Thoughts to sculpt a lasting footprint

Thought leadership, one of the most overused marketing jargon that’s gingerly carved itself into the universal corporate lexicon, will continue to unassumingly find a snug spot among the annual playbooks of many communications and marketing professionals.

However, examining the etymological construct and semantic implications of this term would be akin to writing about what it is or what it’s not (ahem). So I’ll spare your eyes from itching and tearing.

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Instead, I’d like to quickly segue into a short list of considerations.

Why should folks in our profession need to stop acting like content sycophants, especially when sculpting our respective digital footprint?

Novelty is not just about originality but also, and perhaps more importantly, purpose

If your sole aim is to augment your prospect and client database for the sake of bullhorning your way into a lead, you might wanna rethink your approach.

If a client is asking for help with lead generation, would you quickly pull out a formulaic, one-size-fits-all strategy that looks original but covers a finite stand-alone goal OR would you work harder at researching your way into an intricately story-boarded saga of intrigue, designed to branch out and morph under the weight of its own appealing complexities and idiosyncracies?

Content can be crafted to shine and sparkle on command. But if there is no long-term vision or purpose behind its existence, then all the sweat-induced thoughts poured into its mould will last only for that one instance.

Novelty is an elaborate Venetian mask that will always end up being shelved after the ball. So the face behind that mask had better be able to launch at least a thousand ships.

When you’re using a blatant marketing voice, it’s not just boring; it’s annoying

We see this all the time. And the most obvious and common examples are evident on Twitter, day in and out.

“Check out my latest, 210th variation on disruptive engagement” or “Watch how I mindlessly favourite a series of tweets ’cause anything by @EveybodyLovesThisGuru has GOT to be great” ..

I try to diligently regulate the frequency of my own social sharing. But each time I do take a moment to check in on the larger social stream, I am invariably assailed by the same users tweeting, retweeting and commenting on the same tunnel-visioned theme, with the same tone of voice, and the very same, predictable manner of expression. Granted, they do this since they have no choice: it is their purported area of expertise after all.

Still.. Really?

I’M THINKING.. you need to get out more. Out of your rut, that is.

Share something totally different, but echoes elements of your core expertise. Make someone smile or laugh, make them believe just how real, how fun and approachable you truly are.

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How you create content is even more critical than what content you create

We are so obsessed with producing original content that we easily lose sight of the overall process of creating.

By definition, the act of creating IS in fact the actual gold we are mining. The multiple—often intricately detailed—phases involved in giving form and breathing life into an idea offers rich opportunities for gaining new perspectives and never-before-seen ways to arrive at the next step, the next iteration or variation.

You know I don’t have to spell this out, but you really must ask yourself from time to time: “How attentive am I at filtering the indiscernible nuggets that crystallize what makes my content meaningful, substantive and compelling?”

This post was inspired, ironically, by a long hiatus from Twitter. When I did spend a few moments reviewing my feed today, I noticed how predictable my Twitter stream looked and felt. Yes, felt.

As a creative person, my visceral reactions often urge me to articulate thoughts based on raw observations.

How about you? What inspires you to formulate thoughts enough to want to share them? And in so doing, do you feel like you’re inspiring (dare I say ‘leading’) others to do the same?


Evolution of the social media app

The past two posts have been focused on some firsthand observations while participating as a member of the private beta test for Biz Stone’s new social media app: SUPER.

Beta bubble

As with most beta experiences, being in stealth mode while testing a social media app creates a microcosmic environment where certain predictable modes of behaviour surface, including excitement, frustration, narcissism, humour, disdain and belonging.

The range of human emotions is indeed fascinating. But in the final analysis, it’s not unlike any other “life in a bubble” project where a few sentient beings react and interact within conditions and parameters of a finite environment.

It is also not unusual for very active and invested participants of the beta test to exhibit feelings of being special if not entitled, given their insular settings among co-participants with whom they can easily obtain biofeedback. This is not a pejorative comment. This is simply a psycho-social reality.

SUPERsede So it’s no wonder that when the flood gates open and the app goes public, the few who consider themselves ‘early adopters’ not only have more implicit knowledge of the app’s ethos and mechanics, but they’ve also relegated specific emotional tags around the beta experience, which in effect forms a natural bias (see my somewhat verbose review of the app—you’d think I was undergoing apotheosis or something equally grandiose).

Now what?

Having pondered all this, it dawned on me that there remains one most obvious question: where is all this headed? How will the most ‘sticky’, automatically relatable, widely used (if not depended on) social media app look like?

Currently, Facebook is touted as being the go-to social media company that’s pretty much mind-controlled the majority of earth’s digitized population to abandon conventional norms of communications, from snail mail to SMS.

But is obtaining a critical mass of app users truly the end game? I suppose that would make sense one-dimensionally for the creators and investors of those apps, specifically within the context of its ability to monetize, secure ridiculous valuations, issue IPO’s and eventually what .. self-implode into obscurity?

Twitter, as I’ve noted over and over again, is what I consider social media’s most iconic app: lightweight but packs a punch. In fact I consider Twitter to be model alpha: it embodies the most practical, rudimentary elements of an app capable of instantaneous wide scale reach.


But whatever draws your attention to incite you to communicate or connect with others, be they static visuals (Instagram, Pinterest), animated visuals (YouTube, Vine), anonymous interaction (Secret, Yik Yak), or any number of predominant behaviours humans exhibit while interfacing with each other, the context around the intent will logically predicate the purpose and goal of the action.

I would very much like to offer an exhaustive essay deconstructing the entire SUPER beta experience, since there are several nuggets of observations which prove certain behavioural theories accurately.

But I am not not exactly writing a formal paper on the subject (and certainly not getting compensated for any effort). Also, it won’t prove anything outrageously novel or insightful to the general digital population.

But I would submit these related thoughts:

  • We are tinkering with (and obviously becoming dependent on) modes of communication that happen on exclusively virtual environments. Virtual is the black. It’s not new anymore. But we sure easily take it for granted.
  • Our indelible infatuation with technology and how it is, in theory, helping shape our lives for the better should always be viewed as one aspect of our existence. While we inhabit the current lifetime (space/time), we must never readily abandon what preceded this infatuation: the basic, tangible, IRL social interactions which have, in reality, shaped our respective personalities and sociological predispositions to date.

Next evolutionary stage for social apps?

I can’t claim to even form a sound hypothetical scenario on that one. In essence, we must base our personal theories around what we’ve witnessed, what we’ve experienced firsthand, and how others react.

Even after the “Social Rapture” is all said and done, I think social media, in its current form, is but a must-have commodity. Not as basic a need as food and shelter but close enough to be a nice-to-have utility.

Then again, that’s what we, who are heavily immersed in it, would say. Isn’t it?

Musings on how we communicate in beta

My previous post touched on how the private beta test of  an upcoming social app—and may I say this app is killer; once it launches publicly you’ll want to drop everything else—has kicked up my marketing a notch. BAM! (or is that *POW* 😉

This is a follow up post from the same experience, fleshing out three observations depicting how we tend to communicate in social apps we are testing.

illustration: Denis Zilber

The Universal Law of ‘Right place, Right time’

Because we’re talking about a social media app, users will naturally express themselves the same way they would in other social channels (Twitter, FB, Instagram etc): typically with unbridled abandon. And as we know, proper social media addicts invariably tend to get trapped in a twilight zone of oversharing.

Within a smaller online community, it’s hard NOT to notice when certain users are dead quiet or uber active. It gets trickier when you also start noticing certain posts (or types of users) that just. won’t. stop. posting.

Be careful: the universal law of doing something at the right place, at the right time still applies to everything on this plane of existence. The Five W’s that underpin this implicit law should compel you to be mindful, especially if you er um write for a living.

Short and sweet, like a tweet

This app—which I’m all twisted over. well, cause it’s da bomb. no really—exudes a fun, creative ethos. Highly visual, textually provoking. You don’t need to be an Art or English major to *get* the app (although it certainly adds a colourful dimention), but the app does easily charm you into feeling awesome about yourself, like most provocative social media apps do.

Effective visual messaging is visceral. The juxtaposition of visual and textual stimuli is what makes the most memorable billboards and poster ads. Imagine if you were one of the authors of these ads. “Maybe Do It” with a square icon is probably not gonna garner much attention, right?

Short and sweet, like a tweet: the mantra of our virtually based, persistently ubiquitous modes of communication commands delectable bite-size content with enough zing to make you linger and jones for more. And we (yes the royal we of Earth) are preoccupied  with virtual connection and being wired. A lot. Attention fuels the intent of everything.

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Your voice is your own. Not anyone else’s.

One of the most exciting things about private beta test is how ‘cozy’ it feels. Since it’s not public, there are only a handful of users involved.

After a short while, you begin to recognize someone’s posting style and theme.  You can almost eye-ball it, do a quick visual analysis and determine who the author of a given post may be.

Much like anything else online that is tagged and indexed for effective data processing, one’s user behaviour can, to an extent, be mapped to identify predictive patterns.

Sounds like sci-fake, but you know it’s not.

How you communicate online reveals disctinct qualities about your voice: the very signature of your thought. And your online voice is like an RFID chip.

If you’ve not yet caught on as to the implications of these musings, and/or you’re not already fluent and fluid with navigating the course of your digital footprint, then Houston, we have a problem.