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Posts Tagged ‘Here Comes Everybody

Why Honesty is Catnip for Collaboration

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In Class Today: Here’s Where I Failed

I first encountered “fail faster” in Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody. In that book it started to make sense to me that getting something right was a goal, but perhaps not the first goal. Maybe I saw traces of “fail faster” in The Cluetrain Manifesto. As a writer I knew I had to write many (verily: many, many) drafts before I started to approach the thing I really wanted to say. I also knew that the work of moving toward that thing I wanted to say was built on failure after failure, and that each failure left me with something closer to what I intended. Each step in the work shaped the next step in the work And each step in the work also shaped the one doing the work.

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motivational pictures

In our Social Media Marketing class last week students presented their critique of their community-building activities (we publish content to define and attract the student’s desired target audience). Midway through these presentations I remembered why I love this day so much. There is an honesty to it. Students describe what they’ve used blogs and Twitter and Facebook (and Instagram and Pinterest and Reddit) and other tools to create for the past six weeks. They show successes. They describe failures. They talk about what they would do differently. In some cases they reimagine the entire exercise for themselves and their team. And sometimes I can see the seeds of a much larger purpose. Sometimes it is quite clear that this person’s passion will push them toward building this community for a long, long time.

And then we discuss failure. Truly, these are fascinating moments in the Q&A that follows each presentation. The great news: everyone fails. Not the course, but in building the grand vision they set out to build. Six weeks in they realize how they could have adjusted their purpose, how they could have set more clearly defined metrics to reach very specific goals. Some realize they did not give it their best shot but instead rushed through and sort of wasted their moments of contact with their target audience. Some realized they could make a solid point with 350 words when they came into the class needing at least 1000 words. Some realized their target audience lived over in an odd unlit corner of the Interweb and this other particular tool would have faithfully delivered them to this audience.

The Big Reveal: It isn’t until you try to actually build something real, with real people  and real purposes toward a real end, that you realize life doesn’t not just coalesce around your pet purpose. In fact, this shouting into a crowded, noisy concert hall that is social media must be very deliberate for even the smallest thing to happen. And I mean even the tiniest purpose to move forward.

And as we detail our failures together (I have my own dozens of examples to share), new ideas pop to the surface and classmates who had not talked with each other are now offering ideas and are engaged in the purposes of this other community.

It’s the honesty bit that pulls in collaboration—the telling it like it is. The missing the high mark in a major way that when shared, evokes collaboration rather than pity.

That seems like a solid life lesson to me.

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There’s Power in Connecting. Yet Most of us Remain Spectators.

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The Stakes are Higher to Trigger Action

It’s easy to get all optimistic about how social media can changes things. That’s where Clay Shirky was when he wrote Here Comes Everybody. He cited (among many examples) how people organized using social media to demanded accountability from the Catholic Church hierarchy as the priest sexual abuse scandal opened (turns out the 60’s were to blame, and the church is all beyond that now, thank you. Somebody bought some great research!). Shirky’s book carried an optimistic tone that continually wondered at what was possible when we start connecting.

And many of us are training ourselves to read reviews of products before we buy. The thinking is that the opinion of several people we don’t know is more accurate than product advertising issued by the marketer. So smart marketers are learning to plant negative reviews along with positive.

And, of course, we’re watching people organize in Iran, Tunisia, Egypt and Syria to oust the corrupt leaders. So it’s just one small step to thinking about the awesome power we have when we connect: power to overthrow decades old monarchs, power to hold authority accountable, power to see through marketing hype.

But Groundswell by Li and Bernoff helps cool that optimism to a more realistic pitch. Their Social Technographic Profile lets you pick a demographic and get a hint of how they interact with social media. And what you’ll see is that most people are spectators, independent of demographic profile. Most of us watch. From the sidelines. Which surprises no one: take any organization and you’ll find most people watching.

The lesson is not to despair of our tendency to be spectators. The lesson is to find and create an irresistible magnetic pull around the things that are most important.

The stakes are much higher for getting and retaining attention.

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Passion is the Preferred Communication Tool

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"Hair cut? Meet you in your parking lot in 15."

"Haircut, please." "Meet me in your lot in 15."

Clay Shirky, writing in “Here Comes Everybody,” argues effectively that with the lower transaction costs for forming groups (caused by social media), there are more possibilities than ever to pull a group together for most any reason. Dan Pink wrote yesterday of a social media-driven mobile hair-cuttery he saw at Google headquarters. Whether your focus is major profits, minor prophets or mingling in Provence, there are all sorts of new opportunities for banding together around a passion. All it takes is strategic use of the tools freely available, plus the willingness to reach out.

I’m asking my Writing for Community class to brainstorm the contours of the opportunity before them as they seek to build communities. With a passionate leader encouraging group sharing, what sorts of things are possible? We’re already seeing examples every day, from the high-schooler who tried to get released from being grounded by amassing thousands of fans on her Facebook page (her parents remained unimpressed) to the seemingly spontaneous “I’m with Coco” protests.

Depth of passion may well be the limiting factor. Just what am I willing to do to make my point? How far out will I reach?

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