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To Be Heard, Turn Down the Volume


online marketing is better when it isn't too loudWhat is it about the Internet that has made everybody so sure of themselves?

You’d think the level of disruption during the past 20 years would have had the opposite effect. Instead, the number of people stepping onto their virtual soapboxes and telling the rest of us what to do and think has exploded. They opine with such surety, such clarity, such force.

I love that everybody has access to the tools of publishing and can act like a media company. I’ve spent years encouraging it. But where does all of this certainty come from? How do all of these people have all the answers? Today I come in praise of a little less conviction and a little more listening. The promise of digital is not the soapbox–that’s the very reason old-school media has been so ripe for disruption. It’s the community. It’s the marketplace of ideas. Without more listening, there’s little learning; without meaningful participation, there’s little chance for engagement. Instead, we have self-proclaimed experts self-promoting. We have commenters turning up the volume.

We have noise.

At the risk of sounding somewhat sure of myself, let me softly suggest that for brands, there is a real opportunity to be heard despite the rising noise. Try thinking about digital as a niche medium. Try creating a specialized community where employees, experts, advocates, and those with a shared affinity can mix. Try seeding the community with content, both your own and content from outside sources, to help organize the community into even smaller groups. Try turning down the volume, saying less and listening more.

Ironically, as more so-called experts raise their voices, the value of sharing real expertise has only grown–but now the challenge becomes creating the right context for that sharing. To be a credible thought partner, brands need to know who their real tribes are and learn what they care about. Create a clean, well-lighted place–or, better yet, join one that already exists. Give up a little control. Worry a little less about yourself. Stop being so damn smart and start being a little more human. In an era when everybody seems to be yelling, a little quiet confidence can go a long way.

And with that, I’ll take my own advice and shut up.

Join The Conversation

  • Jeff Pundyk's picture
    May 8 Posted 1 year ago Jeff Pundyk

    Thanks for the kind words.  Expert culture, yes, but also a culture of collaboration, where we each bring our strengths together to create something that niether of us could do on our own -- and that requires the ability to listen and learn.

  • Steve Baldwin's picture
    May 7 Posted 1 year ago Steve Baldwin I'm glad that someone has the gumption to stand up and praise the values of subtlety and incomplete knowledge. Unfortunately, we live in what I'd call "expert culture," a realm in which everyone's value is tied into one's (supposed) sureness. "I don't know" is very seldom heard in realm. Because why would anyone hire anyone who doesn't have all the answers? Being aware of the limited horizons of one's personal knowledge is, I think, a sign of true emotional intelligence. But the world we've built makes the expression of such intelligence nearly impossible. But now I'm ranting like one of those "experts" who's part of the problem.

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