5 questions with Amber Naslund

coffee and klondike barsI met Amber Naslund at SOBcon 2009. Briefly. That’s the face-to-face part. She writes marvelously well about social media and listening. So I decided to ask her 5 questions about the connections between her learning there, in the rest of her life, and how we can interact in all of our worlds.

1. Radian6 is about listening. Much of my local community, the church I am on staff with, is not talking online, at least not about us. We are on facebook (facebook.com/grabillmissionary) and have moved there on purpose, but if I used Radian6 to vanity search, it would be pretty quiet. But people are talking offline, I’m sure. How should we listen? What have you learned about online tracking that works offline?

Sometimes, listening is about paying attention to a broader conversation. So the idea of listening just for vanity searches can be limiting, especially for smaller or new communities. So the idea is to spark conversation that’s bigger than your “brand”; find out what larger topics and interests your community IS talking about and host conversations about the things that matter to them. It’s a give-first kind of approach.

As for offline, the same principle applies. Gathering your community together and being interested and helpful goes a long way. Find out what’s on their minds. Ask. Be attentive and invested in the discussions and issues that have their attention. You can bring those conversations, online or off, to whatever places they’re gathering. Your own brand becomes the architect rather than the subject of those conversations, but the trust and affinity builds as a result by demonstrating that the interests and needs of your community come first.

2. What lessons in remodeling your house teaching you about how someone could renovate a reputation, on and offline?

Patience and time. Patience and time. There is nothing consistent about home renovation except the unexpected. That means that being methodical, patient, and attentive to detail matters a great deal. And owning the mistakes – and taking the time to go back and repair them – is what ensures that a project all comes together.

Reputations are funny things; you have control over what you put out there, but not so much over how it’s interpreted. For businesses and individuals alike, online reputation is a balance of appearances, perceptions, and what you demonstrate actively to the world around you. Put out there the things you’re proud of. Be humble (no one does it alone). Own your mistakes, acknowledge them, and move past them. And recognize that humanity is one of the most powerful brand attributes of all.

3. You actually have communication degrees, right? (You’ve heard of rhetoric, I think.) How does the study of communication help you focus on effective use of media rather than the bright shiny objects?

Actually I don’t. 🙂 My degree (singular, in fact) is in Music Performance. I’m a classically trained flute player with a rusty couple of  piano hands. I’m terrible at guitar.

But I can tell you that music has its own kind of lessons (and I even wrote about it once: http://altitudebranding.com/2009/01/seven-music-school-secrets-for-social-media/). The bundle of all those things is probably that the culmination of an amazing piece of music takes dozens of moving parts – people, instruments, practice, practice – and it’s a marathon, not a sprint. Truly great performances come from months of rehearsal. Shiny objects in social media are the means, not the end, and it’s the mastery of the intent behind the tools that matters most.

4. In what ways does having a child help you (make you) think about social media differently?

Wow. Well, it definitely makes me more conscious of personal accountability on the social web. My actions don’t just affect me, they can potentially affect the people I love – and the choices are mine. So, it makes me careful to behave in a way that I’d be proud of 10 years from now, and that my daughter would be proud of when she’s an adult.

I definitely think it also highlights to me that evolution, growth, and progress are unstoppable. Things never really stay the same, and we have to learn to embrace change as much as we can. Finding the underlying intent (again) – being human, being helpful, being friendly, being kind – is the constant in social media. The rest is just how we get there. There’s nothing that can point that out to you sometimes more profoundly than the crystal clear, simple and unfettered views of the world through the eyes of a child (as she grows up much too fast).

5. There is a lot of talk about brand evangelists these days. You have done some of it yourself. What makes me smile is that many people who are leery of evangelists in the religious sense, embrace the word in the business sense. Further, part of the reason that there is distrust of the religious kind is because so often those people have been after the sale and haven’t done the ongoing teaching, living explaining. It’s what we call making disciples. Is there a risk that brand evangelists will run into that same problem…and that the solution is the same–make disciples rather than converts? Make followers rather than clones?

Absolutely. Without question. That’s the essence of it all, really.

Being an evangelist isn’t about barking a pile of bullet points. Evangelism, in its truest form, is about sharing why you think something is worth following or believing in. We often miss the mark in business because even we don’t believe what we’re saying; we’re just reading off of a script, and that shows. We’re not taking the time to understand our value and our importance in the eyes of the people we’re hoping to reach, and we’re certainly not doing it on a personable level often enough. We see ourselves as job descriptions with responsibilities, instead of stewards of a company, part of the same communities we hope to build, and caretakers of the people that support our business. Humanity and business success can and should coexist.

Disciples aren’t created, either. They’re invited, and the choice is theirs. They need to feel as though you’re investing in them as much as they’re investing in you. It’s a relationship of trust and shared belief in something, not transaction. And having the benefit of those kinds of advocates for your business means a long term investment in those people over time. It doesn’t scale well, it’s lots of work, it’s fraught with the unexpected, and it’s deeply rich and rewarding when you get it right.


This is one in a series of 5 Questions conversations. For more information, go to my 5 Questions page.

3 responses to “5 questions with Amber Naslund

  1. Wow. There is so much wisdom in this post, it will take multiple readings to extract. But the first concept that drew my attention is “making disciples instead of converts.” This implies a slower, better defined, fuller structured process of give and take…questioning & answering…that I’ve found to be true in the sales process.

    Thanks for the food for thought.

  2. Jon, I’m embarrassingly late in commenting here, but thanks so much for hosting my ramblings on your blog. You’ve given me so many wonderful things to muse on over the last year or so, and I’m really grateful we’re connected through happy circumstance and happier networks.

    Cheers and thanks again,

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