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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Patience, Young Jedi. Force leads to resistance.

Also crossposted at

As we jump into the the fury of the Holidays, I've been asked about New Year's Resolutions.  I don't have any.  If I want to make changes, I'll make them now.  There's no reason for me to wait symbolism of something new.  Over the course of 2010, I've become much more independent in my career leaving a very unhappy situation and starting my own firm.  Since I started taking on clients, I've learned to say "No."  And for anyone who knows me, saying "No" is probably more painful than smashing a batch of perfect macarons (the horror!).  I'll be trying to say, "No" more often in 2011. 

This blog post isn't really a resolution for me, but rather a two part lesson that I'd like to share.  Patience, Young Jedi: force may lead to resistance.

I can be very impatient, especially when I am hungry.  That, I openly disclose.  However, outside of hunger, I try to practice patience.  My 2011 challenge to businesses is to practice more patience with social media.  My approach to social media is that it is simply relationships that communicate online.  Many businesses that I've encountered are impatient with social media.  They want results, and they want them now.  On the first day of launching a Twitter campaign, someone asked me "Why isn't anyone retweeting me?" "How come I didn't make more sales?"  Patience.

Businesses aren't the only ones who are perpetrators of this attitude.  On occasion, I'll have new bloggers or tweeters contact me with questions. "How do I get to 1000 followers?"  "How do I get people to read my blog posts?"  "How do you get people to talk to you on Twitter?"

The problem I have with that attitude is that it is impatient with the relationships.  Relationships take time and effort.  People aren't machines where if put in X number of tweets, you'll make a friend.  People experience emotions, people can be cautious with others, people don't always (or shouldn't always) disclose everything online, and people need time to develop trust.  When you meet someone in a romantic context, you will rarely fully mutually disclose your deepest and darkest secrets on the first date.  You also wouldn't likely get married to that person in the first few weeks of dating.  My quick poll of my Twitter followers showed that most married couples dated for 3.36 years before tying the knot (n=14, max = 8 years). 

So why is it that our culture finds it commonplace to date and to be engaged for long periods of time before marriage, but our businesses get so pushy and antsy in other types of relationships?  Why do businesses get worried if I don't I retweet their promotions after only a few tweet exchanges?  Why do businesses think I should be loyal to them just because I mentioned them in a Facebook post? 

I don't have be pushed into a relationship.  As a consumer, I should be able to decide which brands I want to have a relationships with and which ones I don't.  So if you're using Twitter for a business, have a little patience.  Nurture the relationship.  Quit worrying about your numbers on the first day you roll out with your social media campaign.  Instead, evaluate them every 60 to 90 days.

For the second part of this lesson, we'll discuss force and resistance.  It seems like some of the best lessons in life come from dog training.  If you didn't catch it before, I train, handle, and judge dogs in various activities.  I call my type of training "motivational training."  My trainers are Debby Quigley and Judy Ramsey at Dogwood Training in Houston, TX.  With this type of training, we teach motivation first.  Everything that I ask my dog to do, I first train my dog to be motivated to do it.  If my dog is NOT motivated to do it, then as a handler, I'm doing something wrong.  While there are methods to force a dog to engage in a certain behaviors, motivational training gets more enthusiastic and reliable performances.  And the dogs also enjoy it. 
You can watch dogs in the obedience ring and see which ones were trained with force and which ones were trained with enthusiasm.  Force leads to resistance.  Sometimes trainers use it to their advantage.  The next time you see a televised dog show, watch the handler closely as the cameras zoom in.  You might notice that the handler will pull back on the dog's leash ever so slightly when the judge approaches.  The goal of this is not to get the dog to step back by pulling back, rather this slight pull (force) leads to the dog leaning forward (resistance).  When the dog leans forward in a stacked stance, the dog's muscles flex and look better toned.  Try it next time you take your dog for a walk.  For a large majority of dogs, the more you pull back, the more your dog will pull forward.  I won't get much into it, but I don't recommend that as a way of controlling your dog.  I'd recommend that you motivate your dog to stay with you, as opposed to investigating something else much more interesting than you.

The next time you think about your social media campaign, ask yourself why anyone would be motivated to follow you, tweet you, or show up to your events.  If you can't think of a good reason why, it is probably time to revamp your game plan.  If people follow you only because you give away free prizes, you might want to also revamp your game plan.  Giving stuff away free isn't building a relationship.  That's just bribing them into following you.  With tactics like that, you'll gather more variable and less loyal followers.  Getting followers through bribes isn't much of a community.  Please note: That tactic is very different from playing online or social games within your community that involves a free prize.  These are two very different concepts.  Motivate them to want to build a relationship with you. 

Happy New Year, and Patience, Young Jedi.  Force leads to resistance. 

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