“Before the debate, Bush is concerned about the lectern; he’s worried about the room temperature and the lighting. Kerry is making the mistake of worrying about the issues.” –David Letterman
Late October 8th, John Kerry was flying high. He had just smoked George Bush in the second presidential debate and had shown America the power of his superior grasp on public policy. His performance was steady and packed with intellectual chutzpah. Republican and Democratic pundits alike agreed that he was clearly the “smartest” candidate.
Americans agreed and elected George Bush anyway.
Stunned pollsters and political groupies looked long and hard. But finally they grudgingly acknowledged a startling truth…
Americans thought Kerry was smart but preferred to have a beer with George.
Kerry should have seen this coming because Gore had suffered the same fate in 2001.
Well for one, human beings are impressed with smart people but are not persuaded by them. This little paradox has big consequences for us bloggers..
Are You Dumb Enough?
The other day, I asked a non-blogger friend to critique a post that I had (lovingly) written. It was one of those gut-check posts that pulled no punches. You know, the essay that finally sets the world straight.
After reading it, she leaned back and uttered. “Hmm…”
I knew what was coming – a little constructive criticism.
Surprisingly, she told me about a friend that was also doing a lot of writing and asked for a similar critique. She recognized that we both had the same problem.
Our problem was that we thought we were making a difference by being smart rather than being helpful.
Our work was decisive but depressing. Our points were sharp but drew a tad too much blood. We blew right past witty and landed squarely in sarcastic.
I wrestled with her critique until I decided to write this “Letter to Smart Bloggers”. By walking in my reader’s Crocs™, I gained a much better grasp of what most people are looking for in a blog, forum and even a brand.
As for you, this quick note is meant to give you another point of view about “Smart People Posts” and give you a better way to reach and influence your audience.
Here we go.
Dear Smart Bloggers,
You know what? Smart people are cursed.
You see the world in all of its heart-breaking, cynical glory. Every point has a counterpoint; every perspective has another point of view. The High IQers among you cannot resist the debate and the allure of a rhetorical victory.
The problem is…
I really don’t care. And frankly, you are irritating me. We especially hate reading the buzzword laden, abstract thesis papers you pump out. For some reason, we tend to finish your posts feeling like we’ve done something wrong.
Look, my life is pretty simple. I have goals (some fuzzy and some distinct) and I have problems. Problems prevent me from reaching my goals. When that happens, I use the web and people I trust to find answers. If your blog delivers that answer – you win my loyalty and a percent of my income.
Save the cynical, foreboding view of the world for your friends. Your persistent sarcasm is best suited for the Washington Post op-ed section.
Instead, here’s how you can use all that intellectual wattage to actually influence me.
- Show Me the Silver Lining
Sure, you can tell me that life is hard, I need to work my butt off and that I can’t get rich quick. However, also tell me what I’m doing right. Show me how to laugh at my mistakes. If you want to be my coach, learn to pat me on the ass and send me back in the game.
- Talk to Me Like a Friend
Listen, I’m not an idiot. I don’t want to wade through your conceptual mush every time we talk. Save the buzzwords and take the challenge of actually talking without them. Act as if we are sharing a beer at the bar and you have a cool story to share. Believe me, we’ll go further together.
- Answer My Questions with Practical Advice
I have a problem. I need help. Give me solid, proven advice that works. Understand that I need to understand “the why” and “the what” of your solution. If you can explain to me in plain (non-salesy) terms why your solution works, I will happily buy the “how”.
- Make Me Smile
Lighten up. Quit taking our relationship (and yourself) so seriously. Don’t worry, I understand that you are serious and passionate about your subject. I am too. After all, I need your expertise to get me through this tough spot. We can do it without the frown – Ok?
Finally, don’t chide me when I don’t live up to your standards. Remember, for better or worse, I have the power right now. I want to be your friend not your counterpoint.
Your Devoted Reader
Your community wants to identify with a human being that has a few more answers than they have. They want to use the cool social tools at their disposal to have a real conversation with you. They want to believe that your brand is something that they can identify with and rally behind.
Don’t let your intellect stand in the way. Use it to inspire your relationship – not dominate it.
It’s Your Turn
Have you been guilty of the heavy-handed post? Do you feel more comfortable lecturing from the front rather than have a barstool chat? Tell me what’s on your mind below.