I’m on the train headed to the Hubspot Inbound Conference 2012 in Boston. After a big hiking weekend and a 5K run this morning to get the kinks out, I’m treating myself to a hazelnut coffee and a smoothie (I need 10K to earn a bagel), and of course I’m reading new articles about content marketing, e-learning and how to get more inbound links. All before the conference opens at 8AM.
In truth, I like being in the city at rush hour. You get to see a lot of people and view the same things. Sure, we’re not all at a rock concert, but it’s still a shared experience. And who knows what’s going on in everyone’s head. If this were a social network, everyone would be talking to each other, or at least thinking aloud. It would be a flood of words from every direction, with no way to parse out what is relevant and what isn’t.
I suspect more than 90% of the voices would be something I’m not interested in or would rather not know. And of course more than 90% wouldn’t be interested in me.
Life Is A Content Firehose
There’s no filter. And that’s the point. The public square is a place where anybody can think anything, and say just about anything, and nobody has the ability to choose what they hear. You get all of it. A giant data dump. How can you possibly know which voices to respond to and which people you are most likely to get along with?
Then I see someone wearing a pair of running shoes. New Balance Minimus Zeroes, to be exact. This means something to me, the way a New Balance banner ad does when I’m browsing. My brain has just processed a random search result, and it is likely that I could open a conversation with this person by talking about the mid-foot strike.
Next, I see someone with a Kelty Child Carrier and a sleeping two-year old. There’s little question about the things we could talk about. A professionally-dressed corporate-type woman nearby hears her cell phone ring, and it plays “Take The Power Back” by Rage Against The Machine. Despite the clever ways we hide it, we all have a little bit of personality that shows just enough to let others know what we’re about.
Of course, there are a lot of people walking by who aren’t so subtle. People with political buttons, the guy with the Christian literature, a couple of students with tattoos, which is kind of a near-permanent way to let everyone know your thoughts.
We All Have Baggage
There’s a lesson here. To me, it’s about branding and advertising, but also about personality. The key is subtlety. If you share just a little bit about a business, you’re like a professional with a heavy metal ringtone. If you share a garish display of branded material everywhere you go, you’re more like the tattoo-covered guy who never lets you forget what he’s about.
The first person will meet few people, but they’ll almost always be the right people, because she’s filtering. The second person will meet a lot of folks, but few of them will share his ideals or be helpful in any way.
As I walk toward the Hynes Convention Center for the Inbound Conference, the filters get stronger. Gone are the tattoos and running shoes, and more and more of the people walking in are of the marketing and branding professional variety, like me. They won’t all know about the New Balance Minimus, but I could mention the HubSpot parody video of Sir Mixalot and a lot of people would know what I’m talking about. We could talk about Quora and Pinterest, and most would know Facebook’s share value without looking.
Then I walk into the building, and we’ve filtered. Just like the online keywords that draw people to relevant websites, this event has drawn people of like mind to a building, to share an experience. Once inside, we can drill down even further, to specific applications and products.
Then my ringtone goes off. It plays “Everything Dies” by Type O Negative. Faces turn, and one smirks. It begins…