You Are Not Late (And Neither Are They)

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.