robin-williams

Imagine you’re at a party, and you’re watching a football game.

Every time the Broncos score, a riotous cheer breaks out. Drunk 40-somethings trying to recapture their inner frat boys scream “YEEEEEEEAH!!!” a lot. Everyone’s loving the game.

In calmer moments, people are tossing around stories. They’re cracking jokes. There’s a lot of good-natured ribbing.

Then something terrible happens. Let’s say somebody has a seizure.

The paramedics come. They get the guy onto a gurney. The ambulance drives off into the night.

The door closes behind them. There’s a few moments of stunned silence. And then the conversation explodes.

“I can’t believe that happened.”

“I hope he’s okay.”

“Has somebody called his family?”

The Broncos score again. Nobody’s paying attention. Then somebody shouts from the kitchen, “YEEEEEEEAH!!!”

Oh, man.

Last night, the news broke that Robin Williams had passed away, and that his death is presumed a suicide.

Twitter was awash with shock, and grieving, and very public pain. You couldn’t keep up with the hashtags. When I checked, eight out of the 10 trending topics were Robin Williams RIP, or the title one of his movies.

People were posting quotes, and movie clips, and pictures. A lot of people were in a lot of pain, and they were grieving and mourning among their friends. Even Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus found something decent to say.

For a few hours, almost everything you saw was Robin, or a link to a suicide hotline.

Either that, or a scheduled marketing tweet.

  • “I’m featured on XYZ today!”
  • “You can’t risk outliving your retirement savings. Growth investing is a necessary response to longevity risk.”
  • “[BRAND] is about helping people find out who THEY really are, then BEING THAT unapologetically, without guilt. Follow [BRAND] and RT” [that means retweet]
  • “How Social Media Changed The Hiring Process”
  • “COME TO OUR FREE WEBINAR.”
  • “If you’re planning a trip to [town] you don’t want to miss our [guide to the town]!!”
  • “I’m offering FREE coaching sessions!”
  • “We’ve got a great podcast coming out tomorrow! Watch this space!”
  • “Is delivery included in your book print quote? We include all foreseeable costs.”

At one point in the process, Peter Shankman (kind of a Twitter big shot) said this:

“That this still needs to be said is ridiculous. Brands: PAUSE YOUR DAMN SCHEDULED TWEETS.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, he’s referring to the fact that most of those tweets I listed up there were not written and posted live. They were scheduled far in advance through software that lets you post updates to social media platforms while you’re not online.

At the time of this writing, 35 people retweeted his comment, and 65 marked it as a favorite. But some people weren’t so sure. Some responses:

  • “I was going to say that, but I’m torn. I know how I personally feel, but is this a national tragedy on par with, say, Boston?”
  • “Legit question… why? Sure pull any inappropriate or awkward ones, and it is very sad, but should commerce stop for a death?”
  • “agree with [person up there]. Very very sad and tragic loss but too subjective to make that kind of definitive call.”
  • “this is NOT anywhere near that level… Life goes on.”

“That level”? Oh, man.

Automated social media updating is a big thing.

It has been for quite a while. There are a lot of people quite happy to take your money – sometimes a lot of it – to give you the opportunity to look like you’re active on social media when you’re really not.

Hootsuite calls itself “the #1 Social Relationship Platform.”

Buffer is “the easiest way to publish on social media.”

With Edgar, “you can finally break the never-ending cycle of writing and posting new updates”. They’ll charge you $600 a year – or $5300 if you’re a business – to let you schedule and repeat the same tweets, over and over, forever.

Letting you tweet when you’re not tweeting is big business.

For a lot of brands, this is how the world works now. This is what social media is to them. And they are entitled to that. You can use social media however you want to.

(One person responding to Shankman’s comment said, “last night local cbs affiliate in stl was auto posting about Miley Cyrus during the looting and riots… multiple times…”. Even news outlets do it.)

But it’s probably prudent to look at social media like a social gathering.

When somebody dies and everyone finds themselves at a social gathering, the feel of the party changes.

When somebody dies and people are crying, ads don’t feel nice.

That doesn’t mean it’s immoral to advertise when somebody is dead. It doesn’t mean your brand will collapse. There is no official line before which marketing is okay, and after which it’s verboten.

I don’t think anybody likes the people arguing in public over whether somebody was a “big enough deal” to warrant a flag flying at half mast, and the same applies here. The aftermath of someone’s passing is not the time to engage in public debate.

Let’s not argue. Let’s have a bit of empathy.

Empathy is defined as “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.”

That means understanding grieving people don’t really want to think about your webinar. Should doesn’t matter. They’re hurting, and they don’t want to see it.

Part of succeeding in parties is reading the feel of the party. It’s hard to do that when you’re not there.

I don’t really blame brands for not getting “the rules”. “The rules” are subtle and ever changing. They apply here, but not there. Then, but not now. Corporate is breathing down everybody’s neck to “get on social” and corporate has never really been all that great at feeling the pulse of the people.

So what do we do about the Broncos fan?

Should he be tarred and feathered? Should we boycott him? Should we ban him from all further gatherings?

Of course not.

But we might want to view him as a cautionary tale and do our best to avoid cheering and joking and laughing when something has gone horribly wrong.

Canceling our scheduled tweets might be a good place to start.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

You are not late
I was reading a blog post this morning on a blog that had comments enabled. The writer asked a question at the end of the piece, and asked readers to give their opinion in the comments section.

The answers were all pretty chummy – you could tell that the commenters were all regulars and they seemed to all know each other – but one particular response really stood out to me.

“I’ve already addressed this on Facebook so I won’t answer it here.”

She went on to give positive feedback on other peoples’ answers, but she didn’t give her own.

There was a very humble feel to it, like she doesn’t want to bug people or make a nuisance of herself.

I see this a lot. Not all the time, but often enough that it bears talking about.

This commenter is making a reasonable seeming assumption and it was really hurting her chances at expanding her reach. She was making the assumption that everybody had already read her thoughts and wouldn’t want to read them again.

She is making the assumption that everyone who might be interested is a.) on Facebook, b.) on HER Facebook, and c.) reading this in real time.

The unconscious assumption is that because her whole world is on Facebook, that means THE whole world is on HER Facebook.

But I’m reading her comment on a website that is not Facebook, 10 months after it was written. And now I don’t know what she thinks, because I can’t see it and I can’t find it and I’m a little sad, for her and for me.

This is the same thinking that led me to take my first product off the market, losing me several thousand dollars in the process. “Everybody’s already seen it,” I thought. “I’d feel annoying if I kept talking about it. Everybody would get irritated.”

My email list at the time was 1/40th the size it is now. 2.5%. But I took it down because “everybody” had already seen it.

What I meant, of course, was “my current everybody”. It just didn’t occur to me that “everybody” might get bigger.

This is totally understandable.

It’s normal. Human animals are animals, and we give more weight to our senses than we do to our predictions. We sense these people, so we give weight to them. We don’t tend to think of people we can’t see.

But we forget that these interchanges are not private conversations. We feel their intimacy, their camaraderie, and their closeness, and our brains mis-associate intimacy with privacy.

If they were private conversations, our instinct to avoid repeating ourselves would be correct and genuinely self-protecting. Yes, if you say the same thing to the people who already know it, over and over, you’re going to look like maybe there’s something wrong with you upstairs.

“Hi. I’m Naomi. I run IttyBiz.com, a marketing training website for very small business owners.”

That is a very reasonable thing to say at a networking luncheon.

It’s not a very reasonable to say it at the beginning of my next BIG LAUNCH Office Hours session, seven months into the course. Or at brunch with my brother. Or when my son comes in looking for a glass of juice.

So, no. You don’t want to state the obvious to people who are already well aware of it.

But in a public forum, not everybody is well aware of it, and it is therefore not obvious. Maybe everybody the writer could SEE was well aware of it. All the other commenters who they see every day may be well aware of it. But what about the few thousand people who aren’t?

I assume the comment writer wanted them, too, or they wouldn’t be using the website field to link back to a squeeze page. (A squeeze page is “a landing page created to solicit opt-in email addresses from prospective subscribers.”)

If we want to expand our circle, we must learn to compose ourselves publicly in a way that does not presuppose everyone present is already in our circle.

You are not late. And they are not late, either.

Kevin Kelly, writer of the famed 1000 True Fans, wrote a new piece lately called “You Are Not Late“. He’s talking about how everybody thinks they’re too late to “do something” on the internet.

“Thirty years later the internet feels saturated, bloated, overstuffed with apps, platforms, devices, and more than enough content to demand our attention for the next million years.”

He’s referring here to innovation, but let’s apply what he’s talking about to audiences and reach.

“But, but…here is the thing. In terms of the internet, nothing has happened yet. The internet is still at the beginning of its beginning.”

Let us consider the implications of this.

If we are still at the beginning of the beginning, there is lots more to come.

So people discovering you today – people who are reading you or friending you or hanging out with you – are really only the beginning of the beginning of the people who will come.

That means you might want to practice learning to say your piece, even if you’ve said it before.

So! Thinking assignment for the day:

There are two variations of this assignment.

Variation one, for people who read that story, cringed, and thought, “Oh my God, I SO do that.”

How would you act if you didn’t assume everybody already knew you? Think of behavioral changes, not philosophical ones. How do you act in social media? Your blog? Do your sales pages read like everybody already knows the story?

Variation two, for people for whom this is not generally a problem.

How could you include newcomers more? Could you make it a little easier for them to not be newcomers anymore? See if you can stretch yourself a little here.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.

Sheep!

You know how everyone’s always telling you that you’ve got to polarize your audience? (FYI for those who are new to online business: Everyone’s going to tell you that you’ve got to polarize your audience.)

The basic principle behind this mandate is that, through effective polarization, your fans become Capital F SUPERFANS and your foes are… well, who cares about those losers they probably live in their mother’s basement I hope they rot in a gutter BOO!!!!

(That’s not what people say. Well, not most of them, anyway. But it’s what they mean.)

The idea is that if you are True To You And Your Truthiest Truth (TM), your bestest, BFF besties will be drawn to you like moths to a flame and you can just be yourself for a living, forever and ever. It doesn’t always work out that way, but that’s the idea.

One of the blogs I read religiously is Mystic Medusa.

She’s an astrologer, and it seems she was born with the intuitive understanding of the difference between polarity and completely unnecessary offensiveness. (Alternatively, she might be offensive to everyone on earth but me. But she has 60,000 Facebook fans, which says at least a few people feel like I do.)

Mystic changes the names of astrological signs, and blogs several times a day, and has a dictionary that does not resemble yours or mine. (The most notable and frequent of her words is fuq, which means exactly what you think it means.)

Anyway, astrology is kooky work, and she attracts people who are similarly in lines of kooky work, and she got an email question that I will share here since you may also be in a line of kooky work.

Hey MM!

I am curious to know what you do when you bump into everyday Muggles who ask what your profession is. Do you say ‘Astrologer’ or give another stock answer that doesn’t invite controversy and makes your life easier for you? If you DO say ‘astrologer’, what’s your stock response if they roll their eyes and say something rude and judgmental about ” that ‘astronomy stuff’ is all made-up baloney?”

The reason I ask is because I’ve worked as a psychic / intuitive counsellor for 10 years and I still COMPLETELY STRUGGLE to admit my occupation, even when filling out a simple clipboard form, let alone when faced with The Inquisition at a dinner party. I know I need to own what I do, accept myself and fuq what people think, but any tips from yourself — someone who’s been out there bravely living her truth decades longer than me — would really be appreciated.

x Cuddly Cancerian

(“Muggles” refers to the Harry Potter book series. According to the good folks at Wikipedia, “a muggle is a person who lacks any sort of magical ability and was not born into the magical world. [They] are often portrayed as foolish, sometimes befuddled characters who are completely ignorant of the Wizarding world that exists in their midst.”)

I loved Mystic’s answer, which you should go read if you’re into that kind of thing, but there’s one particular comment on the post that led me to write this here article today. I shall quote it here:

“I think it’s totally OK to be authentic about your occupation, without being attached to other people’s opinion of the profession. Who cares what Muggles think?”

She goes on to be very cool and compassionate, so I’m not ragging on the comment, but the point she raises is one that needs attention.

Who cares what Muggles think?

I went to 13 schools growing up. I skipped three grades. I had a funny accent.

I was a little chubby. I didn’t grow breasts until long past the allowable window. I had hairy legs by age eight and was not allowed to shave them.

My father had strong opinions on what was fashionable and ladylike, and those opinions did not match up with the opinions of my peers. (Wikipedia defines pedal pushers as “calf-length trousers that were popular during the 1950s and the early 1960s.” This was 1992.)

On weekends, I worked at my family’s farmer’s market stall, hand-selling ethnic food, carney barker style. (“Mustard! Mustard and coleslaw! Get your condiments right here!”)

One September, I wore eyeshadow to the back-to-school dance and when I got caught, I was terrified, and I lied about it. My punishment, to remind me that I was still a little girl, was that I had to wear pigtails every day for the remainder of seventh grade.

I was a FREAK.

“Who cares what they think?” is something we say to freaks a lot.

“Who cares?” is a funny expression.

It has a couple of meanings and they oppose each other.

On one hand, “Who cares?” is as show of support. It’s a “Don’t worry, we support you”. It’s a bit of a shoulder slap, a “don’t let the bastards grind you down”, a thumbs up. The speaker wants you to know they’re on your team.

On the other hand, it’s laced with subtextual judgment. It says that smart people don’t care. It says “people like me don’t care”. It says you shouldn’t care – and you really should know that by now.

It’s what people who aren’t in pain say to those who are, especially when the pain is the awkward kind that makes everybody uncomfortable. Or it’s what they say when they’re in pain, too, but if they acknowledge your pain, they’ll have to acknowledge their own, and that simply won’t do. “Who cares what they think? Pass the potato salad!”

But should you care?

I see some pretty freaky people in my line of work. My business is about the least freaky thing I’ve ever done, ironically enough, but I work with a lot of freaks. And freaks, in my experience, tend toward the Sensitive Soul end of the human spectrum.

The commentor on Mystic’s post said “I think it’s totally OK to be authentic about your occupation, without being attached to other people’s opinion of the profession.” She raises a good point. The Buddhists believe that attachment is the source of pain, and I think they’re on to something. Being attached to acceptance or positive opinions is probably going to bring you a world of hurt.

But I’m not sure that caring is attachment, and I’m also not sure our Cuddly Cancerian was dealing with an attachment issue anyway. If she’s like most of the people I teach, I would say she’s not seeking acceptance. I would say she’s not attached to their high opinion of her. I would say she’s not caring, she’s hurting.

I would say she wilts when she’s around mean, negative, judgmental energy. I would say she’s an intuitive counselor, and that requires a high level of attunement and sensitivity. I would say her high attunement and sensitivity makes being around eye-rollers and judgers and Inquisitors a form of passive torture. I would say she probably finds the negativity suffocating.

To sensitive people, being hit psychically is the same as being hit physically.

To say “Who cares?” about a punch to the psyche makes about as much sense as saying “Who cares?” about a punch to the kidney. It’s not about caring. It’s about hurting.

And “sensitive people” is not a euphemism for “hippies and psychics and people who know what HSP stands for”. Even tough guys are sensitive to certain things and certain people.

Nobody’s ever going to call my handsome, bad boy colleague up there a Cuddly Cancerian, but when his then-wife rolled her eyes when he got his first big client? Yeah, I’d say he was a little sensitive to that.

But if we listen to the Don’t Care Brigade, he shouldn’t have cared. Who cares what she thinks? Right? RIGHT?

I hope not. I don’t want to live in a world where husbands aren’t supposed to care what their wives think.

See, when most people say “care” in this context, it’s a colloquialism. “Care” means “hurt”. When they say you shouldn’t care, they tend to mean you shouldn’t hurt.

So should you care?

I’m not sure the question even makes sense. Not the way it’s asked, anyway.

If “care” means “be attached to”, well, sure. You might want to work on avoiding being attached to any more than absolutely necessary. If I’m attached to what you think of this article, I’m opening up that world of hurt, and there’s not really a lot of value in that.

But if “care” means “be affected by”, I’m not sure should comes into it. Should you be affected when you’re kicked in the kidney? Should you be affected when your foot gets run over by a milk truck? Should you be affected by suffocating negativity?

It really doesn’t matter.

What matters is that you are affected.

And if there’s anything you might want to teensy weensy try to not care about, it’s all those people telling you that you shouldn’t care.

About the author: Naomi Dunford started IttyBiz in 2006. In her free time, she likes to… ha! Free time. You’re adorable. Learn more about her here and catch up with her on Twitter or Facebook.