The Technology Loop

Today’s guest post is by Doug Weinbrenner. Doug is a career-long nonprofit and marketing professional with a passion for doing old things in new ways in order to make wrong things right. He is the Account Supervisor at Premier Studios, an advertising agency that specializes in helping missional brands connect with their audience in a way that changes lives—and the world.

I know I am not the only one who can relate to poor Fred (at least I hope not).

While the signs and symptoms of succumbing to the dizzying grips of a “technology loop” can be subtle and even appear normal on the surface, the prognosis is paralyzing.

One day you are mastering the fine art of a 140-character conversation and before you can say “Tweet,” you are locked in a bathroom obsessively staring at your smartphone.

This digital disease not only affects the least assuming individual, it can also take over entire organizations. All it needs is an innocent gateway like a Facebook fan page before it has an organization pinning recipes on Pinterest.

For those individuals and organizations that find themselves spiraling out of control and whispering for help, there is hope.

Go Back to the Future

I often use a phrase to help people and organizations make sense of social media, “it’s just a new way of doing old things.” That is the foundation of innovation and technological (or mechanical) advancement, to do old things in new ways.

Social media and mobile platforms are just new ways of sitting around the kitchen table or campfire, albeit with millions of people from around the world at any given hour of the day. That to me is what makes our digital age so great and it is also what can turn it into a mind-numbing loop for many.

To further support my point, as well as hopefully demystify and simplify the essence of modern connectivity, the National Institutes of Health recently published research entitled Ancient Roots of Social Networks. The title alone is a great indicator of what the research discovered—we continue to find news of doing (very) old things.

After reading the research, I tweeted:

Yes, it is still and will always be about campfires and hieroglyphics. We are communicative and communal creators, it’s in our collective DNA.

Gary Vaynerchuk puts a cartoon twist on the same point and drives it home with this:

Keep It Simple, Silly

To further loosen the grips of a “technology loop,” either as an organization or as an individual, ask yourself the following questions: Who do you exist for and who helps you exist?

That is whom you should be talking to. No more, no less.

Many times when we approach communications, especially in this vast digital age, we tend to focus more on the important platforms and less on the important people. Yet, when we unplug it all, what remains is still the core need to know and be known, to hear and be heard, to understand and be understood.

It is never too late to start over again. It is not too late to step back, take a big breath and approach your online communications again, for the first time. This time however, instead of trying to be all things to all people, try being one authentic voice to the people who you exist for and who help you exist.

It will take practice, but most things worthwhile do.

Be Findable and Worth Finding

That is also another consultative cliché of mine, “Be findable and worth finding.” Now that the “technology loop” has hopefully slowed down, we need to put it to a grinding stop with this last step.

Especially true for nonprofits, people are looking for you and often those with the most to offer are the hardest to find. Why is that? People are looking on their terms and on their turf, not on our terms or our turf. In order to be found, it is important to seek first.

I recently watched an interview with Jason Falls in which he was asked how a business can customize their social media strategy. He replied, “Be where the largest part of your network is.” The simple follow-up question, “How do you find out where your network is” got a simple and powerful answer, “Ask them!”

The biggest value is first being findable. The second biggest value is in being worth finding. Give value when and where the people important to you need it and the people important to you will want to give value back when and where you need it.

Again, it is that easy and that hard. Do the right things right. Rinse and repeat.