We live in a society driven by immediate gratification. "I want." "I need." The growth of socially-oriented businesses has exacerbated this condition. For example: I was briefly frustrated this week when my Amazon Prime order didn't arrive -- as promised -- within 24 hours of placing the order online. In the middle of the frustration period, I thought to myself: "Am I serious? I don't really need this item ASAP. I shouldn't really care if it is delayed." However, today's web experience has trained us to be impatient. Thanks to twitter, we don't even bother using modifiers or adjectives anymore.
Transactional exchanges are the name of the game online, and this is reflected in how we talk about customers. They are not people, they are profiles and targets that need to be reached or penetrated. Let me tell you, as a cultural anthropologist and community builder, I am certain this ain't right. And more important, it undermines the very foundations of the internet as a social phenomenon.
Today's social communications platforms highlight this issue. There is an old guard on the internet, pioneers in the community space, who helped to weave the fabric of today's virtual collaboration and social media. We quietly mourn some aspects of what dot.com has become. We now live, work and communicate in a world where we measure and codify every online act, where the authenticity of kindness and reciprocity has been replaced by relationship-management tactics.
There are reasons for this metrics-obsessed view of social media. As an industry, we are entering a period of legitimacy in response to years of "happy talk" about social media benefits without any real ROI to show for it. In effort to display a degree of professional rigor and seriousness, many practitioners have focused on the wrong markers for success. So just where am I going with all this, you ask?
I recently finished reading an advance copy of Guy Kawasaki's new book "Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions" -- and I saw hope for the future of social business! Guy has put the human back into Human/Computer Interactions, the social back into social media. He evokes the foundations and values which helped give birth to the internet, and presents them in an accessible and teachable way so that we all might benefit.
He covers concepts such as what it means to be trustworthy (both on and off-line), how to be giving online (personally and professionally), and how to truly engage people online by following many of the same best practices that work in the in-person world. Even the book cover is, well, enchanting. It features an origami butterfly, simple and organic yet beautiful and resilient at the same time. The cover image is a metaphor for the messages Kawasaki has interwoven throughout the text.
The book begins by defining enchantment and uses many everyday examples to illustrate this elusive concept. Kawasaki then moves on to explore why enchantment is such a desirable and sought-after condition. For him (and for me), being trustworthy is a cornerstone for being enchanting. "Be A Mensch," Kawasaki asserts, and then goes on to write: "Mensch is a German word for 'human being', but its Yiddish connotations far exceed this definition. If you are a mensch, you are honest, fair, kind and transparent, no matter whom you're dealing with and who will ever know what you did."
There is even an endearing online quiz that helps people determine if they are enchanting or not.
After covering what enchantment means, he moves on to discussing how to be an enchanting person or organization, and just as important, how to sustain enchantment as a state of being and not just a marketing ploy! I have covered this topic recently with a post about the difference between doing social and being social.
Perhaps the most important section is the last 1/3rd of the book, where the theories of enchantment are applied to various social technologies. Some of the key principles for online enchantment (outlined on pages 113 ff) include:
- Engage fast
- Engage many
- Engage often
- Use multiple media
- Provide value
- Give credit
- Give people the benefit of the doubt
- Accept diversity
- Don't take any crap
- Limit promotion
- Disclose your conflicts
Hallelujah! This is the part of the book where I started throwing confetti around my office. This is the community success song that I have been singing for so long. These are the basic principles of the internet and online community from the past which will continue to reverberate well into the future.