Getting Back To Human

Last week, I attended the Vocus users conference here in DC. It was an interesting time for me based on my history with PR both as a blogger who can’t stand PR and a blogger who wants to see PR do well in social media.

There was one session, in particular, where an audience member asked a speaker talking about software that is currently monitoring only main stream media outlets, “What do we do about monitoring and responding to bloggers?”

The response blew me away. “We don’t do anything about bloggers because we haven’t figured them out yet. Until we do, we won’t be doing anything about them.”

The context here being, of course, the software product.

Software developers understand that software is built on complex sets of logic. If this happens, then we do that. If a user clicks here, then this thing is going to happen. The speaker was saying that until bloggers could be broken down into a logical algorithm, the software won’t incorporate blogs.

My snarky response, expressed only in my own mind, is, “We’re human. If you can’t figure out how to approach us as humans instead of machines, maybe you should get out of the public relations business.”

On Friday, Chris Brogan wrote the same thing from the opposite side:

I have an anti-robot stance on Twitter. By that, I mean to say that I don’t want to follow things that aren’t people (with all due respect to Bruce Sterling’s spimes). I just don’t need to add something automated into a place that’s inherently human.

He goes on to say that his anti-robot stance is being challenged because someone who is using an automated posting system is actually offering something of use and now he has a crisis of conscience.

Folks, we’re unnecessarily complicating our lives. Sometimes a bit of common sense is needed to overrule our warped sense of logical rules. PR folks should look at blogger coverage, not in some automated way that has to fit into specific guidelines in order for them to know how to respond. And Chris needs to stop worrying about artificial rules he has created for himself. You made the rule, you can break it.

I have rules on Twitter too. I don’t follow sex-bots. I don’t follow spammy people. I don’t follow people that have disparate ratios of followers-followees. Except for the sexbot rule, I’ve broken every one if I needed to.

I’ve done the same thing with LinkedIn and Facebook.

Rules are made to be broken by sound human rationalization.

Relationship in the Internet World

shashibI have a friend. Up until about a month ago, I only knew him as shashib. I didn’t know much about shashib, except what I observed about him on Twitter. As I observed shashib and interacted with him, I realized he was from the DC metropolitan area and that he was in social media. We had something in common right from the start and so more and more, I engaged shashib as not only a colleague but as a friend. We laughed, joked all in 140 characters or less.

Sometime last month, I met shashib for the first time in person. It was at Social Media Club in Falls Church, Virginia where Jim Long, the cameraman from NBC and the White House Press pool turned social-media mogul, was speaking to the SMC.

After the meeting was over, I introduced myself to shashib and discovered what he does. He works at Network Solutions, the 20th century era domain registrar that still charges $35 for a domain for a year. I don’t particularly like NetSol, but the fact that he worked there didn’t affect my opinion of Shashi (his real name is Shashi Bellamkonda) because he was my friend.

I don’t mean “friend” in the sense of what most of social media has turned into where “friend” is a status symbol of yet another person who you have chosen to follow or who has decided to follow you. I mean, friend, in the 20th century or earlier sense of the world – two humans having common interests and sharing a common bond.

I’ve given Shashi plenty of grief about Network Solutions. How the perception to me is that it is an overpriced solution that doesn’t offer much more than what you can get much cheaper elsewhere. I even gave him grief over last weeks kerfuffle about NetSol’s domain “holding” practice. I did, however, complement NetSol on their domain administration interface, something I have not used in years and is much improved and much more fluid than any other competitor’s that I have experience with.

But this is not about Network Solutions. This is about relationships.

Since last month, I have seen Shashi in person a handful of other times and he is as genuine today as he was before I knew what he did. It’s about relationship, and Shashi is my friend.

Marketing and communications in the internet world today has somewhere gotten lost. Somehow, it has become more about deceptive practices than it has about relationship. It’s become about trying to get you to believe something, regardless of whether it is true. Where is the integrity?

In real life, I wouldn’t expect someone who is a friend to try to deceive me. I would not expect lying or backstabbing. Not from a friend. The solution then for communications professionals to step back and determine what the best ROI for marketing. Is it a deceptive sales pitch, or is it “friendship evangelism”?

If Shashi started trying to sell me on NetSol out of the gate, chances are that today, we would not be friends. Instead, he established a friendship with me and has me seriously considering a little known service of NetSol. How’s that for evangelism?

* Photo Credit to Schmoozing