Connection vs. Static
One of the beautiful things about the digital world is that you have access to people you never had access to before.Your best friend from elementary school? Facebook.The crafter who is into Czech glass beads? EtsyFly fishing enthusiasts? The North American Fly Fishing Forum.Conversations of people in your neighborhood? Nextdoor.There is unprecedented opportunity to connect in a digital world. However, the flip side is that everyone knows this, so the volume from salesmen, marketers, old friends, business people, charities and causes is at an all-time high. A digital world life skill is learning to tune out static. We all do it. (We’d go crazy if we couldn’t.) So given that we have this amazing opportunity being obscured by the static, how do we communicate in a way that connects?Build a reputation for relevance.The term “relevance” is tossed around a lot, but in its most basic form the word means applicable to the person who receives it. For example, if you send me a postcard about a carnival for preschoolers, I’ll toss it. I don’t have preschoolers anymore. It isn’t relevant. Send me an invitation to an event for middle schoolers, and again I’ll toss it. If the next postcard (or e-mail or tweet or blog post) is about something not relevant to me, then my mind will classify your communication as irrelevant and I’ll stop reading/listening. You will have become static.Probably the best example of this—relevant to you the reader—are the e-mails to you receive from the person who has completely mastered the forward. Remember when you first got on e-mail and actually read the jokes/political commentary/dire threat of a new computer virus? It doesn’t take long to stop opening the e-mails that start with FW:. And if a single person continuously sends them to you, then it doesn’t take long to start hitting delete without even scanning the subject line for the FW.In a world of static, you can’t afford to broadcast. You have to adopt a narrowcast methodology. Find the person—or group of people—you want to connect with and communicate relevant to them. Or maybe more importantly, make sure they are screened from the communication you send that is irrelevant to them.Choose visual simplicity.To survive the volume of visual information we learn to glance and process quickly. We stop reading and learn to scan. So, design your digital connection strategies with that in mind. The cool thing is that most digital communication is visual—which works well when people are in “scan mode”. So learn to communicate visually and learn to do it well. Learn to leverage white space, headers, and brevity of language in the pursuit of simplicity. Simplicity has value in a sea of complexity. Sometimes people will receive your message simply because it is visually simple.Be the “easy toaster.”In my office we often ask “yeah, but is it easy toaster?” The phrase “easy toaster” is based on Seth Godin's blog post (visit link) about his fancy new toaster that had all kinds of bells and whistles but takes ten steps to make toast. It made him long for his old toaster that only took two steps.In every opportunity for connection, you have to ask yourself…”is it easy toaster?” If you make people go through ten steps to get to you, chances are they will give up in the process. (Which makes me curious why such a high number of companies require people to fill out forms on their contact page without supplying a phone number and e-mail address.)View every website, postcard, e-mail, program and event through the eyes of the person who is engaging for the first time. Then make absolutely certain that you are the ‘easy toaster’.The best advice?While none of us would ever pick up the phone, dial a random number, and start telling the person who answers how much we enjoy sushi, we frequently develop and send digital communication without actually considering the person receiving it. Take the time to develop a connection strategy. After all, it is better to wait and truly connect than to lose your chance later because you’ve been labeled as static.
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