Sunday, June 6, 2010

Being human and the French Revolution

Just finished chapter 3 of Trust Agents. I liked this chapter a lot better than chapter 2, actually. The chapter is called One Of Us, and it's about how a trust agent must learn how to be one with the crowd and how that is a different game from brand evangelism.

A lot of people are talking about "talking human" these days. I already mentioned Harry Gottlieb's webinar about talking human. Avinash Kaushik talked about being human in his recent webinar. And Brogan and Smith also note that the authentic human is the one who will meet a lot of success on the web.

All great revolutions must face a counter-revolution

Turning marketing into a game of human relationships is a revolution of magnificent proportions. Selling by not selling may not be what Ogilvy ever could have envisioned. My love of History tells me one thing though. Any time there is a revolution, a counter-revolution follows. The French Revolution is a great example of this. While people were cutting each others' heads off for fun (and while women were knitting in the front row before the gallows to catch some blood), other counter-revolutionaries were already thinking that maybe this wasn't such a good idea. Out of all of that chaos came Napoleon, who not only wanted to rule France, but he kind of wanted to be Emperor of the whole world. Mexico's history is a patchwork quilt of revolutions and then counter-revolutions. Here in the US, the rebellious sixties were forced to reconcile with the super conservative 80s.

If everyone talks human, is anyone talking human?

A dear friend of mine always says that the words "trust me" are an automatic turn-off for her. For Star Wars fans, "trust me" may call up Han Solo's sort of false confidence too. So here is my question. Let's say that more and more people start following the advice of Brogan and Smith and Kaushik and Gottlieb. Everyone is authentic, everyone is doing you favors, lifting up the noobs, and life on the internet has become a kind of 21st century Pollyanna.

Is anyone really being authentic at that point?

If every person who comments on your blog or starts following you on Twitter ultimately mentions a product or a consultation service, are you going to start to wonder if anyone REALLY is interested in you as a human? Moreover, are YOU doing anything because you are really interested in other peoples' humanity?

I think that the idea of marketing via personal relationships is a wonderful idea, and the way that it's explained in Trust Agents gets no complaint from me. But statistically speaking, this approach is bound to run into a counter-revolution at some point. Maybe people will WANT to know on the front end if you're trying to sell something. Then you can talk about the baseball game.

What do you think? Will the online environment eventually tighten up in reaction to too much touchy-feely? How will that happen? Maybe "that guy" that Brogan and Smith talk about, the one who hands out business cards at every possible moment, maybe "that guy" will become the new Napoleon. You just never know.

Image by Michal Zacharzewski.


Ian M Rountree said...

I'd agree with just about everything here but the "ultimately mentions a product" part. There, I think it's more a matter of direction than anything. A review is not a sales pitch, just as a sincere "You can't live without this" may not be. Or they may. Then, it's a measure of intention and awareness - making the affiliate link to Amazon available is more of an open door than a pitch. Unless it's a pitch.

Or am I off my rocker?

Real Life Mad Man said...

No, you're not off your rocker. I guess what I was saying there is that in the end, a lot of people are trying to build relationships so that they can build opportunities to sell. Eventually, even the most authentic of relationships may come down to a "Oh, well I have a solution to that problem, buddy. Just visit my website."

Does your "buddy" at that point feel betrayed in any way? Do they doubt how authentic you were being the whole time?