Do You Believe in Mermaids?

This could be titled “4 Random Rants,” but the mermaid one was too good to pass on as the headline. Along the way we will also discuss stalking photographers, social media experts, and the Donald. Here we go.

1) Stalking Photographers

20764670321_9d2be4e681_k (1)

I often use a tripod when taking landscapes and in studio. It makes for a better picture, reduces shake, and lessens the amount of time necessary to take a great capture. Whenever I am in a public place, busy or not, people inevitably walk by, see the camera on the tripod, and what do they do?

Well, most stare at me, and then look back and forth between what they are doing and me and my camera. If there are multiple folks, they’ll start discussing that there’s a photographer over there. Some of them will come up to me and ask, “What are you shooting?” That’s all fine.

Here’s where it gets bizarre. Some folks walk right up behind me and start looking over my shoulder to figure out what I am shooting. That bugs me out a bit.

Then there are the ones who suddenly think this a good opportunity to hack an Instagram shot. They whip out their smartphones and start shooting over my shoulders, from the side, and in the worst cases they just walk right in front of the tripod and take the shot (yes, it has happened multiple times). Now I am bugged out and annoyed.

Finally, there are the clowns who ask me if I need a model. Some will ask repeatedly, and even give me a card. The above shot of Philadelphia is one example where onlookers kept asking me to be in the shot. The photograph did OK, but it wasn’t worth asking for a hypothetical 15 minutes of fame.

2) Social Media Marketing Conversations Are Dead


Last week I saw a thread started by a couple of prominent social media experts discussing other social media experts’ blogs, all of which debated whether or not social media marketing is dead. Right away, you should know how bad this was. My desire to throw my laptop against the wall and start screaming increased by the paragraph.

Here’s what’s dead: Conversations about social media marketing. Yes, the whole lot of them, all 762 million of them (many of mine included). It’s a new decade, but a very old and repetitive set of conversations. Build owned content, stop publishing, start talking, and by the way, here are 16 ways to grow your Twitter account with semi-fake followers. Better yet, just talk to other brands (or with other social media marketers) on your Twitter account to fake your engagement rate.

There are so many damn social media marketing conversations out there that they have blurred into white noise. It’s marketing bloggers talking to marketing bloggers… Or worse, marketing bloggers spamming each other with links on Twitter.

The social media marketing is dead discussion is the biggest navel gazing exercise of them all. It’s also the most meaningless one we could have, and the one CMOs care about least. Keep kicking that dead horse.

Come on, get real! Some marketers are just bad at what they do, and they always have been. The medium changes (hello, junk mailers and email spammers!), the problem stays the same. By the way, every profession has winners and losers.

3) Do You Believe in Mermaids?


Image by Alexandra Moir

I bet you thought the Donald would be next, but no. We need to discuss the mermaid thing first.

A friend told me a story about a 20 something that works with him. This 20 something believes in mermaids because of an article she read on the Internet. She swears by it, and will not be dissuaded. This is a college educated person.

She might be my daughter’s next playmate. I am sure they could have a great conversation about Soleil’s favorite Disney Princess, Ariel.

My friends, this is the state of information thanks to the Internet. People cannot discern truth from fiction. Anyone with a publishing platform can be assertive in their boasts, and back them with faked images and links to other articles, more pictures and even some videos depicting similar fiction.

When you have an ignorant or ill-informed society, dangerous things can happen. At a minimum, the U.S. economy will shed higher earning jobs to better equipped workforces.

The ability to discern quality information remains the greatest challenge facing our children. We must question all sources, even the media as we have seen in recent years. Our educators need to instill the ability to qualify information or we will all be dealing with mermaid debates at work.

Anyone want to buy a unicorn?

4) Dear Huffington Post: Take the Donald Seriously

Comic by Berkeley Breathed

I admit it, I laughed out loud when the Huffington Post announced that they would only cover the Donald Trump campaign in the entertainment section (full disclosure, I am a Huffington Post blogger). It was even funnier when Berkeley Breathed returned to lampoon the Donald again with Bloom County cartoons.

But in the case of the Huffington Post, the joke may be over. Why? The Donald is still leading the Republican field, no matter how many stupid things he says and how many attacks the rest of the presidential candidates launch at him. That’s not funny, and the story has surpassed any twisted reality show Hollywood could imagine.

There’s an obligation to report this campaign seriously rather than contribute to the circus. This guy might actually be the Republican candidate for the 2016 election. It’s not like he cares when the Kochs and other super rich Republicans try to take him out. He seems impervious to the usual slimy election shenanigans.

Beyond the obligation to take his campaign seriously, there is also the mermaid contingent.

Yes, these poor fools probably believe the Donald Trump campaign
a reality TV show

After all, they read it in the entertainment section of a reputable news source. That’s the problem with the Internet these days.

The Devolving Civility Situation

Social Media Tensions

This post was almost titled “Eating Kawasaki,” but the issue extends beyond Twitter behavior and influencers. The general state of online conversation continues to devolve into a snarky, nasty tar pit, in turn impacting the outside world by destroying real relationships.

That should not be a surprise, people who exist online interact in real life. As bad manners become the norm online, they inevitably affect their real life relationships.

A recent study reported by Reuters and Marketing Pilgrim, showed that “78 percent of 2,698 people reporting an increase in rudeness online with people having no qualms about being less polite virtually than in person.” The above infographic shows more factoids from the study.
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Why I Don’t Blog About Social Tools

John Wall's Sweet J Filtered
I re-edited this John Wall jumper photo with Snapseed, one of my favorite social tools for photo sharing.

People frequently ask my opinion about social networks and applications. While I oblige requests individually, generally I don’t proactively seek to give advice or blog about tools unless the discussion revolves around a macro trend or impacts strategy.

It comes down to positioning, long term viability and personal interest.

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CONTEST: Social Business or Social Bullshit?

bull riding
Image by Emmett Tullos III

The sales pitch for social business (see IBM’s definition) has spread from the technology industry to the social media echo chamber. Social media tools will bring a promised evolution of business, but how much of this buzz is bullshit?

Recently, Jason Falls and I visited Dell’s social media command center. We were both impressed with the company’s deepening commitment towards social as a means to facilitate better relationships across the enterprise. Clearly social-media empowered business can become a reality.

At the same time when you start seeing social media experts across the blogosphere setting up social business shingles, you have to wonder. Am I being sold the real deal or just another dose of unicorn powered super conversation?

In that vein, I’d like to invite you to sound off. Is social business a great thing, or yet another overhyped promise from social media experts looking to break into the enterprise? The best five comments pro or con (as judged by me on Friday afternoon) will win a copy of Jason’s book, No Bullshit Social Media.

No Bullshit Social Media

C.C. Chapman holds a couple copies of No Bullshit Social Media

To get you started, I’ve listed three reasons for and against social business. Good luck!

Three Pros

1) Perhaps the best argument for social business is speed. Watching Dell’s team respond to situations by integrating communications, legal and more was impressive. By empowering and encouraging interactions through process and social technology, businesses can better respond to customers and situations. Speed is a competitive advantage in any market.

2) One of the best comments from the Customer Is Not Your CMO came from Ben Kunz, who noted there are three ways to become a great business. One of them is to become completely customer centric. Social business empowers widespread dialogue across enterprises all the way to customers and other stakeholders. This in turn creates the opportunity to become completely customer centric, from sales to operations.

3) While companies like Walmart are leading the innovation wave amongst traditional consumer enterprises, technology players like, IBM, Atos and more are acquiring social technology companies, changing their cultures, and moving towards the social business ideal. The technology industry is eating its own dog food and leading by example, just as it did with blogs and other initial social media a decade ago. History is repeating itself.

Three Cons

1) Social media experts are beating this drum loudest, and that triggers a big red flag. Many social media experts don’t know marketing basics, and in some cases refuse (or can’t) to deliver return on investment. Now they are suddenly telling the business world how everything must change. So, someone who knows how to game Twitter suddenly understands how to run a multimillion dollar enterprises? Social business sounds like the pedantic ramblings of middle managers ad consultants trying to justify a bigger piece of the pie.

2) Businesses still struggle to integrate social media into marketing, yet, in large part because they don’t see the value. According to a survey of the CMO Council, 66 percent of marketing organizations are not integrating social media into their full marketing outreach.

Facebook Marketing Q5

Social media’s best chance of becoming a part of the regular business mix is through the auspices of the marketing department. But don’t expect it to change everything and transition the CMO’s office into social marketing. Social will only play its role within the larger multichannel experience.

3) The word social doesn’t mean anything anymore. It’s gone the way of other cliched technology and media terms, like “2.0” and “.com”. So what are we really talking about here? Widespread social media throughout an organization revolutionizing business structures?

Isn’t this the revolution of email and intranets argument again? Sorry, but while those technologies facilitated better communications and workflow, and evolved businesses, silos stayed silos. Why will commenting faster and quicker change power dynamics between departments and people? Will social technology fundamentally change people? It hasn’t so far. This argument lacks substance.

What do you think?

The Beginner’s Mind at Work

by Benson Hendrix

Cup of tea
Image by moonlightbulb

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” – Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki, “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”

One of the concepts in Zen Buddhist philosophy is the idea of the “beginner’s mind.” This is the idea that people should approach a subject with excitement, an open mind, and no preconceptions, regardless of how much knowledge they have gained about a subject.

When someone gains experience and a certain comfort level with that expertise, they might run into the “expert trap.” Starting to think of themselves as “experts,” or “guru-ninja-superjedi-badasses.” Experience is a wonderful thing to have, and is necessary in both personal and professional growth. When it becomes closed-minded, there is the risk of prejudging a situation. When this happens, people can miss potential solutions that don’t immediately present themselves, or don’t match what their expertise tells them.

In an Internet age where everyone is considered an expert in something, how do you resist falling into this trap?

  • Mindfully look for opportunities to move out of your comfort zone, by trying something new (whether it’s a new strategy at work or a new hobby at home). Try to recapture what it’s like when you experienced something new, and keep that feeling with you when you start to fall into the “expert trap.”
  • Don’t stop asking “why can’t we do …?”
  • Failure will happen from time to time. Respect and remember the lessons you learn from it.
  • Don’t get bogged down by the tools. They are only important for helping you achieve your (or your organization’s) goals.

For a communicator, with the added benefit of the plethora of “social media” tools (from video to audio, and blogging to Facebook, livecasting and beyond), the toys for this childlike creativity have never been greater. The chances to mix and mash a unique way of telling your organization’s stories has never been easier (Don’t let the ease of these various tools take away from the primary goals of your project. What’s your ROI? How do you measure success?).

By keeping your options open, you are allowing yourself to best respond to the circumstances around you, instead of assuming you know how those circumstances will progress, or that you can bend outside forces to your will. When these feelings start to emerge, please take a moment to reflect on “The Cup of Tea”:

    One day a university professor visited a Japanese Buddhist Master to ask him about Zen. The master served tea to his guest. When the professor’s cup was full, the master kept pouring, spilling tea out of the cup and onto the table.

    “Stop! The cup is full!” the professor said. “No more tea will go in.”

    The master paused and looked at the professor.

    “Like this cup,” the master said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

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Benson Hendrix is an Albuquerque-based public relations professional and perpetual student. When not pondering technology, public relations, social media, higher education and other topics at, Hendrix can be found writing about rugby at