Interactive Age

8 Reasons Why Introverts Rule the Interactive Age

After spending the 20th century in relative silence, introverts are poised to rule the Interactive Age.

Social media has changed the way we communicate. The extroverted approach to communication in the 20th century—one-size-fits-all programming, in-your-face advertising, and dictatorial monologues—has been replaced by a more thoughtful and empathetic discourse that involves listening to the ideas of others, engaging in dialogue, offering comments and opinions, and sharing interesting content.

And no one is better prepared for this communication revolution than introverts. Here are the eight reasons why introverts will rule the Interactive Age:

To Brand or Not to Brand--There Is No Question

To Brand or Not to Brand--There Is No Question

Have you ever looked up someone’s Facebook or LinkedIn profile before meeting them for the first time? I’m guessing you probably have. And that you drew some conclusions from their online brand that shaped your interaction.

In the 21st century, your digital brand is like your credit score—even if you ignore it, it still exists and affects the way that other people make decisions about you. 

7 Ways to Be a Friend on Social Media

Many people are overwhelmed by the prospect of engaging in social media … and are then underwhelmed by the outcome. There are a number of mistakes or missteps that someone can make, but one of the biggest is the emotional approach you take.friendship photo If you look at social media as a way to raise your profile and share your information, you’ve got a problem. Social media can do those things, but if you approach it as a constellation of free press release distribution systems, don’t be surprised if you don’t get much traction.

Instead, approach it as a number of venues where you can demonstrate your prowess at being a friend. And how do you do that?

  1. Start with the goals of understanding, supporting, and helping. Your friends “get” you, are there when you need them, and sincerely want to help you. Start asking yourself if you meet these criteria for the people you interact with on social media. If not …
  1. Listen more. It’s impossible to learn about someone else if you don’t shut up. So pay attention to the problems, questions, and concerns of the online community you’re trying to join.
  1. Ask questions. This can be intimidating. So imagine yourself trying to get to know a new friend. How would you pose a question? What kind of things would you want to know about them?
  1. Reflect back. When chatting with a friend, you probably say things like “Oh, I hate it when people cut me off, too. It makes me so mad!” This kind of validation is surprisingly helpful in both in-person and online communication. It conveys understanding and empathy, creating common emotional ground. And who doesn’t want to feel understood and supported?
  1. Be generous with your support. You probably don’t keep a scorecard of how much you’re giving or receiving from a friend. (At least, I hope not.) Your first instinct is to give help whenever you can. So search out opportunities to do the same online. Don’t worry about the ROI, worry about being a friend.
  1. Be ready to apologize if you say the wrong thing. Misunderstandings happen. And they happen even more online and with people you don’t know well (or at all). But a genuine apology will go far to addressing these communication gaps and to keep the friendship rolling along.
  1. Stay in touch. If you’re like me, you’ve lost a number of friends due to neglect. Imagine how much easier it is for your online friends to feel ignored.

Do you agree with this social media philosophy? What elements of being a friend am I missing?

A Return to Honesty? Or Honor?

Every time I run across a mention of The Honest Company or Honest Tea, I’m impressed by the savvy Integrity, Honesty, Honormarketing that went into their names. They're straightforward and appeal to a public disillusioned by immoral corporations. But I also wonder: in a world where transparency is no longer optional, is honesty still a virtue? Or is it just self-interest, given the high cost (and high likelihood) of being exposed as a liar?

Perhaps a more apt name would have been “The Honorable Company.” After all, Merriam-Webster defines “honor” as:

  • respect that is given to someone who is admired
  • good reputation : good quality or character as judged by other people
  • high moral standards of behavior

What do you think? Is honesty now ante? Does corporate honor pay off?

Internet Killed the Hollywood Star: Why being a star is not enough in the Interactive Age

To be a success in the 20th century was to be a star. Whether a movie star, a rock star, or an NBA All Star, your job was to shine brightly and be worshiped by “the little people” below you. Feedback from the masses was next to impossible and that was OK by you.

Many stellar Fortune 500 corporations operated in much the same way, preferring target demographic marketing over actually engaging with their customers.

Then the Internet—which abhors one-way communication—snuffed out many of the 20th century stars and gave birth to a new celestial model of success: the quasar.

Unlike a star, which only radiates, a quasar has an enormous black hole at its core that sucks matter and energy in while shining light out--more light, in fact, than any star in the universe. This two-way flow of energy is the foundation of successful communication in the Interactive Age. Dictatorial monologues are out; thoughtful and empathetic dialogues are in.

As it happens, “QuASAR” is also an acronym for the five-step process that can teach you how to become a thoughtful and empathetic communicator yourself. QuASAR stands for Quest, Audience, Stories, Action, and Results.

Quest—Most meaningful communication begins with a quest. Unlike a mission—which is a directive from an external source, usually a framed piece of paper nailed to the break room wall—a quest is driven by a passion that comes from within to achieve a purpose that you hold dear. By discovering your quest, you will attract people who share your goal and your passion.

Audience—Until very recently, an audience’s primary function was to serve as a barometer of success. They were counted, not consulted. Today, however, the audience you attract will actually give you invaluable insight and helpful advice as you share stories during—and about—your mutual quest. You cannot overstate the importance of your audience. They are no longer passive observers of your communication “campaigns.” They are your new partners and active participants in your quest.

Stories—Press releases, official statements, and talking points don’t initiate conversations; they kill them. To engage in a dialogue you need to share stories. In fact, now that you’re on a quest with new friends who share your objective, it would be almost impossible not to.

Action—Woody Allen famously said “80% of success is showing up.” In the Interactive Age, it’s closer to 100%. You need to take the time and energy you’re spending on quarterly magazines, monthly newsletters, and staged press events and spend it on developing organic, ongoing dialogues with your audiences. As Jay Baer, best-selling author of The Now Revolution, said, “Focus on how to be social, not on how to do social.”

Results—Success used to be measured by the number of clips your press release generated. But that metric (and most press releases) are far less important in the Interactive Age. Successful communication isn’t measured in “hits,” it's measured by your audience's reaction.

Take Molly Katchpole. Ms. Katchpole was a part-time nanny in 2012 when she decided that she didn’t want to pay Bank of America $5 every month just to use her debit card. So she started an online petition opposing the surcharge that generated more than 200,000 signatures in one week. It’s a safe bet that BofA’s media team reached tens of millions of people that week, but that wasn’t enough to keep bank CEO Brian Moynihan from crying “Uncle” and dropping the $5 fee.

Interaction is the currency of the Interactive Age. After years of talking at your targeted audience, you and countless others are going to have to adjust to talking with both your targeted audiences and with the many new people and communities you will meet as you venture on your quest.

It will be difficult, but it’s not impossible. If Daniel Pink can learn how to draw a passable self-portrait by using his right brain, you can learn how to mechanize the magic of meaningful and effective communication through the QuASAR process.


7 rules to help you survive your imminent cultural disruption

"I suspect I'll be just fine. They gimme a guitar and taught me how to box." Learning how to tweet to prepare for the Interactive Age is like learning how to box to prepare for war. It might come in handy but it won’t keep you alive.

That’s not to say that mastering Twitter and other social media tools isn’t important. It’s critical, which is why the American Society of Association Executives will feature such breakout sessions as “Tweet Like a Pro,” “Link Up with LinkedIn,” and “Hot Trends in Association Social Tools” at its annual convention in Nashville next month. In fact, nearly one in four of ASAE’s 136 “Learning Labs” is dedicated to social media issues.

This is significant. ASAE is the voice of the association profession. The fact that they are allocating so much bandwidth to social media shows just how much of an impact the Internet is having on that industry.

But among the positive breakout sessions there are several others that examine how social media is threatening to upset the industry’s decades-old model, specifically

  • “[T]he top disruptive trends with major implications for associations,”
  • “[E]merging trends … that challenge the traditional notion of associations as the knowledge gatekeepers of their industry,”
  • The fact that “disruptive innovations abound—and some are fundamentally changing the way [associations] do business.”

The trade association industry, it seems, may well be the next sector of the 20th century information-industrial complex to be critically disrupted by the Internet.

To survive this impending disruption, association execs need more than just Internet-weapons training. They need to understand how thoroughly social media has transformed the way we communicate and interact with each other. And they need to integrate the customs and mores of this brave new world into every facet of their organization.

To get that process started, we've compiled the Seven Rules of the Internet Age that all organizations should follow if they hope to benefit from—or simply survive—the cultural tectonic-plate shifts that the Internet has triggered.

Collaborate. Don’t dominate. If the 20th century was a winner-take-all poker game played with a stacked deck, the Interactive Age is parachute day in gym class. You only “win” if everyone plays together to achieve shared goals.

You’ve got to give to receive. In the 20th century, nobody but bakery shop owners and drug dealers gave away samples of their best products. But in the Interactive Age, giving is the first step in relationship building. The information you once sold is now shared. Its value—and your organization’s—will increase only as that information is, in turn, shared with others.

Authority is earned, not bought. Nobody takes their lead from four-out-of-five-dentists anymore. The days of advertising your way to “expert” status are gone. That honorific can only be earned … and that process starts when you give away that useful information.

The reach of your message is trumped by the reaction to your message. Getting a sound bite on NPR will always be a treat. But if it doesn’t ignite a reaction among the communities that care about your issues then it has no value … except maybe to your mother. (And she could be lying, too.) Smaller passionate audiences beat massive docile audiences every time.

Be transparent. With all due respect to New Yorker cartoonist Peter Steiner, “on the Internet, everybody knows you’re a dog.” The Internet has made it damned near impossible to get away with deception. Act accordingly. You can still lie, cheat, and deceive. You just can’t do all that and expect stay in business.

Flatten the org chart. Your organization is linked to countless vibrant communities that care about your issues and it is bursting with the social media expertise needed to capitalize on those connections. But those resources are locked in the minds and cell phones of staff members whose names you sometimes remember. Unlock the social-media power of your entire team.

Be empathetic. The audience now determines which content has value and which gets deleted. To capture the attention and win the approval of your audiences, you must replace proclamations in press releases with sincere engagement in the form of comments, dialogue, info-sharing, and genuine receptivity to their thoughts and opinions.

It’s a safe bet that ASAE’s breakout sessions on social media will be informative and thought-provoking. But one session—“Are You Ready to Build a Digital Engagement Team?"—promises to be particularly enlightening, if the promo is any indication:

“Most associations have traditional departments of technology, marketing, and communications … Within five years these teams as we know them today will be obsolete. … Your organization has to be agile and responsive like never before. Are you ready?”

An excellent question.

Interactive Age Dictionary: "Upstartup"

"And the best part is we stole the rainbow logo from Kodak's Polaroid camera!" up∙start∙up


noun derogatory

noun: upstartup; plural noun: upstartups

  1. A company that has risen suddenly to wealth or high position and annihilated its old-school competition through the savvy use of social media and Internet technology.

See also: Instagram v. Kodak, iTunes v. Tower Records, Netflix v. Blockbuster Video, Skype v. the telecom industry, Oreo v. Twinkie, Expedia v. the entire travel agencies industry, Amazon v. Barnes and Noble, New Era Colorado v. Edison Electric Institute, The Huffington Post v. Newsweek …

The former CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters loved our book. Dig us!

"Upon reflection, I want to add one more 'really' because it really is that good." If you’ve spent any time in Washington DC, you’ve heard of David Rehr. When he ran the National Beer Wholesalers Association, Fortune Magazine ranked that organization as one of the “top ten most influential lobbying organizations” in America. When he was president and CEO of the National Association of Broadcasters, Radio Ink magazine named him one of the “top 20 most influential people in radio.” And Washington Life magazine put him on their “Power 100” list. Yeah, he’s that good.

But what makes David Rehr so special (besides his eerie resemblance to Matt Damon) is his uncanny ability to identify talent. Take this book review he recently posted on

“Megan McDonald & John Doyle break through all the communications clutter and treat the reader to the essential "you have to get these right" elements in this easy to read, yet fascinating book. I have been in organizational communications my entire professional career but found myself shaking my head (while reading the book) and saying to myself, "yes, I have to be sure I do that..." This book is a great investment. It's has some lighthearted moments but the content is serious - we do live in a cluttered communications environment and virtually all organizations are terrible in getting their positive messages out to the public. I am certain I will continue to refer back to it on important communication projects. It's that good. No, it's really, really, really good.”

Now the fact that he was talking about our book is just icing on the cake. In fact, I didn’t even realize he was referring The TV Guide to Telling Your Organization’s Story until Megan pointed that out to me.

But it was our book he was talking about. And if a man as busy as David Rehr could find the time to order our book, read it, and post this brutally candid and informative review, you can too.

So go ahead and get yourself a copy. As David said, “It’s really, really, really good.”

Six powerful social media lessons you can learn from Birchbox

To no one's surprise, the "Mystery Mini-Bottle Box Service" was discontinued shortly after its launch. Back in 2010, a New York City start-up called Birchbox offered women cosmetic product samples that were tailored specifically to their tastes and preferences based upon a self-reported “beauty/grooming profile.” Today, Birchbox generates about $40 million in revenue annually, most of it from their 300,000 subscribers who pay $10 a month to receive the boxes.

Since then, the “box service” concept has exploded, offering everything from toiletries to fishing supplies. The box service concept is brilliant in its simplicity and its effectiveness in connecting retailers with their customers. It also provides six powerful lessons in how to communicate effectively in the Interactive Age, as you will see in these excerpts taken from a recent Washington Post story on this innovative marketing strategy.

1. Joint venture partnerships magnify success: If the 20th century was a winner-take-all poker game played with a stacked deck, the Interactive Age is parachute day in gym class. You only “win” if everyone plays together.

Success in the box service game starts with a partnership with wholesalers who are willing to provide a steady stream of products “at a discount or free from companies hoping to be introduced to new customers.”

2. People will give valuable data and honest reviews for trinkets and beads: If the NSA really wanted to learn the most intimate details of our lives, they should have just started a box service. All protests to the contrary, people will gladly share intimate details about their lives and desires for a box of product samples. And we will happily—and honestly—rate those products in service to our community.

“Much of the appeal for retailers is the personal data they collect from customers … Subscribers share tons of personal data to customize their boxes. They also provide retailers valuable feedback on products before they hit store shelves.”

3. People rely on the advice of peers in newly formed “communities”: Most of us don’t take our lead from four-out-of-five-dentists anymore. Instead, we rely on the advice of friends, even friends we just made by virtue of our shared taste in a particular face moisturizer.

“Subscribers, a vocal and social-media-savvy bunch, have set up blogs and online forums to review the best boxes or swap goodies to fit their tastes.”

4. Subscriptions—“The real money is in inertia”: I just bought an ASUS 802.11ac wireless-AC1750 router for $190. It is so the sh*t that I haven’t yet figured out how to open the box it came in. As I was concocting ways to justify the expense, I calculated that over the years I have paid Comcast $849,000 in monthly rental fees for a wireless modem that had less range than a thalidomide baby playing shortstop.

“There are downsides to subscription boxes. ... consumers may lose interest but be too harried to take the extra step of canceling their membership. By the time people realize they don’t want [a service] anymore, it takes time for them to cancel it. … The real money is in the inertia.”

5. Curation is currency: No one actually drinks from a fire hydrant, but when we were kids we’d often try to drink from the garden hose with the nozzle set on “eviscerate.” Not sure why we did that beyond the fact that we were idiots, but I did learn that if I blasted the water into the palm of my hand I could get a drink without boring a hole through my cheek. When I’m looking for information online, the Internet often feels like that high pressure jet of water. Curators, in turn, act as the palm of my hand, providing just enough good information for me to get the job done. The same can be said for the box service.

“Americans … are on the lookout for deals and they are used to the convenience of online purchases. Subscription boxes let ‘experts’ do the research for time-pressed shoppers and send their recommendations to people’s doorsteps.”

6. Start with a gift ... and make sure it's the good stuff: In the 20th century, nobody but bakery shop owners and drug dealers gave away samples of their best products. But in the Interactive Age, it is a mandatory first step in relationship building.

“For retailers, monthly boxes are like offering shoppers a plate of appetizers: Sample what you like, come back for more — and if you don’t like something, give it to your friends."

So next time you’re trying to raise money, sell a product, increase your membership, or build a coalition … just remember, the best lessons come in little boxes.

Storytelling in the Interactive Age: TV as Teacher

TV as a guide to storytelling As the television industry navigates its way through these tectonic changes, it can teach us how to respond to similar challenges. The static monologues delivered via press releases, white papers, and the vetted and sanitized “statement from the CEO” are rapidly being replaced by genuine dialogue between organizations and the audiences they want to reach.

Similarly, TV is restructuring its programs so that it can engage in a dialogue with its audiences. The signs of this restructuring are on every channel:

  • Folks watching Hawaii 5-0 can determine the ending of the program in real time by selecting the bad guy via Twitter.
  • Netflix uploaded every episode of House of Cards to allow people to watch it when they choose to.
  • A number of programs (including my favorite, The Blacklist) post Chyrons (those messages on the bottom of the screen) prompting you to download the episodes and the show’s soundtrack on iTunes.
  • Vine superstar Logan Paul took over the Today Show’s Vine account … live. (Don’t understand that sentence? You will.)
  • CBS’s Showtime Network partnered with LG Technologies to develop a system that allows viewers to participate in polls and trivia games about Showtime programs such as Dexter and Ray Donovan as they watch the shows.
  • Connect TV has an app that lets viewers capture six seconds of the show they’re watching and send that clip to their friends.
  • The app Viggle identifies the show you’re watching and then connects you to others watching the show via Facebook and other social media. It also allows you to rack up points for every minute you watch the show, which can then be redeemed from the show’s partners.
  • Engaging TV ads are no longer restricted to the Super Bowl as advertisers fight for viewers’ attention with better content and real-time interactivity.
  • TV networks are partnering with content distribution platforms—from YouTube to Apple TV—to ensure that their programs can be viewed anywhere on myriad devices.
  • Television manufacturers are taking the dialogue concept one step further with social television technology that allows you to literally talk to your television system.

Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey best summed it up when he said, "For kids growing up, there's no difference between watching Avatar on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV and watching Game of Thrones on their computer. It's all content. It's all story.”

“The audience has spoken,” he said. “They want stories. … And they will engage with it with a passion and an intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of—and all we have to do is give it to them.”

You don’t need to invent an app to remain relevant. But you do need to share compelling stories with your audiences if you want to attract and hold their attention. And TV can show you how.

For concrete tips on how to improve your storytelling, check out our new book, The TV Guide to Telling Your Organization's Story: Insights and tools to help you navigate the Interactive Age.