Went to the Westminster Dog Show last week and saw some incredible dogs and some even more incredible humans.
On StellarEngine, Social Media, and Strategic Serendipity
StellarEngine just turned three years old. Last week, we live tweeted the Super Bowl for our client Skittles, earning nods from the likes of CBS Sports, Fox Sports, Twitter, and BuzzFeed. Starting and running a business is an exhausting and utterly crazy thing to do. Working in social media tends to exacerbate all the challenges: everything needs to be done fast; organizational processes can’t hope to keep up; the landscape is unpredictable; the data sucks; expectations are often unrealistic. On the other hand, the internet is amazing, and people on the internet are amazing as often as they are terrible.
The first year of StellarEngine was powered not so much by ambition but by a total fear of failure. The last two have been much more about relishing the challenge. I’m working on joy and pace. “Work/life balance” is a dumb dichotomy. “Inbox zero” is a dumb thing to strive for. Surfing the current of anxiety, goals and responsibilities is the only thing that works for me. Sometimes I manage it very well and sometimes I’m just under water.
I get asked by friends and colleagues on occasion for my thoughts on running a creative business, and for advice on being successful in social media. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned:
- Be generous. Be kind to your clients and their customers – and ensure that they’re being kind to their clients. And generosity is more than just being nice. Hard work, commitment to results, and a belief in continuous improvement are part of being generous.
- Find ways to make people’s lives a little bit more awesome. Clients, customers, agency teams: all just people. People deserve good stuff! Find as many ways that you can to make your clients’ lives easier. Find as many ways as you can to make customers enjoy the content that you’re pushing into their news feeds. You’re not entitled to anyone’s attention. Embrace the fact that you have to earn it again and again.
- There’s no way to control everything. Hardest lesson for me to learn, and also the best. Trying to control everything will only guarantee one thing: that you’ll be miserable.
- Don’t give in to snark. All the self-proclaimed social media “experts” have a field day whenever someone screws up in social media. Learn from it, feel relieved that it didn’t happen to you, and keep doing good work. All the schadenfreude in social media just makes digital marketers look like a bunch of jerks. Stop telling people that they’re doing things wrong. Focus on helping people do things better.
- There’s room for mistakes. It’s impossible to not make mistakes. Own them, identify why they happened, put a process in place to prevent them in the future. Take it personally enough to learn from mistakes, but then find a way to let yourself off the hook.
- Set yourself up to be lucky. Meet as many people as you can and see if you can help them with something for free (even if it’s just answering a question or pointing them towards something interesting). Keep in touch in whatever way seems the most appropriate. Think of them for things. Then be prepared to take advantage of any good opportunities they throw your way. I’m a believer in strategic serendipity.
- Give back. I have all sorts of privilege that make it easier for me to do these things than so many other people. I have more, and it’s my job as a human to give more. Being a good person may not make your business more successful, but it will make it more worthwhile.
I think that standing up often, not eating lunch at your desk, and staying hydrated is important, too.
I am so grateful to all my friends, clients and teammates for helping to make these last three years possible.
The Flowers in the Attic Generation Grows Up
Here’s my Slate essay on Flowers in the Attic and why the Dollanganger family saga has had such a powerful grip on the women of my generation. I really love the Matthew Roberts illustration accompanying this piece.
I am most pleased to have recommended Matt Fraction’s excellent Hawkeye comic for Slate’s list of The Overlooked Books of 2013.
Also psyched that my review of Hugh Howey’s Wool was included in Slate’s list of The 10 Most Crucial Books of 2013.
'Tis the season (for best-of lists)!
Some Recent Film Writing
Here’s my take on Blue is the Warmest Color.
And here’s a piece on Mike Flanagan’s Absentia that I contributed to Cinespect's round-up of underrated horror movies. Really glad I had the opportunity to spend some time thinking about that film again.
Working on a few other pieces while attending to the business of running a business. It’s a good, crazy time.
I was thinking about the Veronica Mars Kickstarter project, which (naturally) made me think about sloths.