I am not Jack Grubb. I am Mr. Married White Male Age Range 35-54. I am Return User US-en Bounce Rate 84%. I am a statistic -- a series of digital bits of information -- and you are, too.
I know this as truth from numerous conversations to and about social media marketing companies. The discussion usually goes as follows:
Them: We utilize multi-channel SEO algorithms to generate a larger, faster click-funnels.
Me: I just try to create stuff that creates a connection between an individual and the organization.
I understand where these folks come from, as a sales-funnel approach can be beneficial to the bottom line. Keywords, cost-per-clicks and conversion rate optimization needs to factor into a budget. Brand managers need sales to grow exponentially. Marketing companies need to ensure the big bucks keep flowing as efficiently as possible. And if they can look cool doing it, so much the better.
But for some reason, I think we need more. We should want a sense of humanity emulating from our brands, especially on the very social media platforms created to connect us together. There's a certain amount of empowerment when we feel that companies treat us better than a money mule sliding down the ramp to a profit margin. And that empowerment leads to brand loyalty and shared meaning.
When I served as Director of Marketing for the SoyNut Butter Co., we had this disconnect between our customers and our company. We did great at trade shows, talking to people face-to-face and sharing our stories. But come marketing time, we went back to "Please buy us" mode. Facebook and Twitter was filled with links to products and news items on allergies. The networks grew, but they were mindless chores trying to game the algorithmic system.
Unfortunately, when I have to do something I don't really enjoy, I have to find a way to make it more fun. After heeding the advice of Joel Warady (@EnjoyLifeCEO) at a blogging convention, I put away the editorial calendars. I started listening to what people were talking about. And we started interacting on a personal level. Our company became more than a place that sold peanut-free peanut butter. We became a company that had actual people with actual lives and actual personalities.
In just a few weeks, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram became a fantastic place to hang out. It turned out that our SoyNut Butter really helped those with allergies lead a normal life, so we celebrated that. I posted links to blogs that I liked, and played on other people's Twitters. We built up such digital friendships that when some punk tweeted that "SoyNut Butter tastes like my poop," instantly someone retorted, "Your poop must taste amazing!"
I didn't think what I did differed much from how others approached social media. Little Debbie's Twitter feed is filled with inspirational messages and replies. Wendy's and Duracell like to joke around with posters. When you follow Enjoy Life Foods they always follow you back. Cynical folks would call that strategic branding. I'll call it humanity.
This year I have talked to enough marketers to know that genuine interaction isn't always a goal. Social media seems like a cheap way to churn out product links. The only thing that matters is pumping out leads with targeted direct mail. As long as those impressions are strong and the SEO clickbaits keep working.
But we live in a time of disconnect. Companies seem like they care more about their stock index than their customers. Prices rise, wages stay the same, and they look like they pay more attention to tax cuts than sexual harassment. Maybe just for a little while we can feel like they care what we think. That there's still a soul worth caring about.
We may laugh a bit. We may share the posts with our friends. Or we may scroll on looking for the nearest online rant. I give credit to those who try, because they know that sometimes humanity is found in the details.
But what do I know? I'm still searching for a full-time gig.
You drag yourself into the weekly Leadership 'Level 10' Meeting, fully prepared to hate this morning. As you enter the room, you notice a bright pink box. Your heart rate quickens as you lift the lid, and there before you are twelve assorted halos of happiness just waiting for devouring.
But then you hear her -- the Doughnut Slayer. Her shrill voice wafts down the hall like nails on a blackboard. She hasn't even reached the doorway, and already you grab your delicate treat and dive into your seat. Looking down you noticed that you grabbed a plain cake ring. You wince and try to replace it with the Boston Creme you really wanted, but it's too late.
She walks in with purpose, ready to proclaim her doughnut intentions.
Last Friday I had the pleasure of taking my littlest Princess to an enchanted land called Food City. It's a magical place, full of bananas, discount canned raviolis and disgruntled stock workers. It's also has a whole lot of customers unawares that a father can take his 2-year-old daughter shopping without anyone ending up dead or deported to Guam.
Now, I have been taking my spawn, and the one before her, shopping for groceries once a week going on seven years now. We enjoy our weekly treks, starting off by singing Mr. Blue Sky by ELO and ending with a nutritious meal of Chicken Nuggies sans sauce. Whether it be Kroger or Meyer or Walmart, we have braved them all. We're so confident of our shopping prowess, that we'll even go on a triple-coupon Thanksgiving Wednesday before a snowstorm.
And being a studly man carting off a much smaller human, I've been treated differently than female caregivers. Story time at the library usually has me sitting a table all alone, with the other mothers avoiding eye contact while keeping a hand on their rape whistle. Waitresses at the fine establishment, Bob Evans, have pulled me aside to explain how the children's menu worked. And there's been more than six times I had to change a poop on the bathroom floor because the changing table only resides in the women's room -- and these are poops I didn't even make.
The trip to Food City last Friday brought the term "Daddy's Day Out" to a whole new level. The moment we left the car, I was greeted by:
I've been pondering a lot about wizards lately. The way that think they're vastly superior to all us No-Majs. With their secret societies, and their bathrobes for clothing, and their penchant for endorsing creature-based indentured servitude. Who died and made them Dumbledore?
Maybe I'm just testy because of the last conversation that I had with Joe Pigglebottom, who just happens to be an auror in this place called the Ministry of Magic. We were going to go to see Paddington 2, and he just pops in and...well you tell me.
Joe: Hey, man, you ready?
Me: Dude, you can't just pop in like that. We talked about it. What if I was naked?
Joe: Then I could tweak your nipples.
Me: I don't think you understand. I don't want my nipples tweaked.
Joe: Fine, I won't apparate in anymore. I'll ring the doorbell like a schmuck.
Me: That's all I'm asking. Anyway, Jenny said she may want to go with us.
Joe: Great! I'll just apparate over and...
Me: No! You can just pop out of thin air inside people's houses. What if she's naked?
Joe: Then I'll tweak her nipples.
Me: That's called sexual assault. And it's genuinely frowned upon.
Joe: You muggles are so prudish. Fine, just let me get my parchment, an ink bottle and a quill.
When you find yourself unwillingly self-employed*, each day employs a fairly predictable schedule:
6:00 am - 7:00 am: Wake up and shower
7:00 am - 7:55 am: Force kids through morning routine
8:00 am - 8:05 am: Deposit kids at school
8:05 am - 4:25 pm: Apply for jobs
4:30 pm - 4:45 pm: Entice kids (with candy) to actually leave school
5:00 pm - 9:00 pm: Dinner, dancing, and bedtime
9:00 pm - 11:00 pm: Check to see how many times I can give plasma in a given week
11:15 pm - 5:59 am: Dream about koala bears
If you ask anyone with a pulse, 2016 blew chunks. Those same somebodies also claim that 2017 crapped bricks. Now they tell me that 2018 should be generally unpleasant. No wonder 80's nostalgia has hit an all-time high. If only we could have fun again. If only we could Wang Chung again.
But should the 80's deserve this connotation of a Mecca of wonderfulness? After all, the "Me Decade" gave us the Cold War, an assassination attempt, Just Say No, Olympic Boycotts, Chernobyl, the Challenger Explosion, the Iran Contra Affair, the McDLT, New Coke, and the fact that you could hire an entire army from the back pages of the magazine Soldier of Fortune. The rich still got richer, the poor still got poorer, and yet optimism reigned supreme.
So what's different from today and yester-year? Perhaps the constant barrage of social media heightens our social issue defensiveness. Perhaps identity politics reduce us to angry stereotypes warring with our closest friends. Perhaps its a conspiracy from the powerful Frozen Orange Juice Cabal.
Perhaps its the lack of TV theme songs.
I don't accept help well, and I don't know why. It's not a "don't show weakness" thing as I routinely list all the things I do wrong. My pride and ego live in a tiny shoe box located in the upstairs closet, so I know they don't get in the way. I guess I could blame the ingrained stubbornness of American ingenuity, but that seems way too philosophical. I just have trouble with help.
For instance, I could be hauling a player piano up 30 flights of stairs in 105 degree heat. Each step pulls my back further out of alignment, resulting in excruciating pain, and I'm pretty sure I just tore my ACL. On the third flight, a professional piano mover comes up and lets me know that they'll take this behemoth the rest of the way up -- free of charge. I still would say, "No, that's ok, I go this," while mentally highlighting who gets my Bugs Bunny baseball picture in the will.
From the beginning, I thought optimism equaled survival.
I didn't get over the hemiparesis effects of a neonatal stroke by accepting my lot in life.* No, I bucked up and said, "With physical therapy and determination I will run like everyone else. One day I won't have to wear my shoes on the wrong feet to force them to turn out. One day I will place fourth in state in the 400 meter dash -- even if it is only among private schools. One day it will be better."
When never-ending mind-numbing migraines knocked me out of work, I didn't lay down and whimper. No, I staggered up and quietly proclaimed, "So what if the doctor, the hospital and a nationally renowned neurologist can't figure out what's wrong with me. One day I'll stop these headaches. One day I'll be able to remember that bills get paid in the mailbox, not the front dresser drawer. One day I'll be able to understand why critics call Reba 'middling and pedestrian.' One day it will be better."
Not much to talk about this week regarding my health. Thyroid came out -- stitches came out -- and I feel fantastic! Like I was 25 again. Except I have two kids, rising costs, 1/2 the income and a car that may need a new battery -- so maybe like I am still 41. But a 41 that can stay awake past 9:00 PM EST.
As I spent time recuperating, all I heard about was Bitcoin.
That's a lie. I also heard about Matt Lauer, Al Franken, Roy Moore, Garrison Keeler, North Korea, Net Neutrality, Jerusalem, opioids, and Disney buying Fox. All I choose to acknowledge, though, is Bitcoin.
As I'm sure you remember, on Monday I had my thyroid forcibly ripped from my throat and discarded in the trash like a hunk of rancid sausage. I was told the surgery was a sight to behold, as it lasted about two hours. I petered out before it started, but I think it must have ended with a hulking man-wolf perched upon the operating table holding the offending gland aloft, shouting "I have slain the beast, and it is glorious!"
The "doctor" tells me he just removed the thyroid calmly, closed up the incision, and left for another appointment. He has no imagination. And his lab coat makes him look like a pharmacist.
Jack Grubb writes an incredible blog, Losing the Internets, which is read by at least 37 people and over 2,100 Russian SPAM bots. In his spare time he helps small companies find their marketing voice. Jack currently lives deliberately in Appalachia, Kentucky with his wife, two daughters, Jack Russell and a Lego collection beyond compare.