The Life Out Loud Manifesto



The web makes authentic, personal communication both easier and more challenging than ever before.

We have been given incredible technology that allows us to connect and communicate regardless of geography, regardless of circumstance, with people and ideas that we may never have otherwise encountered.

Online, there is always a way to find someone just like us. Whether we love mallard ducks or glacier climbing or quantum physics, we can reach out and discover the people who whole-heartedly love and are passionate about the same things that make us tick.

We can also expand our universe, our horizons, our minds and our hearts. By sharing the fabric of our humanity that is uniquely our own and opening our eyes and thoughts to people who do the same, we can find beauty in both our commonalities and our distinction.

But the only way to truly forge those connections in a lasting, valuable way is to put our genuine selves out there. To say boldly: “Here I am. Here is what I stand for. Here is what I love and what I don’t and what I would like to know more about. Here is where I hurt. Here is where I stumble. Here is me, unapologetically, without pretense, without shame.” [Read more…]

For Ruthie



My grandmother was always a force of nature.

She died on Thursday, February 25th at 1:15 in the afternoon, with my mom – her only daughter – holding her hand.

When I got there about 5 minutes afterward, she was as still as I’d ever seen her. It was humbling and haunting to see her not laughing, not fussing, not hollering at someone or even quietly but intently watching the Cubbies on TV. [Read more…]

Why You’re Barking Up The Wrong Social ROI Tree



Look, friends.

It’s been ten years, more or less, since we embarked on this social media trek.

So I want to tell you bluntly why you’re not finding “ROI” in social media.

Simply put, you’re asking the wrong question. Still.

We’ve had this discussion…

I can’t believe we’re still debating this nearly a decade later, but hear this.

ROI is a financial metric. Dollars in, dollars out. But there are two problems with that:

  1. Social media has impact beyond a financial return; and
  2. Your measurement basics as a whole are probably weak.

Please keep in mind that nearly my entire career has been in digital marketing, and the last decade-ish has been in social analytics. So this stuff isn’t lost on me, nor do I diminish it’s importance. In fact, the most popular post on my blog EVER was about how to create measurable objectives. I’m all about making things quantifiable.

The real trick is in the first point up there.

If you’re looking for social media to be your direct-to-sales return, you’re going to be waiting a really long time.

Here’s when it works.

If you’re an e-commerce company like ThinkGeek where your social  media channels are quite literally the funnel for a portion of your e-commerce site traffic, then sure. You should probably be able to make that correlation.

If you’re a consumer commerce company where at least a portion of your referral traffic through promotions come from socially-exclusive offers like coupons, discounts, codes or campaigns, then sure. That counts too (at least for a PART of what you’re doing). Think companies like Barkbox, Modcloth, even PayPal merchant solutions or GoDaddy for domains.

But for most companies, the minute the path crosses the online divide, we can’t connect the dots.

What baffles me when I talk to CEOs or digital VPs is that they’re looking to Social to be a channel, like web or direct mail or advertising.

And so many pundits have called social a “channel” that a lot of us have accepted it as such.

The problem is that social is not a channel.

Social is a layer. An amplifier. A catalyst.

Yes, social can enhance e-commerce. It can enhance search. It can enhance SEO or email or paid digital media or any number of other established, independent marketing channels that, in and of themselves, can establish a qualified and recognizable revenue stream for a company.

But social itself is not a channel nor a revenue-independent stream. It never has been. It never will be.

What social does is help increase the long tail of both online and offline revenue channels to allow them to reach more people, for a longer period of time, in a way that allows for a personalized, 1:1 connection that so many other channels simply can’t deliver.

THAT’s the magic.

The purists hate this.

Those of us that grew up through social media in our careers wanted so badly for it to be The Salvation. The thing that replaced so many of the things that we were already doing, many of which had already experienced the patina and tarnish of time, skepticism, ennui, or any number of other emotions that amounted to “who cares”?

But social is not the salvation.

It may, however, be the re-ignition. Still. But only if we choose to embrace it for what it is, and quit trying to make it what it’s not.

Social is a layer.

I’m repeating that because it bears repeating.

If you’re a marketer, social can extend the reach and stickiness of your campaign or your message. If you’re advertising, it can find more people, or target fewer people if you’re going for a niche. If you’re emailing, it allows people to continue the discussion beyond your 1:1 inbox conversation and bring it to their broader community. If you’re doing video, people can share it and react to it and talk about it. If you’re doing text content, people can spread it and add commentary and riff off of it.

And for heaven’s sake, if a prospect has a question or a customer has a problem, social gives you yet another avenue to serve, help, and preserve them beyond traditional channels like phone and email.

All of those things, in their own way, drive toward your bottom line.

Do you see?

Social is the spark. The legacy content forms are the kindling. The community you’ve built is the fuel on the fire.

And it’s not just marketing. Think about how this applies for soliciting feedback on your beta product, or finding talent for your team, or giving your customers more ways to reach you, or uncovering interesting moments for your (savvy, please) sales people to provide helpful, useful information for someone looking for a product or service provider or solution or expert.

Can we just get past this already?

If you go into a meeting tomorrow, no one is going to ask you for the ROI on the phone bill you spent following up on a lead.

You’re not going to look at the ROI of the brochure you printed to give someone more information on your MRI machine.

There isn’t a metric on your spreadsheet for the guy who shared your email and caused his friend to ask for a demo of your software.

You aren’t measuring the investment of the infrastructure you put in place to allow people to talk to you or buy from you or learn from you or choose you over your competition. (If you’re getting that granular about your phone system or your email infrastructure or your web architecture or your call center technology I’d like to talk to you).

Social is more akin to infrastructure than it is to marketing. It’s about time we realize that it’s not just a marketing function, it’s a business function. It’s a business COST. As important as the systems you use to power your accounting or your sales operations or your supply chain.

For someone who’s all about measurement, I’m all about validating the return on the things that cost our businesses capital.

But are you splitting the wrong hairs? Or are you putting “social media ROI” in the place where it truly belongs?

We’ll start figuring out “social ROI” when we start putting it in its proper place operationally. And until then, we’ll agonize over the value of a tweet or the cost of a follower or the AVE of an Instagram post.

Can’t we do better than that?