Ritual, Manners, Branding, Identity

As I cast around for how I want this blog to develop, I’m constantly revisiting what impresses me about other individual blogger’s values. “Values” is not exactly the right term. What I’m talking about is more of an atmosphere that says “this is who I am.”

Even people who don’t talk about their private lives will behave in a way that reflects personal values. This builds an expectation of the personal version of what we’ve come to call corporate culture.

The scent trail of culture can incorporate signals of any number of qualities. Spam has a scent. So do creativity, integrity, really good sales, loves, hates, competitiveness, ruthlessness, generosity, reverence, obsession — you name it.

If all self promotion was as self centered as spam, the Internet would be one stinky place. Fortunately, a marketing promotion, with the right atmosphere, can be both magnanimous and encouraging.

Here’s one, simple example of how promotion can ripple.

Last month, I posted excerpts from my new book. I also wrote a glowing post about Garr’s new book on presentations. Guess what? My stats show that I sold more copies of Garr’s book than mine.

The truism of the web: people talking about you is far more effective than talking about yourself.

Seth Godin – That doesn’t make sense

I have a strong suspicion that self promotion on the web is more like self promotion in face to face relationships. Think about it. You’re at a dinner party and the person next door leans in and begins discussing their magnificence. Not cool. No matter how magnificent they are, not cool at all. In my mind’s eye I can already “see” bad breath end ego oozing from their vicinity like viagra stanking up a spam filter.

Getting in someone’s face about how great you are is ugly in any interaction. In print media the recipient can put the leaflet down or throw it away. On TV a really bad commercial means the channel gets changed. In forums and blogs, spammers get banned.

Really good forum-style netiquette plays pretty well in person.

To skip straight to the point, ya make like a friendly resource, behave like a trusted (bathed, fact-checked and spell checked) resource and show who you are, patiently, reliably and prolifically. And you follow through like you care about who is listening more than you care about your own “rank.”

Self promotion on the web has a scent of social ritual.

Ritual is one aspect of culture that I hadn’t considered in relationship to marketing until after reading about beer, ritual and branding in posts inspired by a Wall Street Journal article. They were writing about an un-promoted, un-labeled beer produced by Belgian monks. Though the beer articles passed my eyes before Thanksgiving, they haunted my Christmas and were still in the back of my mind when considering New Year’s resolutions. Ritual is a big deal this time of the year.

Besides being what people describe as an excellent beer, Westvleteren has developed into a cult brand based on its rituals. All of the items mentioned above are ritualistic. Make an appointment. Call the Beer Phone. Two-case limit. No label. A regular release schedule. A unifying belief system. However they’re defined and practiced, rituals embody culture. They are symbolic expressions of a company’s values.

Ben McConnell – A religious donation to an unlabeled beer

Symbolic expressions of values: what are they and where do they come from?

Here, I could postulate. I could make knowledgeable-sounding lists and generalizations. I’m not going to do that because what I really want to know is what the process of exploring meaning is like, for me, blogging and in my flesh and blood life. After exploring I’d feel more genuine about defining, though getting to finite definitions wouldn’t be the point: I want the broadening experience of a journey.

Anything less than that kind of intimate depth would, well, bore me. It would feel too plastic, not meaningful enough to mean I’ve really really done good. And because I haven’t dug in and explored meaning for myself, as a blogger, I don’t really know what it would look like as I evolve, I dig in, stretch out and take a look.

I have a slightly crazy idea.

What if I committed to making 100 meaning-of life posts?

I’d base it loosely around how Elizabeth stuff bisects Internet, to keep some semblance of relevance and because the Internet is mucho hot stuff.

The Internet is the hottest thing to happen to communication since movable type – the printing press, not the blogging software. The way it connects us across cultures and experiences is nothing short of revolutionary. Seven generations ago my ancestors were getting out of Virginia after the Civil War. Seven generations from now our descendants will be learning about the communication revolution of the early days of the Internet. The world will be a different place for them because of what we figure out today about the power of the link.

My hope is to arrive at how the thing called Internet bisects my values and things I enjoy that I’d like to do more of in everyday life. If I don’t find a destination, per se, that’s OK. The goal is to explore, joyfully and with dedication.

Dance like nobody’s watching; love like you’ve never been hurt. Sing like nobody’s listening; live like it’s heaven on earth.

Mark Twain

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