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First Rule: Not Everyone Is Like You

By that I mean that we assume that most people do what we do and follow our normal cycles…that’s uniquely dangerous for consultants and trebly dangerous for new media consultants.

I was just at the eye doctor, and commented that I’m probably in front of a monitor 9 to 10 hours a day. From reading newsfeeds and early emails at 6:30 in the morning to one last glance at the blogs at 11pm just before I go to bed.

It’s what I do for a living as an information worker – I email people, write things, research things, build presentations, and read and approve other people’s documents.

I had a small moment of Zen clarity the other day; I was reading Chris Brogan’s blog where he wrote about ‘5 Things Small Business Owners Should Do Today Online.’

Now this is an issue near and dear to me lately; I’m working a lot on thinking through what small businesses ought to do and spending a fair number of lunches at Rotary and Chamber meetings, talking and listening to small businesspeople.

And I think Chris is flat wrong. Where? Well, he says small businesspeople ought to:

1. Start a blog;
2. Start listening; (online)
3. Try Twitter OR Facebook;
4. Get the word our; (using social sites)
5. Try moving the needle (do social-media only special events)

I’m thinking he’s about 20% right here – I agree with only one of his prescriptions – listening. Does that mean I think that he’s mistaken about the value of the other 4? I mean, all the social media agencies and corporate marketing people are jumping on those bandwagons…they must be useful.

Those four things are useful He’s just mistaken about the capability and priority of small businesses. Look, for me or for Chris – who are online 17 or 18 hours a day (I’m in front of the monitor for 9 or 10, but have my Blackberry with me the rest of the time) these are great suggestions. If you’re a new-media consultant, they are terrific.

But the for locksmith down the street from me, these are 180 degrees wrong. He doesn’t have the bandwidth to do these things – to sit in front of the computer long enough to meaningfully blog, Tweet, listen and promote – while he’s also fixing locks and cutting keys. It’s not that he’s not capable or smart enough to – of course he is. But his day’s activities don’t involve sitting in front of a screen, and if he did, he’d be neglecting the things he needs to do to actually make money.

That’s where Chris is off the rails on this.

Not everyone is like him (or me). And as we try and find ways to make social media tools useful to people who make pizza, sell shoes, fix bicycles and unclog drains – the people in America who are doing real (as opposed to virtual) work (by the way, if you haven’t read “Shop Class as Soulcraft” – do. Here’s a NYT Magazine article by author Matthew Crawford.

And we need understand that it’s our job to help them do more of what they do, not to try and make them do what we do.