Are You Sucking the Human Being Out of Being Human?

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Did you know that the best time to send a Tweet is precisely at 2:14 PM Eastern Standard Time on a Wednesday afternoon while slightly overcast with a 17% chance of rain and 27% humidity?

Not a big Twittererer? No problem.

Just make sure that your Facebook status does not breach the suggested length of 17.2 words with an average number of syllables per word no higher than 1.2 and a limit of 3 punctuation marks, one of which must be a question mark.

Unless of course you’re into Pinterest in which case do not use more than 2 different shades of red. And if you are uploading a baking recipe, it should contain a minimum of 1/2 cup of sugar (not including brown sugar of course!) otherwise it is less likely to be repinned.

Call it absurd, but this is how many of us think online. Just look at all of the articles, infographics, e-books, white papers, charts and other statistical nonsense that has attempted to break down the human social experience into the “correct” number of words to use, the “best” time to post them and the “perfect” placement of punctuation.

Just because we can sit down and over-analyze every single burp, hiccup and fart that we as a species emit online doesn’t mean that we should. (click here to Tweet this…you know you want to!)

The only thing these “rules” and statistics really do is alter our most innate instinct. Being human.

The Art of Being Human

When you speak with someone on the phone for the first time, is your opinion of them based on the number of words they use when they speak with you? The average number of syllables? The exact time in which they called?

Or do you actually listen to what they are saying? And the value they have to offer? Do you allow your instinct to take over and form an opinion based on how they make you feel? And the give and take of the conversation?

I bet you do. Because that is what it means to be human.

We look for a connection. Someone or something to help connect the dots. Not based on some ridiculous statistic that tells us when we should or should not speak. What we should or should not say. And how we should or should not say it.

But a real human connection in an otherwise digital world.

Without Connection Life is Empty and Meaningless

There is no point to all of this without some type of connection. Another anonymous visitor to our website? A few extra ticks in our Google Analytics? That warm fuzzy feeling that you get at the end of the day because somebody bit on that cleverly worded Tweet?

It is all meaningless if they don’t come back. If they don’t leave a comment. If they don’t start a conversation. If they don’t share your message. If they don’t make a purchase.

And none of that happens without some type of connection.

Not because of your word count. But because, you…a human being…typed something into an electronic box that was seen by another human being halfway across the world. You said something they related to. Something that touched them. Or made them laugh. Or think. And so they responded. And then you responded, officially making it a conversation. They told their friends about you. And the process repeated itself. Over and over and over again.

How do you turn that interaction into a viable statistic without sucking the life out of it?!?! How do you make a graph that explains the how-to’s of human connection using nothing but numbers and percentages without being completely void of all emotion?

How?

It’s easy. When you’re only goal is getting someone to visit your website, you can turn anything into a cold statistic. You start each day at zero. And so you look for an edge. What is the best number of words? When is the best time? What is the best way to word it? And you head down a path that revolves around numbers.

What I’m suggesting is that you just change your goal. Stop focusing on getting someone to visit your website. After all that’s not a worthy goal. That’s the result of a worthy goal. A goal that revolves around building relationships.

Because if you build relationships, the rest will work itself out. You will no longer have to start each morning at zero. Instead, each day you build on a solid foundation of connected people that believe in you and your message. That carry you on their proverbial shoulders. That help you build your community until they feel that it is their community too.

And the best part about relationships are that they don’t care what time it is or how many words you use. They don’t pay attention to the number of syllables or whether there is a question mark or not. They are not your followers or your fans or your pinners (or whatever they call it on Pinterest).

They Are Your Digital Family

Humans beings looking for the same thing as you. A connection. In my little world I consider us DFF’s. Digital Friends Forever.

I know. It’s lame. It’s like, how much more lame could this be? And the answer is none. None more lame (think Spinal Tap).

But for me, seeing my friends online through that lens allows me to think of them as much more than a number or a potential opportunity. And because of that I treat them differently. I value them more. I care for them. I look for ways to help them. And I am often humbled by their generosity towards me.

Whatever number of friends that I have landed on today is enough. Yet I’m always looking for more. Not because I am greedy. Not because I see the potential of an opportunity. But because I am addicted to the human interaction that goes on amongst my digital family.

You should join us.

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  • http://twitter.com/Sarahsreading Sarah Penner

    My hubby doesn’t get ‘social media’ but I really do enjoy it. I really like your use of DFF (Yep, I’m lame too) because that is how I feel when I log on in the morning. I love to see what my DFF’s have to say. I am not a numbers person. I appreciate and care about pretty much anyone that follows me. I work to establish a relationship because that is what being human is all about. If I just wanted numbers then I believe that I’d be missing out on the best part of social media.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      That’s the way to do it! And it’s the same in life. I would take 3 GREAT friends over 300 OK friends anytime!

  • http://YoPalHal.com/ “Yo Pal” Hal Elrod

    Marc, yet another witty, insightful post giving further evidence as to why YOU are one of my (if not my #1) favorite bloggers! And this is an important reminder for me too, as I too have been guilty of (as you so eloquently put it) “over-analyzing every single burp, hiccup and fart that I as a member of the human species emit online.” :^)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Amazing! Thanks Hal!! That means a lot! You do realize I am going to quote you on that from now until the end of time, right?

      • http://YoPalHal.com/ “Yo Pal” Hal Elrod

        You’re very welcome. Of course, that’s why I leave such “profound” comments; just so I’ll be quoted.

  • http://twitter.com/T4Execs Schuyler Kaye

    Great article Marc, I appreciate your sense of humor. When I first started seeing my wife I referred to what we had in an email as a “relationship” quotes and all… She teased me for the longest time until one day NYE I asked her to drop the “‘s from our relationship as my way to make it “official” … there I go again with the “‘s. Still patting myself on the back today for the cleverness of that moment, but it brings up a point that I’ve been challenged with. I like numbers… I use them when I work out, eat, meditate, etc, anything I want to improve on has a number attached to it. But I’ve found it very unsatisfying attaching numbers to social media – it is as you say a fleeting buzz when you get the desired response.

    So the question I’ve been asking myself is what can I do to drop the “‘s from my “relationships” with my online “friends”… Just like real life there isn’t time to do it with all of them, and anytime I’ve tried I get overwhelmed within the week. Solution? I’m not sure, I’d love to hear your thoughts, but in the mean time I’ve started picking some people out that inspire me and asking to work on a Digital Project together. Something that supports us both. What better way to get to know someone than to work with them over the course of a month or two?

    Would you be open to an interview on the topic?

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Schuyler, I love this! The quotation marks comparison with your wife is so spot on!! Thanks for sharing that with me and everyone else reading this!

      As for my thoughts? I found that just talking to people online with sincerity is enough. Small talk. With no expectations or interest in anything in return. It’s the little things.

      Oh, and don’t forget that you need to be open to it as well. Be willing to put yourself out there and seek that connection.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      …and as far as an interview on the topic goes, sure! Shoot me an email with more info!

  • Steve VanHove

    Hey Marc. Awwwww … what can I say? You’re great.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Thanks Steve!

  • http://pegfitzpatrick.com/ Peg Fitzpatrick

    Some great points here but I will disagree with knowing the status length for posts. I just wrote on that this week. Why? Because too many people are being careless about what and where they post. Tweets should be on Twitter and Facebook posts should live on Facebook. Messages are being lost, double posted and people are tuning out. Cross posting content is creating noise everywhere which does make me also in fact agree with you that being human is the point. I’ll argue that being human means caring enough to post the proper content on the proper channel (as a tweet, post or update) without mindlessly duplicated it to another platform. Just because the technology exists, doesn’t mean you should use it.

    While some scheduling is ok, and for people who manage multiple accounts for companies necessary, it can’t replace the human connection. Knowing the best time to schedule your updates doesn’t mean that you aren’t interacting with people, it just means that you are giving yourself time to work as well. The illusion that people need to be on Twitter 24/7 is a bunch of crap. Anyone who is on Twitter 24/7 is not working and is looking to become the next Twitter ninja, rockstar…

  • http://twitter.com/jeff_haden Jeff Haden

    I thought I’d respond since you said, “This post and the comments actually inspired me to write a post on my blog today, so thanks for that!” in a comment to my article on Inc.com. I don’t disagree with your point of view. That’s why I led the article with “You work hard to create great content. Now you need people to actually see what you create.”

    Being human, making connections, and offering value are a given; absent those strategy doesn’t matter. But if you do create great content why not make smart decisions about how to share it: Picking times when your connections are most likely to see it, making sure you aren’t too wordy or terse, picking the right platform… why wouldn’t you?

    I wrote the article to help people who don’t have access to their own data that tells them when and how their connections are most engaged. It gives them a starting point as they work to build digital relationships.

    Using your own data or aggregate data to make smart decisions about how and when to post doesn’t suck the life out of anything. It just means you’re making smarter choices so you can better meet the needs of your audience… which is what it’s all about.

  • http://www.redesign2.com/blog.html Paul Biedermann

    I think when we try to break anything down to just a science, we sometimes sacrifice our better instincts and often common sense falls by the wayside as well. The most successful people in any endeavor are informed by the “science,” but then do the things they know how to do best and kick ass as they always do.

    The mistake many people make, is being ruled by the science and hoping that if they follow a specific formula just the right way, then they will achieve what others have. The problem is, there is no one right answer, and looking for one is tipping at windmills. Just ask a group of “experts” for their advice on anything, and you will get just as many different responses.

    Formulas, metrics, data, recipes… what have you… it’s all helpful, perhaps even critical information to have, but true success is an art.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Very eloquently put Paul!!!! Sometimes we forget that all of this stuff from writing to communication is art!!

  • http://twitter.com/mickhaensler Higher Ground Media

    “What I’m suggesting is that you just change your goal. Stop focusing on getting someone to visit your website. After all that’s not a worthy goal. That’s the result of a worthy goal. A goal that revolves around building relationships.”

    I couldn’t agree more, but convincing clients of this is a whole other issue when all they want to do is sell shit.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      You have to be careful not to let your clients control the project! They are going to hold you responsible for the result either way…don’t let them hold the mouse!

  • CheshireBizNet

    This for me is a little simplistic in its argument, although with the correct basic intentions of be good to your clients and offer them something genuine.

    Paragraphs such as: ‘When you speak with someone on the phone for the first time, is your opinion of them based on the number of words they use when they speak with you? The average number of syllables? The exact time in which they called?’ don’t help the argument because some basic psychology suggests that we actually do take this information in, although through subconscious means.

    Although the extent that the ‘rules of social engagement’ go to are extreme, I feel that they are merely trying to outline the best times to interact, and trying to point business’s in the correct direction. Anyone who has worked in marketing in any large organisation will realise that this isn’t new to social media, and most people are not naive enough to believe that any form of advertising isn’t thoroughly thought out.

    As much as i find that part of the argument flawed the fact that social media is about interaction should not be overlooked. Having great interactions with a small number of active customers is better than having a huge number of useless followers is where a lot of people go wrong.

    @CheshireBizNet

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      First, sorry for taking wayyyy too long to get back to you. I was poking around looking for comments I never responded to and came across this one. SO I don’t want you think you were not heard.

      I get what you are saying and in some ways I do agree with you. Sure, posting your best stuff at 4AM is probably not the best time. But I do think it’s better to post it at 4AM and be available to respond and maintain the conversation than it is to schedule your posts at the “ideal time” and not be there to maintain the conversation.

      Yes, I see the irony in this response about being able to respond when I am responding to you months late. I’m allowed to blow it every now and then too I guess.

  • Pingback: Your Turn…What Do I Suck At? by Marc Ensign

  • Mike Coday

    Marc, I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to disagree with your entire premise on the basis that my disagreement will make me feel smarter than I am… and it’ll help draw attention to me… and away from your excellent points. [/tongueincheek]

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      And in that same tone I am going to say that you are stupid without giving any proof whatsoever and will completely disregard your comment and change the subject in order to make myself feel superior.

      So there.

  • http://www.pritchardwebsites.com/ Mike Pritchard

    Thanks again Marc, another great article. This should be mandatory reading, every Monday morning : )

  • kara wood

    Really enjoyed your article Marc, I was just speaking with a friend last night about the importance of being helpful and kind on the social web.

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