Up Front Communication

Helping people and businesses through the art of communication

Is Twitter really a communication strategy?

I’m on the fence about this one.  In several online groups I belong to, issues surrounding social media communications strategies abound.  There are endless LinkedIn discussions about how to improve your corporate Facebook or Twitter presence, how to humanize your company with Instagram, how to develop a social brand, and how to attract “real” followers instead of ghosts and bots.  There is a huge amount of effort put into the maintenance of these online presences.  More often than not, I’m left wondering if the payoff is work it.

Facebook has become a very popular marketing platform on which companies can make coupon or sample offers to the public, often in exchange for the individual clicking the “like” button on the company’s Facebook page.  Company advertising and announcements will then be incorporated into the individuals News Feed, purportedly exposing them to more advertising than they would otherwise.  Is this really effective?  I’d love to hear the metrics on difference in sales and profits that this advertising strategy takes.  I for one, have Liked many a company’s Facebook page.  I’ve done it to get samples, freebies, high-value coupons, and to enter contests.  I then proceed to hide the company’s updates from my News Feed so that I don’t get bombarded with additional ads.  Once I receive the thing that I want (and in the case of coupons, I only get offers for products I buy anyway), I immediately Unlike the page.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  So far, my buying patterns have not changed.  But how many people do respond positively, becoming regular consumers of the product?

The same goes for Twitter.  There are some fascinating things going on with that particular platform.  Professionals are having public discourses, opinions get exchanged, celebrities of various degrees experience foot-in-mouth syndrome, news bits get passed on.  I do follow a couple of individuals/companies, primarily because they regularly post links to interesting business articles.  A lot of the tweets, however, are completely irrelevant and I end up ignoring them for weeks at a time.

One of the local TV stations has been running internet ads featuring various young professionals and hipsters going on about the fabulousness of social media.  One of said hipsters is a young woman in a headband and 1980’s style aerobics gear stretching on a yoga mat.  At one point she says “I get all my news from Twitter . . . it’s about conversations.”

But is it really?  Are Twitter and other social media platforms that encourage status update and single sentence summaries of our state of mind really about conversations?  I’ve heard people make that claim before, but I’m not entirely sold on it.  Certainly back-and-forth exchanges do take place, and can be interesting (or fascinating along the vein of a 15-car pileup).  But can these exchanges, with the planning and posturing that is afforded by asynchronous responses, really be conversations?  I don’t know.  They can be fun, for sure.  They also provide a way to give glimpses into personal states of mind through thought-of-the-moment type posts; this can humanize a professional and let their audience or clients see a more personal side of them in a controlled manner.

All of this can add a dimension to our perception of other people, but does it really work as a communication strategy on its own?  Regardless how enthusiastic I feel about a social media platform at any given point in time, I’m always left asking that question.  In the absence of other, meatier communication channels, can Twitter stand on its own as a way to connect with your audience?

I’m not sure.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be sure.  That being said, I’m going to start up an Up Front twitter account anyway – for all of those thought-of-the-moment bits that drift through my brain.

Channeling Tom Cruise

Today’s dose of Friday Fun comes courtesy of Miles Fisher and his promo for Superhero Movie.

I use emulation activities with my clients as a way of recognizing other people’s signature speaking quirks and then using that knowledge to recognize and develop their own signature style.  A big part of these exercises involve figuring out the emotional and mental space that the emulator needs to get into in order to make their imitation of their chosen speaker appear genuine.

The headspace that Miles Fisher had to get into in order to produce this imitation of Tom Cruise must have been terrifying!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FjGmZJu8OnY&w=420&h=315]

I bow to thee, Miles Fisher!

Charisma matters

I’ve spent most of the past week flat on my back fighting a vicious sinus infection.  Unable to string together a single coherent sentence in written or spoken word, I settled for laying on the couch watching lousy television and feeling sorry for myself.

Much of that layabout time was spent watching old episodes of the BBC Dragons’ Den.  I love that program in all its iterations – the BBC version, the American version (called Shark Tank), and my personal favourite, the Canadian version.  Taken with the usual heavy grain of reality TV salt, the programs are a great little lab to study human posturing.  It is equally interesting seeing the potential investors’ responses to the business pitches or the individuals themselves.  I’ve often heard the investors say that while they are interested in the business, they have no faith in the person presenting the pitch and don’t want to invest in them.  On the other hand, I’ve also seen them take risks on early-model or only partially formed businesses because the individual pitching it was so compelling.

So say it with me together, boys and girls:  likability matters!

It matters so, so much.  You know those people who for some reason can say the most outrageous and insulting things, and people continue to delight in their company?  They’re likable.  What about those people who, no matter how intelligent or correct their statement may be, will still raise the ire of everyone in the room?  They probably aren’t likable, and probably couldn’t say anything that would please their present company.

A big factor for likability is openness and candor.  Often a lack of likability is due more to a chilly or withdrawn manner than actual social awkwardness.  There was an especially good example of the impact of likability from the series’ third episode.  Despite the stuffy, angry, uncomfortable, exhausted haze through I was viewing the program, I became very excited about this particular clip.  It is a case study in why a chilly demeanor will get you nowhere when trying to persuade others, and why it is rarely – if ever – a good thing to hide information.

I have to link to the entire episode, but the bit to watch is the disposable outdoor furniture pitch, which runs from 30:30 to 41:08:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9E4l34WgvM&w=420&h=315]

What a frosty presentation!  I’ve seen people get away with making far ruder retorts than that woman and yet who don’t put off the investors as much as she did.  Dragon Rachel actually tells the woman flat out that a big portion of her refusal to invest in the idea is down to the woman’s behaviour: “You don’t come across as very likable…”

Developing your likability is a big, involved topic, but if you are looking for a place to start, start with warmth.  Invite and welcome people into your speech and your ideas.  Err on the side of too much openness rather than taking the cagey, secretive route.  The difference in reception can be astounding!