Social Animals

People are social creatures. Since birth you have presumably been interacting with the people around you, bonding first with your Mother and then developing relationships with the people around you through the course of your life. This behaviour isn’t limited to humans either. Birds do it, bees do it, an argument could even be made that trees do it. It’s our nature and it’s also the reason that Social Media has taken off as it has. It’s an extension of the things we do every day.

If ‘social’ is in our nature, why does it feel like there are so many people offering to help us or our businesses socialize online? I think part of the answer to that is due to the technological age of the services. If the web has just taken the training wheels off, social sites are still in diapers. New services beget new services and there’s no shortage of good-intentioned people willing to offer advice on how to ‘get on the new train and ride’.

I won’t speak in absolutes here but it seems to me that if we can agree that people are social animals and have been since birth, there is no reason to believe that a business’s approach to Social Media should be different from what they already know. Social Media best practice seems to assert that you should follow the social norms that we already abide. If someone is talking to you, listen and respond. If someone is looking for help, offer your assistance. As far as I can tell, these are the two most common bits of advice offered up. It isn’t magic, it’s common sense. Be ‘social’.

Here’s an interesting thought though. Google’s on Twitter (3,737,560 followers of @google), but they don’t talk to anyone. There is no back and forth on their channel, only output. Apple’s on Twitter by way of @iTunesMusic (1,328,172 followers as of this post) and follows much the same practice, only retweeting artists and pushing promotions or new releases. There is no conversation here. And here’s the thing, that’s all most would want from them. Twitter is not a support channel for Apple or Google, it’s a promotion channel and there is nothing wrong with that. There is no reason to say either are doing it wrong though to listen to some, they are doing everything wrong.

The important thing to realize here is that because of Social Media’s infancy, there are no right or wrong answers. There is no best practice outside of what you, the social animal, already know. All the other stuff is still being learned as ‘we’ go along. You are already on the new train because it’s the same as the old train. If your business is on Twitter or Facebook and you don’t know how to interact with your customers there, you probably don’t need a ‘Social Media Expert’, you more likely need a psychiatrist.

Four Colour Process

Here’s a little fact: before I went ‘all in’ on web, I’d intended to be a pre-press technician. To me, the print process is a miracle. When I first began to understand how offset printing worked, I would spend a lot of time looking at printed pieces through an old German fold-up pocket loupe and marvel at just how amazing the four colour process is. Then I’d measure the line screen with a screen finder. Yeah, I’m that kind of nerd. Printing is something I could get lost in for hours. Now…I would never tell you to get lost but if you want to understand my fascination a bit, head over to 4CP and marvel at these close-ups of comic book panels. Beautiful and amazing.

Saying Goodbye

Our first family computer was an Apple IIc. The IIc ushered in the Snow White design period for Apple; an obvious nod to Dieter Rams. It was a beautiful machine. I spent hours on it playing One on One: Dr. J vs. Larry Bird and completing ASCII art projects from a book I’d ordered through Scholastics. Those books and that machine inspired me to ask my mother to enrol me in a weekend computer camp offered at the University where we would design graphics using Logo or as I always remember it, Turtle. My interest in computers would fade during High School while music became the most important thing in my life. Until 1997.

In ‘97, I got my own personal computer, a Power Macintosh G3. On that machine, I learned the tools of another growing passion (Photoshop 4, QuarkXPress 4, Macromedia Dreamweaver 2) while playing music through SoundJam, which you of course now know as iTunes. That machine was a revelation to me and it did, quite honestly, change my life.

I used that G3 right up until the Macbook Pro was released in 2006. I’ve owned two of those. I’ve bought an iPod, iPod Touch, iPad, iPhone, two Apple TVs (one of each generation) and my current 27” iMac. I’m a Fanboy. There are things that just ‘click’ in your life and the IIc and G3 were two of them. Because of those two machines, other things just started to ‘click’ for me as well.

I’ve had people I idolize in my life and I reserve that spot for those I greatly respect like Ian MacKaye and Corey Rusk. Years ago, I added Steve Jobs to that list. Outside of the flash and sizzle of Apple’s keynotes and marketing, there was a man who made a difference in my life regardless of the products he helped create. There’s a challenge that Steve Jobs laid out that resonates with me as I grow older and look for direction in my own life. Do what you love and do it well. “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

Thanks so much Mr. Jobs. You’ll be missed.

For The Scrapbook

The Meta Q, a great site with a focus on ExpressionEngine and design process from the folks at Q Digital Studio in Denver, has been doing a Q & A series with designers and developers within the ExpressionEngine community. It was recently my turn! If you’re interested in my own process, head over to The Meta Q and read my answers to a few questions about EE and web development in general. It was a great privilege to be involved with a site that I really enjoy reading! If you want to learn more about my (pretty opinionated) thoughts, buy me a beer some time. If you want to learn more with an increased peppering of vulgarities and trash talking, buy me four.

Jobs

Words to live by:

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

From Steve Jobs Stanford commencement speech.

Some Truth.

Look, nobody cares about your Klout score. I don’t mean that in the abstract, I mean nobody cares about your Klout score. As a number, it means nothing. If I follow your stream and appreciate what you tweet, that’s all that matters. You could have a score of two and I’d still appreciate you.

Nobody cares about your Facebook fans. Again, not abstract. There has never been any point in time where I’ve thought “I need x service. I better head over to Facebook and check x’s Facebook likes to determine how they are as a company.”

Nobody cares about your inbound links. Obviously it matters but customers don’t care how many inbound links your site has, they care about how many inbound links their site has. Also, this number is easily gamed. Build sites? Throw your logo and a link to your site at the bottom of every page on every site you build. Is it organic? No, not at all but it gets you those links back. Is it ethical? I say no but I know there are those who disagree with me. If I’m providing a service to a client, my job is to represent and push their brand, not my own. I’m pretty firm on that because, you know, it’s my job. And I’m really comfortable with my business ethics.

So what does matter? What you deliver. Period. Do the right thing for your clients, deliver what they need and not what you need and let them spread the word for you. I’d much rather have you tweet for me and then, if it meant anything, I’d much rather your Klout score be high.