something charming about the Bollywood adaptation.

Are there any books you can’t get through, or have consciously chosen to leave off your personal list?  On the other hand, are there any classics you’re planning to read soon?