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in the 20th century—one-size-fits-all programming, in-your-face advertising, and dictatorial monologues—has been replaced by a more thoughtful and empathetic discourse that involves listening to the ideas of others, engaging in dialogue, offering comments and opinions, and sharing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:

Eight reasons TV is a great role model for organizational storytellers

Think of your organization as a television show. How are your ratings? If you’re like most people, you probably aren’t attracting the audiences you want in the numbers you need, especially online.

But thinking about your organization as a television show is a great way to improve those ratings. Here are eight ways that your organizational story is like a TV show:

The Hostage Negotiator’s Secret to Social Media Success

Which is more difficult: persuading a hostage-taker to free his hostages and turn himself in, or developing an online reputation as an engaging and influential expert in your given field? Ending the hostage situation, of course. It is exponentially more difficult. But as vastly different as those two situations are, they do have one thing in common: they both follow a three-step path to success. In fact, hostage negotiators can teach you everything you need to know about successful social media engagement.

The Behavioral Influence Three-step Stairway Model

Behavioral Influence Stairway Model

Behavioral Influence Stairway Model

So how to negotiators build relationships with hostage takers? The process is simple but not easy.

The Behavioral Influence Stairway Model, which is an updated version of the model created by the  FBI’s Crisis  Negotiation Unit,  offers a great guide for establishing relationships online (and offline, too). It illustrates how active listening can help move you through the three stages of  relationship building: empathy, rapport, and influence.

Active listening

Active listening is not just the driver in creating relationships in hostage situations—it’s also crucial for social media success. So what does it entail?

It starts with understanding that you need to learn about the other person. Before you can connect, much less influence, another person, you’ve got to get a sense of who they are, what they believe, and where they want to go. You can’t assume that they share, like, or even understand your opinions, beliefs, or worldviews. The reverse is also true.

Active listening includes a number of helpful tools for ascertaining these things, whether it’s from behind a barricade or behind a laptop. They include:

  • Asking open-ended questions. This can be as simple as changing “Are you happy it’s Friday?” to “How has the week treated you?” Open-ended questions, which can’t be answered with yes/no, give the other person a chance to share more information.
  • Paraphrasing. It’s a surprisingly powerful tactic on social media. Regardless of the platform, the ability to restate the gist of another’s argument is a great way to show understanding—for instance, paraphrasing the main thrust of another’s blog post before sharing a link to it.
  • Emotional labeling. Putting a name to another’s emotional state demonstrates understanding and, when done properly, can reduce the intensity of their emotion simply by providing a name for it.

For a more complete list of active listening tools (some of which aren’t appropriate for online communications), check out Eric Barker’s Time piece here.


Ironically, the first sign that you are succeeding in your quest to use active listening to build a relationship is the emergence of empathy on your part. That’s right, the first step towards a relationship comes from you. Since you’re the one pursuing a relationship, it’s your job to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Empathy is the foundation for all relationships, especially new ones. Social media imposes some barriers to establishing it, since you don’t always see or hear the other person. When that’s the case, more has to be inferred from bios, past posts, etc., so do your homework.

Because empathy is what drives effective communication, connection, and change.

This is a great time to start offering help or advice for problems that you have learned about from your active listening.


Built upon empathy, rapport is a sense of mutual understanding. In this stage, the other person is finally joining you in forming a relationship. Their understanding of your understanding (empathy) is the basis for this common ground.

And your empathy then gives insight into how to best communicate your opinions and goals. You have earned the right to be trusted because you’ve shown understanding of the other person’s point of view and hopefully helped that person solve a problem.


In this context, influence “is the act or power of producing an effect without apparent force or direct authority.” This, for most people, is the goal of social media interaction: to cause behavioral change through the respect and connection that others feel for them.

And it’s tempting, when you reach this stage, to view your job as done. Wrong. If you don’t maintain a constant—though perhaps reduced—flow of empathy and attitude of active listening, you’ll soon find yourself back at the beginning.

If at any point the progression stalls—or if you screw up and start “falling down the stairs”—go back to the previous step.

As you can see from this model, establishing influential relationships takes time and effort. And while you will have it easier than hostage negotiators, it makes sense to focus on a relatively few people at a time when seeking to expand your circle of influence on social media.

How Tequila Marketing Opportunity

"Maybe just one more. Then we gotta get back to HQ and finish that ... that ... what are we supposed finish again?"  "The 'Superb Owl' account, whatever that is." People are still talking about the night that the lights went out in N’Awlins during Super Bowl XLVII. That’s the night that Oreo carped the diem by conceiving, creating, approving, and tweeting the now legendary “You can still dunk in the dark” ad—in just five minutes.

The good folks in Oreo’s marketing department were, without a doubt, on top of their game that night. Team Jose Cuervo, on the other hand, didn’t even suit up for a night they should have owned.

Think about it. What does the Spanish word “cuervo” mean? Raven. And what were the 49ers panning for? Gold. Sooo … ?

So you have a Super Bowl that pits the “Cuervos” against the freakin’ “Golds” and yet there was not peep from the makers of Jose Cuervo Gold! The possibilities for drink recipes alone are mind-boggling. How about a “Tequila Mockingbird” for the 49er’s rabid fans? Or “Gold on the Rocks” for the Raven lunatics?

That, my friends, was marketing malpractice.

Oreo, on the other hand, had their blue-chip team in place, ready to pounce on any opportunity. According to The Washington Post, Oreo’s ad team “required that ad agency and client executives be at the same place at the same time” which was a “social-media command center” at its digital ad agency 360i in NYC.

That's the reality of marketing today. You’ve gotta be quick. You’ve gotta be relevant. And you have got to execute immediately. The days of “running it by legal” are over.

So how about this Super Bowl? Any marketing ideas spring to mind?

Good Kipp, Bad Kipp: Comcast's dis-service culture starts at the top

"The spoon thing? Piece of cake. But for the life of me I can't cancel my Comcast account." One of the least vulgar Urban Dictionary definitions of "comcastic" is "something that is not merely horribly bad, but actively offensive in some universal way," as in “Comcast’s customer service is comcastic times xfinity.”

The latest chapter in their saga features a “rogue” employee who renamed one of their customers “a**hole” over a billing dispute. But this employee isn’t alone. Comcast seems to be a veritable rogues’ gallery of vindictive “customer service” reps.

And it apparently starts at the top.

Steve Kipp, Comcast’s regional VP of communications who’s doubling as road manager on this most recent apology tour, was himself Comcast’s “Rogue of the Month” back in May 2011.

The cable exec's swan dive onto the hard slab of public opinion was prompted by a tweet that expressed appropriate—and pretty much universal—disgust that the FCC Commissioner who voted to approve the $30 billion Comcast/NBC merger "is now lving FCC for A JOB AT COMCAST?!?" (sic) Much to Kipp's chagrin, the tweeter was Reel Grrls, a nonprofit that teaches media production to young women, and which is funded in part by Comcast.

So Kipp fired off this email:

"Given the fact that Comcast has been a major supporter of Reel Grrls for several years now, I am frankly shocked that your organization is slamming us on Twitter. ... I cannot in good conscience continue to provide you with funding ... I respect your position on freedom of the press. However ... I cannot continue to ask [my bosses] to approve funding for Reel Grrls, knowing that the digital footprint your organization has created about Comcast is a negative one."

For this digital dressing down, Kipp received the widespread condemnation that Comcast seems to court on a regular basis. But he also gave us the opportunity to review a few basic PR commandments:

  1. Don't cite your respect for the First Amendment just before punishing someone for exercising their First Amendment rights.
  2. If you're a multi-billion-dollar corporation with a reputation so compromised that your marketing slogan is commonly used as an insult, don't threaten charitable nonprofits.
  3. Before you hit “send,” take a breath and consider what Mickey Rourke said to William Hurt in Body Heat. “Any time you try a decent crime, you got 50 ways you're gonna [screw] up. If you think of 25 of them, then you're a genius … and you ain't no genius."

A storm by any other name would NOT smell as sweet

"Say that I'm real grumpy cause I lost my car keys or something." In honor of the stupendous swing-and-a-miss weather prognostications of late, I'm rerunning a piece that I first posted in December 2013.

“Sensei! I have found you at last! I am here to learn at your feet of the magical power of the perfect catchphrase.”

“What? Get outta here kid. Can’t you see I’m working?”

“I do see, Master, but only with my eyes. I wish to see with my full being.”

“How did you get in here? Can somebody please call security?!”

“I have traveled many miles to learn the secret of … the Polar Vortex, for I know it originated here in this mystical place—WSI Energy.

“Wait. What did you say?”

“WSI Energy—a wholly owned subsidiary of Landmark Communications, the parent company of the Weather Channel.”

“Have a seat, son. So who sent you?”

“No one sent me, Sensei. I arrived here in my quest to find the source of the phrase ‘Polar Vortex.’ It is all that anyone in my village speaks of. Yet, before last Christmas we had never heard this magical word combination in reference to unusually cold weather. We were limited to such primitive expressions as ‘cold snap’ or ‘cold spell,’ as the elders used to call it.

“As you can imagine, this language is hazy and imprecise. It did not allow us to visualize the magnitude of the cold that was gripping our land. We simply had no way of properly fearing the weather.

“But now that the beast has a name, we can actually visualize it! The Polar Vortex is a massive brute that slithers down from the frigid wasteland of the mysterious ‘Land of the Kind.’ Some even tell of having seen video of the monster slowly creeping southward on the weather map, but most of us believe that to be just clever animation.”

“You are quite perceptive, young one. Indeed, we did create the legend of the Polar Vortex. But that isn’t all. Remember that ‘thunderstorm’ that wiped out the power grid for much of the mid-Atlantic seaboard in 2012? That was no ordinary storm. That was a derecho! And now, having blasted that word into the minds of ordinary citizens just like you, our trained weathermen can strike fear into the hearts of millions with the simple utterance … duh-RAY-cho.

"But why, Sensei?"

“Ratings, Grasshopper. Ratings. The more people fear the weather, the higher our ratings. It started innocently enough when the Weather Channel ordered Jeff Morrow to do his live reports on the approaching hurricane standing atop slippery, wave-battered rocks.

“It was effective—for a while. But once it became evident that Jeff wasn’t going to get swept away any time soon, the gimmick lost its luster. So we tried naming winter storms—Nemo, Rocky, Draco, Q—but we were actually losing viewers who said it felt like we were overreaching.

“But then, on Christmas Day 2013, we had a Christmas Miracle. Eric Fisher, chief meteorologist WBZ-TV News in Boston, said this: ‘The final days of 2013 and first days of 2014 will be all about COLD. The Polar Vortex will send a couple lobes of bitterly cold air our way as it noses south.’ The first known utterance of ‘Polar Vortex’ in the US media.”*

“Do you understand what I am trying to teach you?”

“I think so, Sensei. If we want our stories to be powerful we must use concrete imagery, even if no one really understands what we’re talking about.”

“Close enough, kid. Now get outta here. I’ve got a weather panic to create.”

*True story.

The Power of Failure in the Interactive Age

"Oh ... crap. This is gonna be some lesson." I was waiting in line outside the men's room of my local pub, Samuel Beckett's (waiting for to go), when I was reminded of one of my favorite Beckett quotes:

"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."

You see, Beckett understood the power of failure. Without failure, you can't learn. Without failure, you won't grow. Without failure, you don't have any good stories to tell when you're drinking a pint at Beckett's.

Failure is the engine of success. Here's a short video to help you start revving your engine in 2015. Cheers!