When new tools create new opportunities it’s important to think about:
- The eternal truths of the underlying concept
- How those truths are best applied using the current technologies
For example, take Social Media. It’s networking, or relationship building. The most fundamental rules of Networking are:
- Give before you take.
- When somebody does something for you, reciprocate.
- Listen and understand before you interact.
- Go out and connect.
Those are some essential rules of networking. They’ve been true for millenia. They’re true for everybody from high school kids to politicians.
After thinking through what networking is, you should listen to the people who have specific advice for today’s top tools. One of my favorites “find the people who can help you the most and ReTweet their most self-serving Tweets.” In theory maybe I could have derived that for myself, but it helps to listen to the people who have experience with the latest tools. Maybe I could figure out how to best use digg, Sphinn, StumbleUpon and friends. But I’m much better off starting with an understanding of the eternal principles and then talking to somebody with relevant experience to understand how those principles are best applied.
Another quick example is blogging. Lisa Barone, Michael Gray, and the New York Times all had good pieces about how many people thought blogging was this great new thing, where writers would no longer “toil in anonymity or suffer the indignities of the publishing industry.” As if the medium would suddenly invalidate the first rules of writing, such as “Write things that interest people” and “To make money from advertising, show prominent ads to a targeted commercial audience.”
Or finally, SEO (search engine optimization). It’s a form of marketing, of bringing people to your product. Marketing 101 tells you to figure out what your potential customers are looking for. SEO tells you how to accomplish this through keyword research. Marketing 101 says get Word of Mouth referrals. SEO says get links. Same concept applied to the new medium.
There will always be people telling us that these new things are scams, that it’s all obvious. On the other extreme, we’ll have people telling us these new things completely rewrite the rules of the universe. Don’t get tempted by either argument. Respect and understand both the old knowledge passed down and the new insights of those who immersed in the latest tools and techniques.