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Stop Listening To Chris Brogan, Get Off Twitter, Play Dumb, And Other Smart Marketing Advice

By March 30, 2012July 8th, 2014Marketing Insights & Strategy
Stop Listening To Chris Brogan, Get Off Twitter, Play Dumb, And Other Smart Marketing Advice

So I’m in the middle of writing a one-liner for a marketing campaign and I think I’ve hit on something totally hilarious and brilliant. I share it with Ralph, all beaming-like, ready for him to think I’ve struck marketing gold.

And he says… wait for it…

“Nobody is going to understand that.”

I’m dumbfounded. But… it’s hilarious. I launch into an explanation of the how-can-you-be-so-dense variety and he interrupts.

I get it. But nobody else will. It’s an inside joke.”

I blink for a while, sort of pissed that he doesn’t like my idea, but reluctantly I have to admit that it is inside, and geeky, in that “I spend a ridiculous amount of time in front of my computer and when I’m not doing that I’m on my iPhone” way.

Besides shoving me back to the drawing board, the experience sparked a broader thought process, about my ability to connect with people outside of my personal and professional bubble and about the singularly focused viewpoint it’s so easy to adopt when you’re passionate about a particular thing.

And once I’d become self-consciously geeky and inadvertently indsidery, I started seeing warning signs everywhere that maybe I needed to get out of my bubble for a while and see what the rest of the world was doing.

If you know a little bit about me, by now you probably know that my thought processes are usually followed by many, many words. These are those words, and hopefully they can bring you a different perspective and get you thinking outside the bubble, too. The success and growth of your business depends on it.

Get Out Of The Echo Chamber

Figured I’d start here, since the first thing I told you to do was to stop listening to Chris Brogan. And while you’re at it, that goes for Amy Porterfield and Guy Kawasaki and all those other people who make marketers swoon when they speak and flat-out faint when they retweet us.

Heck, stop listening to me! (wait… just finish this post first…)

Don’t get me wrong. These people are all great and I join their webinars and buy their books and watch their videos. They are passionate about what they do and quite fabulously good at it. Which is exactly why you need to take a vacation from them.

Take their authority in a subject area (I want to learn that!) plus social proof (everyone else wants to learn that!) and you’ve got a pretty powerful combination of factors that has a major impact on our thinking and our behavior. I’m sure everyone in the group I mentioned would have gotten my joke. But they’re not my target audience, are they? (Hint: they’re not.)

After the smack-down from Ralph, I looked at my podcast list. I looked at my RSS feed. I looked at my Twitter list, my webinar schedule, my bookshelves. The more I looked, the more I realized how immersed I was in the online, in the marketing, in the “thought leadership”, and the more I understood I had to get the heck out.

I’m not advocating that you stop learning and looking to smart people to help you. But if the only thing you hear is the sound of your own voice bounced back at you, that’s the only thing you’re going to know.

At a certain point, learning becomes reinforcement and I was getting a huge dose of reinforcement. With all that reinforcement, how am I supposed to learn?

I have to start by getting out of the echo chamber, and so do you. Even if you’re a business owner and not-so-much marketer and you  have no idea who I’m talking about (Chris whozzitnow?) I bet you have leaders in your industry who you listen to, who’s every word is magic and who inspire you to do better and be better. But whether you’re a fingerpainter or the executive of a Fortune 500 company, you’ve occasionally got to get out from behind the apron strings, meet your own experiences and do your own thing.

Any time you’ve passed “learning” into “reinforcement” you’ve just entered the echo chamber. This is where everything you hear becomes fact, everything you know becomes truth and everything you see is from the singularly focused perspective of the same people who think the way you think or at least have influenced the way you think.

I recently read results posted by Google’s Matt Cutts, from a survey he conducted of 1500 random “everyday people”. Turns out only about 20% of them knew what SEO means. In my brain, I’m thinking… is there still a person left on the planet who hasn’t heard of SEO? It’s everywhere!

Wrong. It’s in my bubble. 80% of the rest of the world isn’t.

Also recently, a client asked me about marketing on Facebook. I say he “asked about marketing” but really it was phrased more like “What is this Facebook thing?” I’m usually hired to tell people how to market on Facebook, not to tell them what Facebook is.

In a world where we’re accosted daily by huge Facebook user statistics, I admit I was surprised that not only did my client not have a Facebook account but he didn’t know or understand the first thing about it.

Being that surprised is not good. If this happens to you, if you find yourself being surprised by what other people say or if you find yourself not being surprised at all, then those are both good indications that you need a shift in perspective.

Ditch Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn And Every Other Social Site You’re On

I’m treading into dangerous territory here, I know. For some, social media has gone beyond pastime and playing catch-up with old high school friends into, if not addiction, something close enough to be wearing the same hat.

And you use it for business, I know. You’d simply die without all that engagement, your Klout would plummet and nobody would repin you for a month.

But guess what? The world engaged before social media. In fact, the world actually engaged. People went out together for lunch or coffee. They showed up on each other’s doorsteps with pies and used – gasp! – the telephone to actually speak words to other human beings.

All this social engagement is great for business and really turns the tables on traditional push-marketing where companies could spew out a TV commercial or place a newspaper ad and have our attention. But online social engagement is completely different than actual engagement.

Believe it or not, there are still human customers in the world, beyond their clicks and likes and retweets. And these are the people we need to remember to engage.

If you put aside social-media-think for a while, you might find that having a cup of coffee with someone brings an entirely different perspective and sparks an entirely different conversation.

In real life you don’t have to speak in 140 characters. In real life you don’t get to share links and measure how many people clicked. In real life, you sometimes stutter and forget a word, lose eye contact and talk over each other.

You also get to lean into someone or step away, cross your arms or nod your head. So many things we say online have to be tempered with exclamation points and emoticons because how else will someone know what we really mean?

I worry sometimes that a younger generation will be so busy being social that they’ll forget how to socialize. Social media gives us an approximation of human interaction. It gives us the illusion of being involved.

I love it, it’s fantastic, it opens so many doors and has introduced me to ideas and people I otherwise never would have known existed. But it behooves me (and you) to remember that it cannot take the place of actually meeting with, speaking to and engaging – for real – with our customers.

Forget What You Know About Your Customers

If you’ve been in business for a while, you probably have a solid sense of who your customers are, what they want and need, where they are and how to reach them. I bet you have a great process and your marketing is rolling along.

When that happens, it’s time to jump ship. You’re probably too comfortable in your certainty, even languishing in your success. Unless you’re continually assessing, questioning and evaluating your customers and their needs, you probably aren’t evolving the same way they are.

I saw this some time ago with a client who was so convinced that he knew what his customers wanted that he saw no reason to try anything new. He had the best of intentions and took excellent care of his customers but he’d gotten stuck in “knowing”.

That scenario makes me sad because I see otherwise bright, motivated, dedicated people lose opportunities because they hold so tightly to what long years of trial and error and hard earned experience has taught them. It sounds like such a contradiction. How could someone who spent so much time passionately learning his business be missing opportunities?

The important thing to remember is that learning never stops. You’ll never know what your customers want because that will keep changing. Just like you’ll never know how to build a great website or how to rock your Facebook marketing. Oh, you know some pretty great stuff now. But wait five minutes. I bet you won’t know so much anymore.

Stop Chasing The Secret

Few things drive me as nuts as reading headlines and email subject lines that promise me some “secret”. The secret fat-burning food! The secret to making $10,000 in one day! The secret age-defying formula that nobody is talking about!

Apparently somebody is talking about it, because it’s in your headline. And if it’s going out to 50,000 of your closest friends via email, someone else must know it.

I know it’s an attention-grabber but if you don’t know by now that it’s a (tired) marketing ploy then you really need to deposit $10,000 into my Nigerian bank account.

Marketing is work. Business is work. We get up in the morning and go to work. We don’t get up in the morning to fulfill our secret mission. Some people have better luck, some are smarter, some are savvier and make money faster and easier than others. But it’s no secret. It’s just good old-fashioned brain-power, know-how, hard work and dedication.

Let me let you in on a little secret: you cannot get rich quick right now fast easy without even trying.

Here’s another secret that nobody wants you to know: if you want to be successful it’s probably going to be hard, it may be frustrating, it may even make you want to quit. But the only thing that will guarantee your failure is if you waste precious time looking for that one untold well-kept secret.

Heck, I want to know the secret, too. I go to the webinars and buy the books. I keep on thinking that somewhere just outside of my peripheral knowledge is the answer, the tipping point, the magic sauce that will get me from here to rich lady on a beach being served mojitos by half-naked Island men while I chat amiably with my minions via webcam. Ok, maybe that was TMI. But here I am, working.

Looking for some marketing or business secret conjures up images of rich people swirling their martinis and chuckling at the rest of us because we don’t know what they do, namely the secret road to success. That is, until some crazy whistleblower uncovers it and runs out to tell everyone what they don’t want you to know! Because that would just lead to socialism or something.

The sooner we understand that there’s no Facebook marketing secret, the sooner we can get to the business of building an audience and keeping them happy. The sooner we realize there’s no secret money-making plan, the sooner we can get back to the work of converting prospects into customers.

The sooner we stop buying into the idea that there is some knowledge out there, something that, if only we could find it, hear it, know it – would propel us out of mortgage-paying 9-to-5 mediocrity into martini-swirling success, the sooner we can actually work hard and be successful.

(PS: Chris Brogan doesn’t know the Secret either. He just worked damn hard. And by the way, if you don’t already, you should definitely be listening to him.)

That’s it. I’m all ranted out. I hope you felt a little spark of “yup” and “totally!” as you read this. If you have any other un-marketing ideas to share, please do. If you think I’m crazy, you can tell me that, too.

And if you do know the secret, just whisper it in the comment box below. I promise I won’t tell anyone.

Join the discussion 23 Comments

  • That. Was. Awesome! Found myself saying, “Yep, yep, yep!” the whole way through. I’m totally sharing this one with everyone and I’d say Chris Brogan will probably share it, too. One of my biggest gripes is that everyone on the internet is so ready to sell us the secret-to-eternal-riches that they’re ruining it for the rest of us. But your rant goes beyond that gripe and hits the nail on the head with regard to getting out of your bubble. I’ve noticed lately that Google is reinforcing this bubble by serving me up the stuff that I already know about when I search (stuff my “friends” and “fans” are doing). How the heck am I supposed to research and find NEW stuff and LEARN anything, if all I ever see and/or hear is the same old lovely crap everyday?! Arrrgh. You got my adrenaline up, Carol Lynn. Hope you’re happy. 🙂

    • Awesome, glad to stir to pot a bit 🙂 You hit on something else that now I wish I had mentioned! Which is that with “social search” we get so much of what we already saw/knew and what people we know already saw/knew that it’s hard to escape. I don’t want to know what my friends like. I don’t want to know what they recommend, unless I ASK. And I would be happy NOT getting personalized search results because I want to learn stuff outside of what I’m already interested in. Sometimes I sign out of everything and switch to a new browser just to see what happens. Who would’ve thought that the day someone figured out how to “give us what we want” we wouldn’t want it anymore?

  • Adrienne says:

    Okay, okay…  I get your point sort of!  lol…

    Loved the inside joke girl because I’m there more often then not.  

    I totally get what you’re saying but I also need to add that it depends on what type of business you have as to how much time you should spend on these social sites.  For instance with me, it’s a great way to connect with people but I actually pick up the phone and call them.  I know, shocking to most but isn’t that the best way to find out if these people are even interested in what I share?  

    It’s obvious I’m not talking about marketing campaigns for PPC or anything like that but this is the way I build up my relationships with people.  I also love sharing other people’s content so that makes me more appealing as well.  At least I’ve sparked some interest right!

    Funny thing is I talked to a prospect the other day and she refuses to get on Facebook.  Doesn’t want anything to do with it although she knows what it is which is why she’s against it.  Very strong opinion on that one, I was surprised.  Huh!  Strange.

    Great post Carol as always.  Makes us all sit up and take notice for sure.  You do that a lot you know!  

    • Thanks, Adrienne. Your prospect sounds like my client – Facebook is way outside their peripheral vision! That was exactly my point, which is that it’s important to keep this stuff in perspective because some people really aren’t on Facebook, strange as it sounds to us, and we have to be able to reach them anyway. Like I said, I’m all about the social sites, but like YOU said (and I agree) it’s important to get on that phone or even meet in person sometimes. The time we spend on various sites depends on our goals and what we’re doing but it’s not a replacement for people and real interaction, which is the point I was trying to make. Since you’re ahead of the game and you actually call people, that’s great 🙂 

  • cynthia says:

    Yes, been wondering if I am just twittering my time away. I like instant gratification just as much as the next person. Except…I’m asking myself, is there anything gratifying about this? Even if it leads to readership or clients (the last of which is dubious–I’m  a spiritual life coach), maybe it would be more fun –and gratifying — to spend all that time doing teleseminars or, hey, ACTUAL seminars! The warm, fuzzy kind of relating that we all need. Thanks for the kick in the virtual butt!

    • I’m with you on the warm fuzzy part! That’s what’s missing from “virtual” interaction and as great as it is, I still believe (like you) that the real-life stuff is indispensable. Especially as a spiritual coach! It’s so important to connect with people. Glad I could nudge 🙂

  • This is an interesting topic, it reminds me of this TED talk by  Eli Pariser about “filter bubbles.”

  • Andrew says:

    Great post i really enjoyed reading it, thanks for sharing it.

  • Julia Hayes says:

    Hi Carol, 
    Tea put this article on the recommended reading list- it’s very thorough, practical and reassuring advice – I smiled my way through it. 
    The other day, with a group of young mothers I didn’t know, one girl asked the other “….and did it go viral?”. I picked up my ears, thinking a ‘million YouTube hits’, but before I had time to develop the thought, her friend replied “No, I took a strong antibiotic”. They were talking ear infections.It takes time and effort but it’s so worth while getting out there and meeting real people.Julia

    • That’s awesome! I got a for-real laugh out loud when I read about the “viral” thing. And it’s a perfect example of how we really need to interact with different people because not everyone thinks like us and it’s pretty eye-opening. Thanks for that laugh, I think it’s going to come out in fits and spurts for the rest of the day. 

  • Aaron Wood says:

    Please… oh PLEASE stop using the word “engage” or any variant of it as well.


  • Hey Carol Lynn, I loved this rant…full of heart and mind.  This post is full of passion and I so enjoyed it.  There is a difference between following and following.  Some people see others as the holy grail of marketing.  Others, take what they resonate with and run with it.  I love social media so I go with that.  I’ve never done a PPC because it confuses me. 
    I think after reading this post, people need to have their hands on a little bit of everything, but in their heart of hearts run with what they are passionate about.
    Yes, I have the books, attend the webinars, but I don’t see anyone as demi-gods with the “answer” – I have my own answer.
    Sticking to that, one can create prosperity.
    Thanks so much for this passionate post.
    Donna Merrill

    • I’m glad to hear you have your own answer but I guess that means your’re not going to deposit $1,000,000 into my offshore bank account for me to tell you? Maybe next time 🙂 

  • Steve Averill says:

    Carol this is such a great post I don’t even know where to begin. A lot of marketers are ex-cheerleaders it seems and LOVE and live for that echo chamber. It’s nice to know there are peers out there truly thinking for themselves. Its more rare than we realize.

    • Thanks, Steve, I really appreciate the kind words! It’s funny how the topic came up, because I was listening to a webinar and the presenter was of the “just a little too enthusiastic” variety. And I wondered why we had to be so “on” all the time, and why everything we hear has to be “SO GREAT!” And I started thinking that really, it’s the celebrity bubble. All the gurus say something, so all the minions run around saying it, too. To your point, it is so important to think for yourself! Learn, absorb but make sure you process and evaluate it before spitting it back out!

  • Sharon Tannenbaum says:

    Wow I keep thinking about this and now you brave woman have put it in writing..bravo! This is what I did instead…the response on my personal Facebook page has been overwhelming.

  • Ah, a video challenge! I admit that is one thing I have yet to do – video! Good for you for getting out of the shadows and being your awesome self. Now, where is day 2??

  • I don’t know crap. No question about it. What’s funny is, people think when I say that, I’m being modest. No way. I don’t know any secrets. Yes, I work really damned hard. Every day. I create every day. I make things happen. There’s a LOT of waste in my system. Not a lot of efficiency.

    Listen to Carol, everyone!

    Thanks, Hadass for sending me over. : )

    • I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Hadass but I extend my thanks too!

      This is probably a good example of echo meeting echo but I love it. And I love every word of your newsletter, podcast and just about everything else because your commitment to “not knowing any great secrets” is inspiring.

      We all need to forget the secrets, forget the know-it-alls and do just what you said: get up, create, work hard, keep going.

      And on that note, don’t listen to me either! But thanks for reading 🙂