People in the Real World

robot Sometimes, it’s worth flashing a bit of a public reminder that even though it seems like lots of us are deeply passionate about this space, most folks don’t exactly understand what we’re talking about. That’s because technically, they don’t need what we do to make money and go on with their lives. They’re happy. Take a cab ride and ask them about Twitter. Ask the folks at the grocery store if they’re on LinkedIn. Check and see whether anyone at the local pizza place has a blog.

We tend to forget we’re in the future world. Our little close gooey center is comprised of people who think FriendFeed needs to adapt and improve, while most of our workplaces are still deciding whether to allow instant messenger clients inside the firewall. We blog about iPhone apps and aggregators where most of the world is reading about how digital cable in the US is going to impact folks who still have rabbit ears on their box.

Should You Need to Convert People

Bob: Well–we’ll be safe for now–thank goodness we’re in a bowling alley–but if George here doesn’t get his dinner, any one of us could be next.– from Pleasantville

Try to remember to talk from the human side of the coin. People don’t want to talk about RSS. They want to talk about getting information that matters to them sent to them in a way that makes the most sense. When I talk to small businesses about blogs, I talk about taking their newsletters or email marketing online. Podcasts are radio shows on the Internet.

When talking with people about these technologies, never take that condescending air. As much as we feel excited to be part of this whole social media “thing,” the people who don’t “get it” have all kinds of skills on board that we may or may not have. I met a master salesman this year who sells products that cost more than double my annual salary. He’s reasonably new to social media and the web, but he could teach me more about qualifying, prospecting, nurturing, and closing a sale than I could about blogging.

Believe in how these technologies make the world different, but always seek ways to tie it all back to the current world. There are more and more mainstream media types spending time learning about Twitter. We had Jim Long years ago, and he got it years ago. Now, others are coming. Don’t scorn them for coming from the current world. Show them how they can integrate and adapt, if they show curiosity.

Internet Fame is Lame Outside our Sphere

If ever I’m in risk of getting a big head about my status on the web, I need do nothing more than stand up at whichever coffee shop has my money that day and say loudly, “Do you know who I am?” The answer will be “no” every time. As cool as I feel for being friends with lots of great authors and bloggers and people who make amazing media, I can’t ring up Jay Leno’s assistant and get on the Tonight Show (maybe Gary can, but he’s special).

And in the office? If you’re the sole “person who gets it” at a company, that’s great, but if you’re wearing that as a badge of some kind, get over yourself. I’m sure the people who knew more than everyone else at desktop publishing and the people who were the best CD-ROM authors are waiting to hang out with you. You know about tools. That’s great, but it’s not the magic.

Be the Bridge

Want big points in my book (and in lots of people’s books)? Be the person who helps a community of others get it, too. Be Beth Kanter, patron saint of non-profit tech. Be Phil Baumann, RN, blogging about social media and nursing. Be Glenda Watson Hyatt writing the Accessibility 100 to teach people like her (Glenda blogs with ONE thumb, people) how to open the world back up. Be Becky McCray, who knows everything from ranching, to running a liquor store, to safari adventures (check her Flickr), to how to teach small businesses everything they need to know about “regular” small business, and a bit about this Internet stuff.

Be Jon Swanson, out there helping with Church 2.0. Be Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness sharing their passion for reading and books. Be Chris Webb, sharing how publishers see the world. Be Liz Strauss, who is working hard to show bloggers how to be business people over the coming years (and that relates to this post, doesn’t it?).

Share the living HELL out of the humanity and the real world-ness that goes into being a blogger and a technologist and someone from the future. Because what you know WILL change the way people live, and it’ll work a whole hell of a lot better if you help people get there, instead of maintaining that strange distance.

Teach. Connect. Bridge. Humanize. Human-size. Make it about the people who carry the fire down from the mountain, not the fire itself.


Photo credit, Steve Keys

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