Jeff Pulver and friends put on another great show when the traveling Real-Time Web Carnival, also known as The 140 Conference, came to town a couple weeks back. AOL’s Tim Armstrong, Ann Curry, Cory Booker and Deepak Chopra were among the headliners. Other speakers were refreshingly new to the digerati stage as Mr. Pulver is known for being inclusive, open-minded and eccentric. At different times, graffiti artists and the cop who supports them, a sixth grade teacher and his students, a neuroscientist, a beat poet and a bombshell, all took to the stage. For two days, one presenter, or panel, told unique tales about the power of social media in 15 minutes. Then Oscar speech music swept people off like the Apollo sandman.
The “real time” theme is what I pondered the most as I would look up from my blackberry (no iPhone, don’t judge) from time to time to see the bowed heads of the audience, tapping their devices, desperately trying to tweet the best quip or summation ending, of course, in #140conf. But can you be really be offline and online at the same time? And if you try for both does it take away from both considerably?
I found the speakers that I responded to were the ones who, in so many words, were reminding us that we are humans. What a funny thing to have to be reminded of. One speaker told us to put down our devices just for couple minutes so he could talk about how to listen. I’d say half the audience complied. Tim Armstrong talked about how offline is the new online. Deepak Chopra talked in depth about how are bodies are physically reacting to new technologies (with a wink to Marshall McLuhan).
What is right in front of us is becoming the most valuable because we are forgetting about it. And those who can hang on to the human element while still being an early adopter will be better people, and by that virtue, better marketers. They will cut through the noise simply by applying common courtesies: don’t’ interrupt, don’t talk over people and don’t only talk about yourself.
Most of the 140 Conference speakers didn’t have powerpoints with bulleted top tips for a good social media campaign. They had little in the way of case studies. They didn’t bog me down with buzzwords or try to scare me by telling me that everything I’m doing is DEAD. These people made me feel present and told me to be myself. “Be Yourself,” is an old adage for individuals, but now that media is forced to be social, brands have to be human and this is new wisdom.
Too often the people we are trying to connect with online get lost in our strategies, plans and presentations. Do we honestly think people are sitting around waiting to hear about our new YouTube channel? No. They don’t care. The next time you draft a tweet to your followers ask yourself, would anyone care? Am I talking to myself or just my colleagues? What value am I adding to the community or anyone’s life?
My favorite speaker had laryngitis and she gave a speech entitled “How to Get Peopleto Do What You Want.” I could hardly hear her, but I strained to do so. Even with this huge obstacle in her way, she managed to make jokes and give a great speech. She came off as dedicated, flawed and real. She talked about how no one wants to only hear about you and how that’s not a conversation. Again, being a person 101, but in this context of social media marketing, it’s the ultimate lesson. Be yourself, be real and people will listen. They might even go to great lengths to do so.