As you can tell, I've barely touched this blog in a year. I'm not entirely sure why. I suspect the explosion of social platforms with vastly lower publishing barriers such as Twitter and Facebook contributed to the blog silence. I also took a new job which kept me incredibly busy in my initial ramp-up and onboarding.
On the blogging deficit, there's good and bad news here. The good is that very little of one's personal narrative is missed in a world of one-click or one-sentence posting. And with the ease of photo and video uploads to these platforms, who needs text, right? That Facebook now enables us to stitch together a longer personal narrative via Timelime makes the short-form publishing eve more seductive. We simply don't need to work as hard to connect the dots, arguably one of the most important skills in writing.
On the downside, we're taking less time to just sit back and reflect. Sometimes we just
need to step back to gain critical perspective. There's little room for serious reflection on Twitter -- it's mostly impulsive -- and some of the dots we connect on Facebook are downright trivial. Indeed, there's no chance I could have authored a book, Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000 (Doubleday), had I not spent several years organizing thoughts on this blog...and absorbing feedback along the way. In many respects, the blog was the "beta test" for the book, and you can practically see the book chapters jump out in the tag cloud. Then again, writing a book wasn't the objective when I started the blog, although I did suspect something "organized" would emerge from the musings: better articles, speeches, consulting, etc. (I guess that's the point.)
Back to the Digital Future
But let's shift back to the good news. The digital and social world continues to stimulate and provoke and touch every aspect of our lives. It's not going to slow down anytime soon, and that leaves us with lots to talk about and debate -- irrespective of publishing platform. Last week, after going a good eight months of writing silence, I finally cranked out an Ad Age column entitled "Back to the Digital Future" which attempted to connect a bunch of personal dots into the future. It wasn't a blog post, per se, but I felt good to blog again. Here's some excerpts:
The past year saw digital and social media hit new tipping points in our daily lives -- shifting habits, cannibalizing old ways, inspiring new thinking, opening and closing gates to relationships.
But for me, social media remained deeply personal. The connections with family and friends, and especially old friends, powered an almost relentless engagement with social and digital platforms. I cheered friends from afar in their newsfeed pursuits. I cried in comments for those who experienced loss. I reopened relationships with the high-school crowd, even those I once snubbed (or vice versa).
Along the way, I dialed down my pontification level. My personal blog -- ConsumerGeneratedMedia.com -- went a year without a post, and my Twitter account found more substance (and motivating ridicule) in my NikePlus "updates" than in half-baked attempts at digital wit. While I finally hit 9,000 followers, the last 500 took the entire year. Hey, they do call it "earned media for a reason."
I was among the earlier testers of Google+, but got a bit intimidated when A-listers rushed to the platform with almost uncritical resolve. (It made me feel like the party was already closed.) I also got off on the wrong foot by creating too many darn circles. (Lesson for marketers: stop over-segmenting!)
If anything bordered on compulsive behavior, mobile-phone photos took the prize. I took photos of everything, and marveled at how a photo of Saturday pancakes for my kids could generate more "likes" than a "most emailed" article from The New York Times.
Interestingly, I shed a ton of devices: the standalone digital camera, the once-beloved FlipCam, the family video camera, a medley of alarm clocks. My watch, I dare say, is clinging for life. Yes, content quality took a hit, but honestly, I didn't really care. Good enough was my operating principle in a world of lower file-size Facebook and YouTube uploads.
Apps "appsolutely" stole my attention and engagement, but I wasn't the easiest consumer to please or seduce. I tried everything -- even clicked on app ads -- but only found sustained affection in about 5% of them. The apps that made the cut were crazy simple, rewarding and sometimes fun. They added value, and solved real problems.
Must-have mobile apps included Maps, Instagram, NikePlus, the Swiss Rail app, and French for Dummies. IPad winners included Google Earth, TuneIn Radio, Skype, and the brilliant "Charlie Brown Christmas" book.
On moving to Europe:
Moving to Europe digitized new areas. I haven't written a check in 8 months. Skype's a religion. Online grocery shopping, bless its soul, now accounts for 50% of our food purchases. Despite our large-screen TV, the vast majority of our TV-style content sources from iTunes (except for the kids, who are permitted to watch French cartoons on the regular tube).
On Digital Downsides:
I got crazy frustrated with email. The stuff that really matters in my Gmail pile, like family updates, struggled to compete with the garbage. Thanks to Farmville updates, even Facebook junked up a bit.
While I hit new records in saying "Happy Birthday" to countless friends on Facebook, at times I felt insincere and phony in my efforts. It was just too easy. Then again, my heart warmed when superficial birthday likes came my way.
I cursed hotels or events (even the Cannes organizers) with bad or unworkable or complicated WIFI. I tried every to-do list app, from Evernote to digital stickies, but napkins still reigned supreme. I learned that it's pointless to ask a colleague about their weekend in a world of Facebook transparency.
But make no mistake. 2011 was a great year. While a bit dazed and confused with the pace of change, I remain infatuated with the dynamic power of the digital landscape -- as should all of us. This is a great time to be in marketing, and a great time to be partners with the consumer. Let's raise our game, and along the way stay grounded in our own personal experiences and common sense.
I'm serious about the last part. Have a great year. Keep blogging (irrespective of platform). I'll try to do likewise.