You are not your iPhone, not your Kindle

tin robot by Dirty Bunny
tin robot by Dirty Bunny

“Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man doesn’t have to experience it.”
Max Frisch

That an author needs to establish their own marketing platform nowadays has pretty much become a given, but I’ve seen many complaints about how difficult and time-consuming it is, and of course there’s the predictable flood of marketing gurus pushing all kinds of technology-enabled solutions to make things “easier”.

Some are well-intentioned and worthy of consideration, like the next-generation “social publisher”, Cursor, and the new, marketing-centric Writer’s Digest Conference. Others are just quick cash-grabs, like the brazenly opportunistic Twitter Boot Camp and 140 Characters Conference, my favorite description of which came from Loren Feldman: “biggest circle jerk of nothingness“. (NSFW!)

As Twitter’s still feeling the effects of last week’s crash, and Facebook’s acquisition of Friendfeed have shown, focusing on specific tools is the wrong approach, and limiting your platform development to your online presence is a recipe for disaster.

Despite billions of dollars invested in research and development, Surrogates is just a movie, not reality; no technology in the world can duplicate the experience of genuine human interaction.

Writers have to unplug now and then, take a “social media siesta“, and make time to connect face-to-face both with people and the physical world we still live in.

You’re a writer; you are not your computer, not your iPhone, not your Kindle.

Don’t be a tool. Be human.

PS: Why yes, I did watch Fight Club again last night. Why do you ask? 😉

11 thoughts on “You are not your iPhone, not your Kindle

  1. I read Fight Club, which I think has to be better than any damned movie dilution of it. And I disagree. The Internet is where the readers are going. Not all, but enough.

  2. This isn't about readers and eBooks, etc; it's about getting so caught up in the technology that you forget the human aspect. All of these tools are great, but if you forget why you're using them, who you're trying to reach, you risk becoming a robot.

    How many blogs and Twitter feeds do you read that seem like they're on auto-pilot? How many interesting people have you met online only to realize in person that they're kind of one-note automatons?

    That's my biggest concern with social media, in particular; it lessens the emphasis we put on physical interaction, and for writers especially, that's a dangerous thing.

  3. While I agree that no author should limit their reader outreach to purely online efforts (unless, of course, that would make sense for their particular marketing goals)–just as there's no need for an author to choose either e-/or paper where book formats concerned, neither is it necessary for them to do so when it comes to marketing outreach platforms.

    As a point of clarification, Twitter Boot Camp was not developed for authors. It was created to teach marketing, PR and ad professionals about Twitter. And, its intention is to teach those professionals how to leverage Twitter to facilitate real human interaction (something that traditional marketing, advertising, and PR certainly can and does not do very well). I take a certain amount of offense at your characterization of Twitter Boot Camp as brazenly opportunistic. As the Chair of Twitter Boot Camp, I went to great lengths to line up marketing professionals and online community leaders who are actively engaged on Twitter and are showing other brands and businesses how to listen to their customers, provide one-on-one customer service in real time, and actively converse with those who make up their market so they can best serve them. In my opinion, that's a huge step forward from the traditional marketing and PR practices of one-way messaging.

    As for the 140 conference, it's my understanding that rather than being positioned as a marketing solution for authors (or anyone), Jeff Pulver created the conference as a venue for those already active on Twitter to engage in conversation with one another — in person (you know, like you are saying we need to do more of).

    I'll agree that there are lots of so-called gurus and experts out there who are all about selling quick and easy solutions to platform building. And, the second anyone uses “quick and easy” in the same sentence as “platform building,” my advice is to run away as quickly and easily as you can. One of the biggest takeaways from Twitter Boot Camp (and virtually every one of the presenters agreed on this) is: the first rule of Twitter for brands and businesses is to listen. The second rule of Twitter for brands and businesses is to listen. The third rule – engage in a meaningful way. Nothing quick or easy about either.

    And, if you want to learn firsthand just what Twitter Boot Camp is all about, you are welcome to attend the October 24th Twitter Boot Camp for Marketing and PR professionals in Los Angeles, California.

    ~ Kat

  4. While the Boot Camp wasn't developed for authors specifically, it was marketed as being for “Individuals interested in personal brand-building” and heavily promoted in publishing circles, and it was definitely an example of an opportunistic event, capitalizing on the hot trend du jour.

    There's nothing fundamentally or morally wrong with being opportunistic — that's just smart business — and while I'm sure the event was well-produced and featured insightful content, it's my firm opinion that paying $400 to learn how to use Twitter is a waste of time and money for anyone. It's not rocket science, and there's no new marketing skills required to use it; just common sense, an internet connection and the awareness that it's just one tool among many.

    Pulver's conference (with his offer to subsidize attendance via equity in one's company) was in a category all its own, as Feldman's rant pointedly noted.

  5. Actually, Guy – a lot of people who are coming from hard core traditional marketing have a very difficult time grasping the concept of Twitter and other social media. Hearing case studies and learning how their peers who are a bit ahead of the curve have used it really makes a big difference in helping them get past the “not getting it” stage of Twitter. It's definitely not rocket science. Neither is learning to ride a bike, but it helps to have someone holding the bike up while you get started.

  6. If someone wants to spend $400 on a shortcut to get up to speed on the flavor du jour, more power to them and their overflowing expense budget. I, however, value intellectual curiosity and a willingness to learn new things, and will always recommend just jumping in, getting your hands dirty, and learning by doing.

    It was the same thing years ago when old-school advertising sales reps couldn't grasp the Internet, and many were replaced by less experienced reps who did “get” it. It's a similar situation in marketing now as social media gurus with a Twitter account and no actual marketing experience position themselves as experts, and the echo chamber obliges them because they're all doing the same thing.

    Just like online advertising imploded, partly because of that siloed mentality and the lack of fundamental experience to support it, so will social media marketing. That's what always happens when the tools get put before strategy and fundamentals.

  7. I have to come to Kat's defense here. Yes, to us who can be ourselves on Twitter, such a Boot Camp seems ludicrous. But she is dealing with that species called The Suit. We are artists. Suits are not. Suits have their world defined for them, and something such as Twitter doesn't fit into that world.

  8. Even without seeing the movie, I can say it cannot match the book. Movies are not good at subtext. Read the book.

    >>>All of these tools are great, but if you forget why you're using them, who you're trying to reach, you risk becoming a robot.

    Or a fool. Too many times have I seen writers basically use Twitter and other things for embarrassing “Buy my book, pleeeeease buy my book” efforts. It's disgraceful and degrading.

    The First Rule of Social Media: Don't sell.

    The Second Rule of Social Media: Don't sell.

    There. Got a Fight Club-like thing in here.

  9. Guy, this is very wise – the fact so many people got so worried by the twitterfail last week shows how fragile a single-string platform can be (I don't like the idea of twitter being lost, I must say, but I don't use it to market myself, I use it to make new friends, and to uncover other people's creativity – but those I've found there whom I really admire, I have made a point of finding elsewhere on the web, so they wouldn't be lost).

    One thing authors possibly don't think of enough is speaking at academic conferences. This can seem really intimidating to someone outside academia, not to mention impossible. But people would be amazed how many conference organisers will bite the hand off someone creative who writes, paints, makes films about the area the conference is discussing – and this is an amazing way to bring your work (many will offer you an exhibition space, or a stall for signing) to the attention of people who really care about (and teach about, so if they like it, they'll tell others) your subject (and the audience is already assembled for you). And you get to meet lots of fantastic people who care about the things you do, and can very soon become part of that scene, and find yourself invited to other conferences – I spoke about my forthcoming novel at a conference commemorating the fall of the Berlin Wall, from which I have been invited to contribute to two anthologies in areas directly connected to my book, as well as being invited to speak at the Mid Atlantic Popular/American Culture Association in November. It's also a great way to practice your speaking skills if you aren't a confident speaker in a friendly, like-minded atmosphere

  10. “I, however, value intellectual curiosity and a willingness to learn new things, and will always recommend just jumping in, getting your hands dirty, and learning by doing.”

    Guy, that's not just the most satisfying way (it's funny – people say to me “what's twitter about?” and I say “just play around and find out and have fun”), it's actually integral to how twitter and the twitterverse work. I can see how it appears an immense marketing opportunity for suits, Mike, but the problem is that most people on the twitterverse are a bit like dogs (in a good way, stay with me :-)) – they can sense if you don't belong. And it's like Wittgenstein (like your post on community) – you can't LEARN to belong there. Of course you can find your feet and become part of it – and then people will listen, but I worry that these conferences teach the wrong thing, focusing on helping you appear as though you get it, rather than encouraging you to be yourself and really get it (and that has to be accompanied by a whole shift in corporate culture so employees don't always feel their bosses watching over their shoulder).

    I don't really have anything against these events, it just feels like a waste, and missing the point.

  11. I love that there's a Twitter Boot Camp; it's such an easy way to fleece people out some cash. At the most basic level, people who don't understand Twitter will probably never understand it and the people who do don't need a crash course in it. Besides, Twitter is on its way out; it's all marketing people now, people trying to sell you something. I know because I use Twitter to market for my company too. I would imagine that a year or two down the line Twitter will be a ghost town, and Facebook will go the way of MySpace and Friendster before it… there will be the next big thing, and some pseudo-marketing gurus will figure out some way to squeeze money out of the old-timers under the guise of teaching them something “cutting edge.” I mean, I don't blame them… but let's not pretend it's something it's not.

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