From the category archives:

People Are Funny

a tree standing alone in a large fieldEvery now and then I’ll get into a conversation about introverts and extroverts. People sometimes think I’m kidding when I say I’m an introvert. Sometimes it’s because they’ve seen me speaking before a roomful of people, or acting goofy to get a laugh.

When I first took the Myers Briggs test, I was right on the borderline between introvert and extrovert. The last time I took it online I had moved a bit to the E side, but not by much.

I’m thinking about this because I’ve spoken at two conferences in the last week, and that always gets me thinking about human interactions and my reactions to them. Also, my friend Emily just posted a link to a post by Jerry Brito called Top Ten Myths About Introverts. Not everything in that post applies to me, but a lot of it does.

I hate small talk, for instance. I would much rather someone walked up to me at a cocktail party and said, “Tell me what your first decree would be if you became emperor,” rather than, “So, did you see the game?” And it’s true, as Brito points out, that if you get me talking about something I’m interested in, I won’t shut up for days.

Years ago I heard a description of the difference that made sense to me. Extroverts recharge their batteries by being around other people; introverts do it by being alone. That is definitely true for me. I love going to conferences, client meetings, parties and other intensely social events. But when I hit a wall, I need to get the hell out and be by myself for a while.

I suspect a lot of the people we see on the podium at conferences feel the same way. I know I’ve had similar conversations with people I’ve met on the speaker circuit.

How about you? How do you recharge your batteries? Alone or in groups?

image by Malulux

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An exchange between me and The Mrs. in the car, talking about The Boy:

She: “Maybe next year he should go as a member of Devo for Halloween.”

Me: “Well, that would probably guarantee him free haircuts for life from the woman who cuts my hair.”

She: “Yeah, I’ll bet.”

Me: “Do you know what I’m talking about?”

She: “No.”

Me: “Then why did you say ‘yeah’?”

She: “Sometimes it’s just easier that way.”

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We saw a sheriff’s deputy on the way to school this morning. I tried to explain the difference between a sheriff and a police officer to The Boy:

Law enforcement officers who work in towns and cities are called police. If they work outside of towns, in the county (even though towns are actually in the county), they are called sheriffs, only really they are sheriff’s deputies, and sometimes they are called just deputies. So if someone “calls the sheriff,” the sheriff probably won’t show up, he or she will send a deputy.

The law enforcement agency responsible for highways and interstates is called the Highway Patrol. Their officers are called State Troopers.

Simple, really.

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Now that's an escutcheon

I’m working at home today so that the plumber from Bud Matthews Service in Chapel Hill can install our new faucet. We pretty much call them for anything. If they did car repair and baby sitting, we could just write them one big check every month.

Scott, who is installing the faucet, just said, “Sorry to bother you, but we have a problem.”

Frankly I’d rather here that from a dentist than a plumber.

He explained the problem to me. There are four holes in our sink and only three things to go in the holes (faucet, turny-ony device, soap squirter). Our last faucet came with an escutcheon to cover all the holes. Yes, escutcheon. (I enjoy the fact that there is a word used almost nowhere anymore other than in plumbing and heraldry. )

Since there’s no escutcheon, Scott explained, we’ll have to cover one of the holes with a small metal disc. Scott usually carries them with him, but he just used his last one this morning. He explained they are available for sale at Lowe’s, and are installed by means of a wing nut.

I told him that wasn’t really a problem.

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Chris Brogan mentioned Chuck D in passing this morning in a post whose title defies being ignored. (In case Dad is reading this, Chuck is frontman for Public Enemy, one of the most principled and politically aware rap groups ever.)

Before I came to SAS I ran web sales and marketing for Yep Roc Records and Redeye Distribution. Redeye distributed PE’s “New Whirl Odor” in 2005. When Chuck came to visit (out in the middle of nowhere in Haw River, NC, 20 miles from Chapel Hill) he made a point of speaking with everyone in the company, going from office to office introducing himself and taking pictures with everyone. When my turn came, he told me to sit at my desk and he sat in my visitor chair, pretending he was applying for a job. It’s pretty damn funny. It’s not on this computer, unfortunately. I’ll post it when I get home. Here’s a cheesy handshake photo:

I'm the one on the right

I'm the one on the right


What’s the social media tie-in, other than the fact that Brogan likes Chuck, too? Chuck was beginning a business relationship with us, but he didn’t do it by walking into our office and shouting about what he wanted (even though he certainly could have). He did it by establishing a genuine human connection with everyone in that company, from the owners to the accounting department to the guys in the warehouse. And I promise you that after he left, there wasn’t a single person in that company who wasn’t dedicated to doing whatever he or she could to help Chuck sell records.

The people who know what’s important in personal relationships know what’s important in business relationships, and they also know what’s important in online relationships. And it’s the same thing in all of them.


Here’s the photo of Chuck applying for a job:

me and Chuck job interview

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Originally published on Conversations & Connections, my SAS social media blog

So Skittles threw in the towel. They didn’t have the stomach for profanities and racial slurs showing up on their “homepage,” which they had given over to a Twitter search page showing real-time results for “Skittles.” When I wrote about this yesterday, I was thinking of it as a bold move, and even with all the potential pitfalls it would probably still pay off for Skittles in terms of attention.

I wasn’t surprised to see how the public played with the shiny new toy Skittles handed to them. What does surprise me, though, is that Skittles seems to have been surprised. Didn’t they know this was going to happen? They must have had hours and hours of internal debate about the wisdom of this move. I’m reminded of the movie War Games, where the computer goes haywire at the end and the screen scrolls the list of all the possible conflicts it is programmed to consider, like “USSR first strike” and “Albanian decoy” and “Canadian thrust.” In the Skittles war room, didn’t they have a big board with “racist hijack” and “profanity blitzkrieg”?

I’m wondering, based on a not-inconsiderable experience with the way decisions can be made in large companies, if someone a level or three above the person who decided to begin this experiment stepped in and decided to end it when they saw how it was going.

Corporate marketers expanding their presence in social media are used to answering the question, “What will you do if someone says something negative about your products or your company?” and the answer usually is something along the lines of, “At least the negative comments will be on our site where we will know about them and can respond in an open, transparent way.”

Yes, but what about when there’s nothing to respond to, when the negativity is purely for the sake of negativity? That’s when we really find out how thick or thin are corporate skins are.

Yesterday I also said, “Naturally, some people can’t resist the urge to spam the channel with anti-Skittles childishness, but they’ll get tired of that eventually.” I just spent five minutes paging through search results and couldn’t find a single obscene or racist tweet. While “skittles” was the number one trending topic on Twitter yesterday, it’s not even showing up on the top ten today.

Maybe Skittles melted too soon. With the short attention span of online pranksters, maybe they only had to wait another day to get out of the crosshairs. No less a social media personage than Charlene Li has already declared that the Skittles experiment “redefined branding.” Maybe they were mere hours away from becoming the social media success story of 2009, rather than a case study of how social media can bite back.

Like the number of licks required to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

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Originally published on Conversations & Connections, my SAS social media blog

My SAS colleague Margo Stutesman forwarded me a blog post from Sasha Dichter, director of business development at Acumen Fund. (I’m assuming she sent it because she likes the way he quantifies what he’s looking for in a social media marketer, as opposed to trying to get me to move on.) I’ve spent a lot of time either writing or reading job descriptions and help wanted ads. Writing a good one is not easy. I like the way Sasha lays out what he’s looking for:

I’m looking for a great marketer — a storyteller, a tribe-builder, someone who knows how to connect with people in a real and genuine way and help them to be part of something big…and who at the same time is ready to roll up their sleeves with data and numbers and analytics and web 2.0 tools.

Great stuff, and it immediately gives you a sense of what the job will be like and what it would be like to work with Sasha.

Social media gives us so many opportunities to rewrite the rules of corporate communications – not the fundamentals, but the stodgy old stuff that isn’t working anymore, like some of the language we use. I’ve read dozens, possibly hundreds, of job descriptions that told me the company was looking for a proactive, customer-focused self-starter, but not what the person would actually, you know, do. (My favorite line in a job description was obviously a placeholder that never got edited before publication: "Works closely with Harriett.")

Knowing you’re being stodgy isn’t always enough. I’m working on our Social Media Guidelines & Recommendations to give to SAS employees who want to know how (and indeed if) they can participate in social media. (The short answer is yes, with more to come.) I’m a pretty informal person and often find myself struggling to maintain a professional demeanor in meetings when what I really want to do is sneak jokes into the minutes to see if anyone reads them. Even so, it’s hard to break the habit. I just looked at a sentence I wrote in the draft guidelines for podcasting:

Our intention as we develop podcasting practices at SAS is to identify podcast-worthy topics that support overall SAS messaging and create a unified podcasting strategy that supports multiple marketing efforts and maximizes the content and production resources.

Not the most inspiring of manifestos. But it’s so easy to slip back into stuffy mode. That’s one reason I appreciate Intel’s social media guidelines, and why they’ve gotten a lot of attention. They sound like they were written by real people, for real people. (And in my own defense, the sentence I picked out above is one of my stuffiest.)

The larger, more important message of all this is one I hope our bloggers at SAS will continue to recognize and feel comfortable with: not every post has to be a white paper. That email you just dashed off to ten colleagues about an important development in your field could be a blog post with a few minor tweaks, and maybe just a spell check.

Social media may be encouraging some to become too personal and informal (I’m still a fan of good grammar and spelling), but if it convinces the corporate world it’s okay to talk like people instead of committees, that will be a wondrous thing.

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Kind of hard to find a tasteful image for this post.

So as you may have heard, Wal-Mart heir John Walton died yesterday when his ultralight aircraft crashed in Grand Teton National Park. I don’t think I ever met the man, but I’m sure his friends and family miss him terribly, and if you’re one of them you should probably stop reading.

I understand that the Associated Press needs to respond quickly when things like this happen and they may not have time to edit for much more than spelling and grammar — but still, don’t you think they should have caught this:

Wal-Mart heir John T. Walton, who died in the crash of his experimental, ultralight aircraft, was remembered as a down-to-earth man…

Oh, dear.

The article goes on to quote a spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park:

She said Walton, "well-known and much-loved in this valley, died doing something that he loved to do."

I think I might have rephrased that, too, unless Walton was known for his love of plummeting.

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