Would You Rather Live In A House Alone On The Hills? (A Lesson In People Skills)

Social media and blogs.

It means something different to everyone and that’s great – diversity is the spice of life, after all! When I think about social media, I think of interactive marketing; that is, engaging people in meaningful ways, building conversations and organic community-driven content, and creating lasting impressions. The lure of the blogosphere is pure, honest communication, ideally with a strong sense of community attached. Community is the operative word. Certainly, there are striking similarities and overlap between social media and blogs. Heck, blogs are social platforms, when fully unlocked…

What does social media and blogging mean to you?

The interactive marketing approach has a simple prerequisite: caring about people. If you genuinely try to help or take interest in people, good things will come (say, for instance, starting REAL online conversations ). In fact, Christian Hollingsworth of SmartBoyDesigns.com expresses the value of genuine selflessness in ways few others can. I highly recommend checking out his blog as it’s one of those rare finds that has useful information and compelling stories all In one place. Christian’s blog serves as social proof of how catering to human audiences can very well outweigh technically-heavy SEO and SMO efforts.

If it is a known fact that PEOPLE (customers, audiences, clients, team members, and fans) drive our business, why don’t more folks value more people?

You may contest that statement by saying, “Don’t loyalty programs do just that?” Sure, loyalty programs have been “all the rage” in the past six years or so but that’s just more machination, not humanization. I feel that approach to customer appreciation and retention still misses the mark (though game mechanics are fun and effective). That’s for a whole other discussion, though…

Here’s where my analogy comes in (I promise this won’t be a shallow analogy, like those BloggingBookshelf.com warns of)! Ask yourself…

Would you rather live in a house alone on the hills or in a thriving community? Do you prefer a rural, suburban, or urban setting? What do you think that says about you?

There are two essentials components people seem to miss with regards to social media and blogs:

  • Context: Build messages that interconnect and are both relevant and significant. Frame and position comments so they have higher impacts.
  • Community: Engage people in authentic, compelling ways to build networks and natural referrals.

Let’s focus on the latter, which is where my analogy really comes into play.

Alone In The House On The Hills
I’d hate to generalize but doesn’t it seem that most businesses are very distant from their customers? It certainly would seem that they are oblivious to our real needs. All the billions of dollars that go into traditional marketing and silly research, all to target meaningless demographics. I mean, for Pete’s sake, some people outsource public relations, customer service, and marketing. Even social media management is outsourced.. WHAT?

I understand the need to focus on core operations but this approach lacks authenticity. It sends out the message to customers, “You’re not worth my time.” Key players in every business should become the face of their company. Look at Google’s Matt Cutts or, my personal favorites, D&D (Dino Dogan and Dan Cristo) of Triberr. These guys give otherwise faceless entities a real soul, which makes people care more.

From what I’ve seen, most businesses live in their own exclusive little bubbles, the lonely houses up on the hills. They’re so disconnected from the people driving their businesses that they’ve lost touch with the world as we know it today. More often than not, this breeds a sort of arrogance and ignorance. Hey, they’ve made it this far so why change things up now?

If you forget the people that got you where you are now, they’ll soon forget you. If people don’t matter to you, you won’t matter to them.

Those living far away from the rest of the world live through mediators and mere numbers. They make dangerous assumptions and mainly coast by on luck (brand power doesn’t hurt, either). They don’t try to make warm connections with the people “below them”. To them, their inner circle should only be comprised of highly-successful, high-class folks. Their elitist ways make them miss out on communities that may like to get to know the real people behind their brands and monikers.

Suburbia: I Like You If You Play By My Rules
Those that choose residence in suburban communities are closer to the rest of the world. They may have more struggles to keep them honest, if not humbled. Still, they like uniformity and may buy into the status quo. As such, they rather hang around people like them. Much like those living in their own lavish worlds far, far away, change scares suburbanites.

Now, don’t get me wrong: suburbia (or a more isolated rural life) is not bad in itself. We all deserve to upgrade our lifestyles after hard work and persistence. What I’m getting at here is that the suburban lifestyle still represents an exclusive mentality to some degree. At the very least, living in suburbia can create a comfort zone, making it hard to see beyond your immediate community, your self-imposed bubble (and the biases that come with that).

If you work from home in suburbia, the disconnect will be significantly greater unless you make a concerted effort to venture to the “great beyond”. Still, you should still recall what it was like when things weren’t quite as good.. Or maybe you’re struggling now and that reminds you to keep people on the forefront of all your efforts.

Hey, some of us live well beyond our means so it’s important to recognize and learn from that.

I look at a majority of businesses out there as suburban communities with so much uniformity, conformity,and familiarity that nothing really sticks out. This would be the complete opposite of what Seth Godin refers to as “being remarkable”. I’d place a particular emphasis on social media and blog execution when mentioning such shortcomings. It’s the same story repeated several times, with some slight deviations here and there. Whoopdy-do! If you fail to step outside that big box filled with congruent little boxes, you may very well be out of touch with those not in your particular bubble or inner circle. There is another world out there, you know!

The Urban Apartment Complex Dwellers Party With All
When you live in a mixed community, which is natural in urban settings (especially melting pot cities like NYC), it’s much easier to appreciate, if not embrace, diversity. Think of all the different stories in urban communities. These people represent the “average person” better than most homeowners.

The further we get away from the “renter” mentality, the less we can appreciate the very real struggles and consumer behaviors out there. This may very well be why sales are at all-time lows for many former powerhouse brands, especially in the retail, real estate, and financial sectors. Those too far away from the people that, really, make up most of the marketplace, have a hard time understanding honest working class folks.

When’s the last time the big wig living far, far away came by to ask for a favor (some sugar maybe)?

Chances are it never happened and never will. Most taste BIG success and forget what life was like before it. Their worldviews get warped and their minds close off to new, contrasting ideas.

These so-called “shakers and movers” share success stories that don’t speak to us because they are so lofty, preachy, or just full of horse dung. Those of us that live or remember living in tight-knit, “middle class” communities know how to relate to people. Thus, your choice of residence can very well reflect who you are as a professional whatever.

Imagine what savvy customers will infer from your social context and online presence (or lack of it): do they understand your intentions or are they calling you out on your less-than-genuine ways?

80/20, 1/99, 5/80 And Other Fun Numbers
Mitch York (About.com) wrote a piece on the 80/20 rule and how it may very well be outdated – I agree completely! I know this guy personally and have great respect for him. He’s a people person and, more importantly, he can admit when he is wrong. Mitch went from supporting the 80/20 rule to challenging it, simply because he placed more value on people.

Your typical bean-counting business entity focuses on the 20% of their customer base that generates 80% of their revenues. In a more realistic interpretation, it means they don’t care about you unless you’re a big spender. It’s a broken system but, truth be told, we can’t treat everyone, let alone our customers, equally.. So there’s some merit to the ‘ol 80/20 system…

Here’s the rub: those people in “lesser” communities and social circles ARE your business!

Who do you think deserves more of a reward: the customer that refers tons of business to you and is your best promoter, or the one that buys the big-ticket items but still “shops around”? Think about that a bit. Your attitude here can be a deal maker or breaker!

Our perspectives change as our lives change. This is why social media is crucial: it connects us with fresh perspectives and gives us needed reality checks. It also shifts the balance of power. We’re slowly but surely moving away from the 1-5% controlling all the wealth and/or influence. Audiences and customers are looking to connect with REAL people. Fakers are losing ground – step aside for the future industry leaders, suckahs!

The “urban dwellers” are usually the ones in the mix, meeting new people and building influence. There tends to be more trust and respect amongst close friends than between professionals. Knowing this, marketers are still talking (down) AT people or just making noise – it’s absurd! What do you respond more to: recommendations from friends you trust (and that care about your best interests) or those from highly-regarded professionals you respect?

No matter where you are in life or where you reside, don’t forget to look out the window. Better yet, walk out the door and visit people that help you challenge your own thoughts. You may very well be surprised what you learn!

Building Residential Communities With Blogs And Social Media
How do you get people to take interest and stick around?

It may very well be one of the toughest things to do when we try to get out of our comfort zones. Blogs and social media can ease this process but you have to do it the right way. Embrace diversity, which means accepting ideas that may be radically different to yours, even if you don’t agree. In doing so, people will be able to relate to you and rarely question your authenticity and intentions. They’ll come back because you made it worth their time.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: a business blasts a message to you (and oodles of other unsuspecting targets) about a new product or service and your only thought is, “Why should I care?” The social media space is becoming quite crowded, so it’s only natural we have some screamers, rambling on about stuff that doesn’t speak to us on a personal level.

While your place of residence may be nice, why not explore a little?

All communication mediums are bound to be tainted with lazy marketing and blanket messages. We’re seeing the same interrupt-based and intrusive marketing happening on the blogosphere and social media. GOOD NEWS: We can change all that as caring neighbors and good-will ambassadors.

EVEN BETTER NEWS: We have the opportunity to differentiate ourselves by reaching out to people and taking the extra steps to acknowledge those that truly appreciate relationships. Be real neighborly: knock on some doors and introduce yourself. Share some stories, maybe have some adult beverages together too. Like the old Snapple commercial, show people who you are by stating (implicitly, preferably), “I’m a real person!”

This warm marketing and social networking approach is particularly useful when reaching out to people we may have lost touch with or overlooked before. Take interest in what others are doing or trying to achieve. People love being remembered and recognized. BTW, I do too (Hint-Hint, Nudge-Nudge)!

If you look at the direction things are going in, there’s a shift from mass anonymity to everyone trying to share and, sometimes, identify who they really are. This self-discovery and self-valuation may very well be the face of things to come. Actually, it’s already here – just look at StumbleUpon, Facebook, Empire Avenue, LinkedIn, Klout, PeerIndex.. The list is virtually endless, and with good reason: we’re remembering what we lost in our lives and each other amidst all the noise and mindless/soulless consumption.

The Internet, much like old-school businesses, has been mostly faceless and soulless until recent years. Warm connections and thriving communities switch things up, giving people a sense of being welcomed, if not needed. The more personal the engagement, the more lasting the impression. Let’s ditch the mass-appeal one-size-fits-all stuff. It doesn’t really work, no matter what you think the numbers tell you.

…And here’s the part you could have skipped to (sorry about that):

The idea here is to build communities that make people want to take residence, or at least visit often. The change has to start with you. Build that trust and be a little vulnerable: your next friendly neighbor could very well save your lonely venture!

Are you on the top of a hill (no, you’re not a bill sitting on Capitol Hill but that works too!), screaming down at the people below? Maybe you just don’t bother and let others do the human interaction for you. What excites you more in a web site or business: a massive, faceless community or a smaller, more tightly-knit community?

I hope my analogy here has made you think about how your established residence in social media communities, blogs inclusive, really make people feel. We could all stand to go the extra mile to let someone know, “You matter to me.” I think I will start today… How about you?

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11 thoughts on “Would You Rather Live In A House Alone On The Hills? (A Lesson In People Skills)

  1. First of all, thank you for the kind compliment. Grateful and honored to be linked to your blog.

    To answer your question – what is the purpose and connection between social media and blogging?

    To me, the capture or all-inclusive effort of everything you do online first is defined as web marketing. Within web marketing you tend to have your “social networking” efforts, blogging efforts, email list efforts, and a few other items. So, in a sense they’re all connected – in doing one purpose…

    …web marketing.

    But really, it’s not “web” marketing at all but “people” marketing. Like you mentioned in your post – allowing companies to develop a deeper more ingrained relationship with their customers.

    • Indeed!

      I wanted to take more of an angle of interactive/people marketing but social media and blogs are two things more of my readers can more readily identify with. You nailed it right on the head, though: these concepts have a much greater scope.

      It’s all about being taking on a sort of humanitarian role and treating others like we’d like to be treated. We’re all fallible so it’s an ongoing process. Hopefully, this article will create great urgence and challenge people to develop themselves further as professionals and individuals.

      One thing I strongly believe is that we businesses can no longer afford to departmentalize marketing. True marketing happens any time we interact with people or fail to do so. Traditional marketing will always have it’s place but I hope smaller, struggling businesses can learn some valuable lessons here. Rather than throwing money at problems, we can adjust simple behaviors to achieve better results and feel more fulfilled in our work.

      Who’s with us? =o)

  2. Wow, what an amazing blog post! I read every word to soak in all of your fascinating insights. I have lived in the suburbs and a city and mostly agree with your analysis. Whenever I have lived somewhere, I always wanted to live in a neighborhood because of the sense of community. Some neighborhoods are better than others, of course and I am very fortunate to have landed in a supportive and social neighborhood where I live now.

    I loved living in New York City, but getting to know the neighbors in the apartment building really didn’t happen. I don’t think my building was unique but people in the building didn’t interact with each other. But I did get to know the dry cleaner, grocer and bookstore owner in my neighborhood. I guess I really love community!

    I agree with you about Christian, he truly is remarkable. In fact, his blog was how I found yours.

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful insights with us!

    • Thank you so much, Carolyn!

      When I originally drafted this article, I wanted to break away from my usual rants and geeky stuff to focus on what it’s really all about: people. My analogy is meant to get to what is at the heart of social media, interactive marketing, and building loyalty – it’s ALL connected!

      That said, I know my analogy does not hold true all the time, which is great: I WANT people to prove it wrong. That means folks are going above and beyond to touch the lives of others. Every residence we choose comes with it’s own comfort level and sometimes we have to break out of routine to do truly remarkable things.

      I’m glad you mentioned NYC because it’s an interesting case all on it’s own. NYC has such a dense population that you don’t get to experience that small town “everyone knows each other” mentality. Since it’s a melting pot city, it can go either way: you have pockets of really friendly people and those that came with a specific mission in mind (i.e. launching their acting career and networking only with those that can help in that area).

      I’ve lived and experienced many neighborhoods in NYC. Living in suburban (by NYC standards) North Bronx was particularly interesting: people welcomed you to the neighborhood, introduced themselves, and were generally very friendly. The generalizations in my analogy actually speak against generalizations; that is, don’t assume anything – just go out there, meeting and greeting!

      I definitely agree that some neighborhoods are better than others. Believe me, your yearning for community will bring you natural success. For me, finding the balance between “living in my head” (darn my creative marathons) and networking with real people is a tough yet worthwhile adventure in itself.

      Oh man, the stories I can tell you about NYC. I’m glad Christian “Smart Boy” Hollingsworth magically connected us. Let’s connect on other fronts and share more stories (and connections). Currently, I am quite active on LinkedIn, Empire Avenue, Facebook, Triberr, and Twitter. I also enjoy StumbleUpon.. I’m a bit of a social media nut! ;o)

  3. I can deal with either the massive, faceless community or the tight-knit one. I think that’s more a contextual thing. Even more so if you consider how you can turn the faceless community into a tight knit one if you really wanted.

    My brain is still kick starting. My coffee must not be strong enough today or I’d leave a better comment; just wanted you to know that I stopped by to check for updates ;]

    • Exactly what I was getting at. With the right attitude and shift of perspective, we can bring much needed change together. Context and community do very much go hand-in-hand. I’ve always disliked the snobbery, deception, greed, and fear-mongering of the overall business world. The genuine ones care about people and make it evident in all that they do, which makes me a very happy camper.

      Good to have you back, busy bee! =o)

  4. If you look at things from a financial point of view (discounting the human element for a second), it makes more sense to build a community of hungry, excited people because they are the ones who will ultimately feed you with clients or customers. Not necessarily from themselves, but from their own networks and by selflessly recommending you to other people. Otherwise you are putting in a lot of work for very little reward.

    If you add back in the human element, it makes even more sense – you have an immense satisfaction from the work you do in helping people who you really care about (and their friends and connections too!).

    So whether you are a nice person or not, it makes great spiritual and business sense to build your business or blog the way you suggest here!

    I’ve tried living in a house alone on the hills and it’s far too quiet!

    • Right on, Dan!

      It’s interesting because, a few days after publishing this, I read an article abouts tribes versus communities. Tribes, in the article’s definition, represent the old way of doing things; whereas, loyalties reside with the leader or brand. They use Seth Godin, someone many of us admire, because he does very limited community interaction (no comments, social networking, Twitter, etc.).

      While that can work in some cases, you’re more likely to create buzz and life-long customers through active engagement and building of conversations. In that manner, your stories become immortal. It’s a much more natural, authentic process.

      I like your take on it a lot. Communities are win-win scenarious yet some still do not get “it”. @DaveRGallant shared a video of MC Hammer at Stanford Business University. He made some key points but missed the mark on the personal touch that community requires for sustainable success.

      The beauty is that this approach is scalable. As an “urban dweller” or an “outgoing suburban/rural dweller”, you can focus on a few people through meaningful interaction. I wonder if the people with 50,000+ Twitter followers really have a valuable community. How many of those people are life-long fans? How many of the interactions are memorable and genuine? In that aspect, a hybrid of tribe (maximum reach aligned through a common vision) and community (high-touch engagement and warm connections via sharing of compelling, personal(ized) stories) seems to make more sense…

      What do you think?

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  6. WOW! So this is what you were talking about, Yomar! This is definitely a grand extension to my teeny blog post on high ceilings! =P

    I just visited New York last year and absolutely loved it. I love the busyness and the craziness about it all. =) In a weird way, I get the same sort of feel here in Latin America. People are just used to sticking their noses in each others’ business and even though I live in a relatively smaller city in the middle of an isolated valley, there’s a lot of interaction here because cramped lifestyles are typical. =) I think it’s made a huge difference to my approach to blogging too, as you describe so beautifully. =) It’s definitely about showing people that they matter and to me, you’ve set one of the best examples. =) Thank you!

    • I’m glad you found the post easily. I’m still tweaking and streamlining things.. 5+ years of content can be overwhelming! Haha

      Reading your comments makes me want to revisit my blog entry because there’s more to it than what I initially offered.. But the tendencies seem to hold true most of the time. It’s interesting how our lifestyles really shape our approach to human interactions, right?

      I mean, I rather build a community over a tribe.. Helping people connect with each other and establishing peer support is great. In contrast, the tribe model always makes me feel like it’s just about you. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice being a thought leader but I much rather have a highly-engaged community that’s into mutual sharing than tons of people with all eyes on me. When it comes to a tribe model, I prefer doing workshops and one-on-one training/coaching…

      But that’s besides the point. I feel blessed that I have gotten to experience some very unique lifestyles being in Puerto Rico, New York, San Diego, and other places for long periods of time here and there… I feel it has made me a much more well-rounded person. If you get a chance, look up Derek Sivers. His piece on “fish do not know they are in water” is brilliant. I talk about it a bit on my newest web site, The Practical Life.

      LOL.. I am sending you in every little direction here, Samantha! But I reckon you eat up content just like I do.. Sometimes, I have to stop myself from straying from my own creative exploits. It’s easy to follow breadcrumb trails and get lost in all the wonderful content and remarkable people out there – hey, that’s pretty much the tight-knit, small urban life right there! =oD

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