I’m a firm believer in analogies, and this particularly pungent one may explain why many Social Media campaigns are doomed to failure.
To experience the full fragrance of this lesson, you need to know a little about how to make compost without making a stink. (I don’t apologize for the comparison, as many consider modern reputation management to be little more than “fertilizer” anyway.)
Whether you call it “New Media” or “Social Media”, there are many parallels to compost.
- Compost itself has little intrinsic value, but it makes plants grow faster
- Compost – like Social Media – does happen on its own, but not fast enough to be of use
- Compost – while made of natural ingredients – is not meant to be consumed directly
- Compost earns blue ribbons based on what it grows and how it grows it
Making a Pile
While “compost happens”, it doesn’t happen fast enough for the savvy gardener. Instead, there are several rules of thumb governing the types of leaves and organic debris one includes in the pile. The amount of water you add to the mix determines its temperature, and can accelerate or decelerate the fermentation. The pile must be periodically turned and churned to ensure uniform conversion – a commitment to periodically get your hands dirty in a personal way.
If you’re not careful, you end up with too much nitrate generation – or maybe too little. Cooking your compost too quickly also prevents the formation of many useful nutrients that replenish the soil. And if you do everything improperly, you end up with a big smelly pile that no one wants to claim or go near.
Making Social Media
While “social media” can happen on its own, it benefits from expert help. Each social media practitioner brings a different prescription for the right mix of ingredients. Along the way, you have to closely monitor the conditions, and know when to add water, when to goose the process, and when to back off. You also need to stay involved and engaged with the project, realizing this is a process – requiring a commitment to periodically get your hands dirty in a personal way.
If you’re not careful, you destroy the very organic support you were trying to cultivate. And there’s no real value in making compost, unless you intend to use it to feed and supplement existing public relations and reputation management efforts. If you have an expectation of overnight results, you aren’t growing anything of value. And if you’re caught cheating, you end up with a smelly pile that soils your name and encourages others to distance themselves from you.
The Bottom Line
New Media tactics and tools are far from a panacea. If you’re not willing or able to use them properly, don’t get involved. It’s hard work and requires attention – and it can enhance everything else you do. Or it can stink up the joint.
Before you hire someone to help you with a Social Media campaign, check under their fingernails. You’d be surprised how many have never soiled their hands, and don’t really know any more than you do.
Remember that it’s about the produce. You’re not buying a bucket of rich, earthy loam. You’re buying the vegetables.
And there are always those who feel like they can get better results by trucking in a load of something else and spreading it around.
(Ike Pigott regularly writes at Occam’s RazR.)
I took an unusual step to prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow: I ate an MRE for lunch today.
I have had a couple of them around the office to use as props for media interviews. There are times during major when the Red Cross can’t yet reach everyone with fresh hot meals, so where possible these MRE’s (or ‘heater meals’) are pre-positioned to tide everyone over for a day or so. Many chapters stock them for local use as well.
I had the meatloaf with mashed potatoes. It was… edible. But the whole process was hampered by the lack of a heating bag. You’re supposed to get a big plastic bag to envelope the entree pouch, the heater element, and the water. I’m told you’re supposed to get one for each pouch – but I only had the one. So I elected to heat the meatloaf, and made do with setting the mashed potato slab on top to get whatever residual heat I could leech.
The meatloaf was not bad. I wouldn’t order it in a restaurant, but in extreme conditions it would have been quite comforting. The lukewarm panel of mashed potato was not so hot. It’s not as good as homemade, but for someone with limited time and resources, it’s a great start. Sort of like memes.
I’m not a huge fan of memes that float from blog to blog. I used to see them on Livejournal when I was there quite frequently. (I rarely had the time to answer 150 Intimate Questions about myself.) Occasionally, they provide a useful template for revealing new information about yourself.
None of you are going to jump to my Thanks for the Influence post and start tracking down the people who made me who I am (and it’s debatable whether you’d be tracking them down with guns or roses.) What is important is the thought and meditation I underwent to answer the question with a degree of candor and honesty. That is the secret ingredient of personal revelation that connects people.
A meme is little more than a BRR (blog ready to read), and like its MRE counterpart, it is designed to be digested at an appropriate time and place. Since it comes in a consistent packaging, you can more easily spot the similarities and differences – the flavor – that other people bring to the assignment. A diet of BRRs would become tiresome and bland. But consuming one every now and again can be an exercise in self-discovery.
I know my next BRR will be more enjoyable than my next MRE. And I know the coming spreads at my folks’ and the in-laws’ will be met with a deeper sense of appreciation and gratitude.
(Let me add a hearty salute to all who are serving overseas – who don’t have the choice of where to dine tomorrow – and who navigate the instructions and preparation of those MREs with a grace and anticipation that makes my fumbling all the more embarrassing.)
[tags]Ike Pigott, Occam’s RazR, Thanksgiving, military, memes, MRE[/tags]
In the interest of self-preservation, please push and shove your way to the nearest exits!
I’ve been tagged.
Kami Huyse hit me with the following question:
“Who had a big influence on you and how did that affect the direction of your life or career?“
There are many people who had an influence on me. Most of them are people who underestimated me in one way or another – who applied a prejudice against me, counted me out before giving me a chance. Those sorts of challenges just become the next fuel for my flame.
There are several I could name as negative examples, who taught me how not to treat others or otherwise altered my life course:
- the manager who was secretly plotting to have me fired, but couldn’t keep a secret while getting drunk with college students at a convention.
- the NOW spokeswoman (Eleanor Smeal, to name a name) who outright lied to the news about a cause I was involved in, solely to advance her agenda.
- the 4th-grade teacher who told me I was a freak, and didn’t belong in her class.
- All those kids in high school who mocked the kid from Idaho who was smaller, talked funny, and wore different clothes. Thanks for spreading those rumors that I was gay. Thanks for giving me the chance to learn what it feels like to be ostracized by prejudice so I might be more wary of inflicting it on others.
- the geology professors who were so driven by their narrow specialties that they couldn’t have a conversation about anything.
- the reporters at my first television station who needed my help learning how to edit, even though they made more money than I did.
- the manager who – while I was suffering through a protracted and mysterious gastrointestinal ordeal – ordered me to postpone my colonoscopy appointment because it interfered with a coverage plan.
And my heartfelt thanks go to all of you, for my life wouldn’t be what it is now if you hadn’t given me such wonderful obstacles to overcome. But I am not just the product of negative influences. Aside from family influences (which by their proximity are extremely important, but rarely random and arbitrary), here are just a few of the positives who helped steer me along the way:
- Dr. Marilyn Wright. Marilyn founded and ran the Montessori-style school that took me in at a very tender age, knowing full well that my family could not afford it. She gave me the foundation to appreciate a free-ranging curiosity, and the unshakable belief that learning happens best when the learner is invested in the curriculum and the pace.
- Richard Smack. My junior high choir teacher who was great on many counts, but this was the clincher. He lent me a dollar one day for a get-out-of-class concert (I was the only on without money.) I paid him back on the last day of school, long after he’d forgotten. I’ll never forget the look on his face – the true reward for honesty and integrity.
- Galen Guess and Sandra Coley. Science teachers who would be locked up today – he for going above and beyond in the name of experimentation, she for giving bonus points for singing “The Impossible Dream” among other things that helped us learn.
- Dr. Joyce Sellers. Former school administrator who took extra time to bust my chops when they needed busting – and pushed me to not accept “acceptable” as a lazy standard.
- Dave Baird. Yes, Dave, I’m linking to you. One of the classiest people you will ever meet, period. For years, I couldn’t write news copy without reading it in my inner Dave voice. If it sounded like something Dave wouldn’t say, it wasn’t news.
- Dr. Daniel Pound. There’s a separate entry coming one day about the man who taught one of the most philosophically rigorous courses one could devise. Put a dozen or so of the top minds on campus in the same room every week, and let them drill each other for points. Then take potshots at the survivors.
- Sifu John Lewis. One of the most humble, gracious, and generous men you will ever meet. A true martial artist who inspires others to improve themselves in body, mind, and spirit.
- Laura Howe. A dear friend and co-worker, who called me just a few days after the rescheduled colonoscopy to see if I’d ever thought about doing PR for a non-profit…
I’m sure there will be others. And I hope that those I meet will tend to put me in the good list instead of the bad one, should they ever stop to think about it.
So let’s hear from some other people, and there’s no excuse – you’ve got time to get this done before the L-tryptophan high kicks in: Jason Falls, Sarah Wurrey, Cam Beck, Marianne Richmond, and David Armano. You can take the in-depth profile route, or you can catalogue a laundry list of psychological motivators like I have. It’s your turducken now, trim it to taste.
[tags]Ike Pigott, Occam’s RazR, memes, Thanksgiving, influence, Dave Baird, Marilyn Wright, Galen Guess, Sandra Coley, Richard Smack, Joyce Sellers, Daniel Pound, John Lewis, Laura Howe[/tags]