The Hand Carried Letter

letter carrier The whole idea of how we exchange information in this social world is on my mind. In short, we rely on each other more than ever to share information, and we rely on these human exchanges to relate news, marketing, and other informational communication. Further, we rely on people to share in a reasonable and equitable and value-centered way.

If that’s true, and I believe it is, we have to really think about how we share, how we make our requests, and about what Dr. Stephen R. Covey called the “emotional bank account?” How can we share information beyond the first person? Let’s talk about the hand-carried letter.

The Hand-Carried Letter

In some ways, as we’ve shifted to this ubiquitous distribution world, where I can be a video maker, a radio host, a newspaper, a book, and a public speaker all from my couch, something else shifted as well. In a world where everyone can distribute information, that means there’s lots more information. That means data at Jackson Pollock velocity. Too much too read means much more goes unread.

We need “the hand-carried letter.”

A hand-carried letter means to me that the person choosing to share information with me believes in what she is sharing, and believes that it’s something I want to know about.

Think about the mail in your inbox (or clogging your social channels). Think about the mail you’re sending. Can you say this about the information you’re choosing to share?

Sharing and The Tax on Friendship

As time passes, we rely on our friends to vet and share information. Let’s use “friends” to include business colleagues, online personalities we’ve come to trust (me?), and others who we believe to have a handle on things. We look to these people for information that has already been considered once.

Example: I learn about the real time web from Louis Gray. I don’t even bother reading about it from other sources any more. When PR people send me info that seems like something Louis will cover, I either tell them to see Louis, or I delete and wait for Louis to cover it.

Example: I learn about interesting, thought-provoking books from Whitney Hoffman and Ann and Michael. I might or might not get other sources for this, but I trust the hand-carried letter of what Whitney and Ann and Michael are sharing.

But what about when people need something to travel far? Lots of us seem to have causes and needs and businesses to promote online. We have things we think are important, but sharing this information and spreading it requires that we find people who think it’s interesting enough to hand-carry to their audiences, their communities, their constituent masses.

Asking our friends to share things is a tax. If every person alive has what Dr. Stephen R. Covey calls an “emotional bank account” between us, this asking requires a small withdrawal. If things are going well between two people, and/or if the “ask” isn’t too big, this tax is small. But what if someone starts asking you to share every little thing all the time? Or, what if the person asking doesn’t really have much stored up in the emotional bank account between you? Just because you *can* reach me via email or Twitter doesn’t mean I support your causes. Right? How does your multiple asking tax those loosely-joined friendships? It taxes them at a much higher rate, is the answer.

It adds up quickly.

Ensuring Prompt Delivery

Thus, in this environment, we have to do several things, if we’re to rely on friends and loosely-joined connections to deliver hand-carried letters for us.

  • Give much more frequently than you ask. This gives others a better feeling about who you are and what you do for the space at large.
  • Share without being asked, when you consider information good. This builds up points in one’s emotional bank account (we talk about this in our pending book, Trust Agents, by the way).
  • Make the requests simple, infrequent, and brief. (If you make it hard for me to share, why should I?)
  • Ask only when you need it most. Asking others to share every little thing taxes the relationship.
  • Don’t seek hand-carried letter service if you’re really intending a mass-mail message.
  • Build your information such that it’s “hand-carried” friendly (brief, portable, shareable, addressable (with a URL).
  • Thank people for sharing, as often as you can.

What’s Your Take?

Does this resonate? How do you see the information sharing world changing? What does this mean for you or your business?

Photo Credit the consumerist

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