If you want to build your brand online circa 2013 from scratch, you need to kiss your own personal shame on the lips through the protective glass that is the line in the sand that you and your employer have decided are grounds for termination. What do I mean? “Goose, it’s time to buzz the tower.” And if you’re not willing to publically buzz the tower — to really set the windows rattling and maybe put some coffee down the captain’s shirtfront — you’ll never be able to differentiate yourself from all the other people who are hitting all the same points with the same tone.
You don’t have to be outrageous to kiss your shame on the lips — you can surely be the talk of the dinner party without showing up drunk and creating a scene — you just need to be a little more honest, a little more forthcoming, and a lot more human than you’ve probably been commanded by too many broadcast journalism classes, by too many media training courses, or simply by your very own concept of self, decorum, and shyness.
Think of all of the amusing — saucy even — stories you could tell at a dinner party, even if your mum, dad, Priest, Rabbi, boss, inlaws, girlfriend, boyfriend, husband, wife, and even kids were in attendance — if you had the courage!
The reason why you come off as so tone-deaf online might even be because you aren’t much of an exhibitionist at all! Maybe “I can’t say that” is more of an excuse you use so that you don’t have to become the center of attention in the fist place. Maybe you’re too shy for this? Maybe you’re not the sort of person who would even get up at a dinner party with all of your family and friends to even tell a story in such a public, out there, sort of way.
I mean, if I’m being honest, online people want to see you in your knickers humping a giant stuffed bear as much as you want to do it yourself. This has been proven again and again by the hundred of Harlem Shake videos published by just about every company — and not just the Playboy Mansion and a bunch of college kids.
Sadly, since there were so many Harlem Shake videos, only the really raunchy, sexy, bombastic videos ever made the light of day (very smart, you introverted social media manager — you were able to hide in plain sight!)
Nothing you will do in your blog posts will ever be as humpy or as nast or as raunchy as all the people in your office have already possibly been when they clicked upload and your Harlem Shake video went live and possibly went quasi-viral. Be honest, you’ve probably kissed shame on the lips at a few holiday parties in your time — don’t worry, what I am suggesting is really up to you.
If it helps you out at all, consider all of this to be part of your job; if it helps you out at all, workshop some of the scenarios you’re considering and pass them by the most creative people in your office. Explain to them what you’re up to and let them know that they shouldn’t be surprised when the walls shake, the coffee flies, and you break some sound on behalf of the company and brand.
First caveat, however: do not script it, do not read it, do not practice it, and do not make it perfect. People hate reluctant roleplay — it’s no fun if it’s forced!
Ask TMZ: there’s only one thing more shameful than a sex tape popping up: a sex tape that was produced for publicity reasons. No, I am not suggesting a sex tape, but I am suggesting getting as close to your shame as possible, making it close enough to make you a little nervous — maybe a lot nervous. If you’re not challenging yourself as much as you do when you prepare and perform a public speech, I think you may well be calling it in.
Why in the world was I inspired to write such a post? Well, I reconnected with Jason Konopinski at SXSW and started to listen to his podcast, Riffing on Writing. His latest episode features Julien Smith and this blog post is going to be completely derivative.
This entire post was a riff on something Julien said — and something I think I need to remind myself of today: “people don’t get close enough to their line when they write.” While that may not be a direct quote, it’s what I heard and this is what I made of it:
You may well have a line when it comes to what you will and won’t say on social media, on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, et al — and that line might really and truly be right on the edge of propriety, too!
However, I bet you’ve never even remotely come close to your very own line — and that’s indeed safe but it doesn’t help when it comes to making a name for yourself or standing out from the crowd, especially — and this is another paraphrase from Riffing on Writing from Julien — since we’re currently living through the most competitive media age in history.
Strangely enough, I am now listening to The Engaging Brand podcast with Anna Farmery and her guests Stephen Voltz & Fritz Grobe — gurus in the art of creating viral videos — and they’re echoing what Julien and Jason talked about except in this case they’re talking about what makes a viral video hot: and it’s not narrative, it’s not story, it’s not inner-most-innermost, it’s more side show, dunk tank, shot in the groin!
OK, now that we know what the people want, they also echoed what I said earlier on, too, which is: you need to be honestly bombastic, you need to be earnest about that groin shot — you need to make sure that all the viewers of America’s Funniest Home Video don’t call bullshit on your doggie video unless there’s a very big wink and a large nod.
When it comes to embracing our own personal Idiocracy, we don’t want to feel like we’re being spoken down to, for goodness’ sake, we want to feel like we’re all on the same level — that we’re sharing a bit of a giggle, a bit of a blush, together. That, as we laugh and our shoulders relax and we let some of our daily stress disperse into the Interwebs, we also click Share To: Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, Reddit, Digg, Vine, StumbleUpon, Tumblr and everywhere else.
Final caveat: please go as far as your line in the sand — but no further. For most companies I have seen on YouTube doing the Harlem Shake, I don’t even know where that line is anymore. Even if your line is very out there, make sure you have your boss and legal define a line for you — and stick behind it; also, consider the family friendliness of your content, too. If Bob Saget wouldn’t show it on AFV then you might have gone too far.
You really don’t want to get flagged as family unfriendly. Think about your content as a submission to StumbleUpon, “Is this page safe for work? [Yes] [No, it contains nudity or adult content]” — try to avoid nudity or adult content. Remember, America was founded by prudes. Violence is OK, sexual content is not.
Good luck and I want you to know that no matter how bold you are, no matter how brave you fancy yourself after all of this, you’ll still get nowhere close to your real line — unless you’re a sociopath or Louis CK — so don’t be too concerned.
Some bad news: you’ll soon realize you’ll become way more popular online if you get and keep super close to your line of shame than you will ever get from being smart, being a good writer, or having actually original insight. I am sorry but it’s true. You’re already an amazing writer, right? Imaging the new heights you’ll reach if you come out from the shadows, come in from the cold, and allow your freak flag to fly!
Let me know how it goes.
- Show 429 – The Viral Video Manifesto (theengagingbrand.com)
- You Didn’t Make the Harlem Shake Go Viral – Corporations Did (mashable.com)
- The Virginian-Pilot gives viral video making a shake (hamptonroads.com)
- Gangnam Style & The Harlem Shake Face Off On Twitter [Infographic] (socialtimes.com)
- Lifecycle of a Viral Video: The Harlem Shake Down (us.cision.com)
- Hot Viral Videos: Jeff Gordon Test Drive and The History of Rap (rr.com)
- Go Viral with Harlem Shake Video Costumes (costumesupercenter.com)
- From motivation to slander: How social media leverages shame for better and worse (digitaltrends.com)
- 5 things to consider before doing a Harlem Shake (urbanandcreative.wordpress.com)
- Over 4,000 ‘Harlem Shake’ Videos Are Uploaded to YouTube Every Day (socialtimes.com)
About Chris Abraham
A pioneer in online social networks and publishing, with a natural facility for anticipating the next big thing, Chris is an Internet analyst, web strategy consultant and advisor to the industries' leading firms. He specializes in Web 2.0 technologies, including content syndication; organize search engine optimization (SEO), online reputation management (ORM), content marketing, online collaboration, blogging, and consumer generated media.