Blocking and tackling social media distractions

I speak to plenty of young people to whom Facebook is like email –something they leave on and check every few minutes. But they are chatting on other channels as well. If you look carefully some folks even check their phones for incoming mail at …church.

So the question I get asked is, whether TMS (too much socialnetworking) is killing our attention. How do you read a 300-page book, how do you watch a 2-hour movie, or listen to a keynote speaker without instinctively reaching out to your laptop or phone to comment/share/snipe?

We adults have a similar problem –TMI (too much incoming). nearly every Blackberry user I speak to complains of being a few hundreds of emails behind. I knew someone who two years ago, would tune out a speaker at a small-group discussion(for 10 – 15 minutes) just to respond to his incoming mail. It was embarrassing to watch!

I’ve been running into many people calling time out, addressing TMS and TMI. Two names you may recognize.

Joel Spolsky, writer for Inc. Magazine. In his last column, he analyzes why Too Much Communication is killing us.

Now, we all know that communication is very important, and that many organizational problems are caused by a failure to communicate. Most people try to solve this problem by increasing the amount of communication: cc’ing everybody on an e-mail, having long meetings and inviting the whole staff, and asking for everyone’s two cents before implementing a decision.

And Seth Godin, railing against Incoming.

That email, Facebook and message queue is a lot longer than it used to be. For some people, it’s now a hundred or even a thousand distinct social electronic interactions a day. It’s as if a genie is whispering in your ear, “I have an envelope, and it might contain really good or really bad news. Want to open it?”

It’s time to stop letting the genie take over our lives. It’s time to put the brakes ion email; to stop taking notes, to pay attention to the speaker. It’s time to join the conversation happening in front of you first.

The other conversations (online) could wait a few minutes couldn’t it?

Meatball Sundae revisited?

“Social technology smoke -don’t breathe it,” says the Will it blend guy Tom Dickson in a conversation with Josh Bernoff, author of Groundswell.

The two throw in a handful of ‘technologies’ including flash drives, toothpicks, video camera etc and blend them. The smoke and dust left behind become a perfect backdrop for Bernoff’s line about picking just one objective and choosing your technologies carefully.

Where did we come across this message –with a kitchen metaphor –before? It’s a more dramatic version of Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae, which essentially cautioned folks about the unappetizing results of badly mixing social media.

Taste testing ‘Meatball Sundae’

The Church of the customer’s Jackie Huba put Meatball Sundae into practice. Meaning actually building the disgusting mashup of meatballs, ice cream and toppings –and tasting it.

Watch the video clip here.

If you haven’t read Seth Godin’s book, here’s a summary: Loading new media (the toppings) on top of a commodity (meatballs) tastes yuck, has an awful texture, and terrible results. Seth, as always, has the recipe for creating a better menu item.

For the taste test, Huba smothered the following toppings on meatballs:

  • Chocolate syrup –representing blogs
  • Whipped Cream –representing Facebook and MySpace
  • Sprinkles –representing YouTube

You can expect what it tasted like…

Barry Kluger on finding your niche, taking risks

“Who wants to hear from a PR person who spins stories for a living?” That was Barry Kluger‘s rhetorical question to a class of film students at ASU last Thursday. In case you haven’t heard of him or read his column in the Arizona Republic now and then, Kluger is the managing partner of the Kluger Media Group here in the Valley. (Formerly handling corporate communications and PR at Prodigy Inc. and before that at VHI.)

Kluger was there to get students fired up about entrepreneurship, and how to break into the market dominated by big ticket names such as Disney.

Kluger made some good points, specifically:

“If you can’t beat them, quit. Go beat the other guy.”
Seth Godin fans will find this slightly reminiscent of some of the arguments in his latest book, the dip, as in “Winners quit fast, quit often, and quit without guilt-until they commit to beating the right Dip for the right reasons.”)

“Creativity has no residency, no locale.”

“Don’t try to out-Disney Disney.”

“It’s all about finding the right audience.”

Kluger came back to PR now and then, to put an asterisk on the craft that he stressed will only get you so far unless you take risks, push the envelope. “Try a few stunts, do something different,” he urged, and left off with this gem:

“He who whispers down the well
about the things he has to sell
will never make as many dollars
as he who climbs the tree and hollers.”

Do portfolios matter?

How do you evaluate a Creative person you are about to hire?

I once told someone that the best way to judge a Creative is not from a portfolio, but to ask the candidate what’s on his/her wall space.

At the risk of being simplistic, I like to say that creative people fall into two categories. Those who put up project lists on their wall (so that they stay on top of things,) and those that have all kinds of stimulating material (so as to stay connected to things.)

Unlike a portfolio, that many of us maintain in analog or digital formats (or both,) a work space cannot be faked. At least not for a long time. The former displays a great sense of order: neatly stacked folders, pencils in place, and zero coffee stains on their desks. Also this: bland work. The moment you see “trophies” dominating the workspace you know there’s something else about the person’s work style. I’m not talking of awards on the filing cabinet, but framed artwork (of aforementioned bland work,) that shout “I’ve made this happen. Respect me. Kneel down before me..”

But there’s another kind of creative. The person who rips out an ad or a quote from Wired and pins it on the wall because it sparks something. Someone who brings back odd bits and bobs from a hike, a picture of funny sign, a made-up word from Seth Godin scrawled on a sticky note, a URL that he/she cannot stop talking about…

This is the kind of person I was reminded of when I came across this brilliant post by David Armano of Digitas about an “Information Architect.”

He cites Tim Brown of Ideo who calls this new kind of creative person a “T-shaped” person. Fits perfectly with my “portfolios are dead –giveaways” theory.

“We look for people who are so inquisitive about the world that they’re willing to try to do what you do. We call them “T-shaped people.” They have a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the T — they’re mechanical engineers or industrial designers. But they are so empathetic that they can branch out into other skills, such as anthropology, and do them as well. They are able to explore insights from many different perspectives and recognize patterns of behavior that point to a universal human need. That’s what you’re after at this point — patterns that yield ideas.”

Empathetic. Universal. Approachable. If only the world had more of these types.