Madrid: Being Human

Sitting on the plane to Spain, listening to Frightened Rabbit, a colleague sleeping to my left and, what can only be described as some kind of Spanish martial arts ninja of the old world, (and yet barely 17) to my right…

I ponder.

See this is another work trip… I’ve been all over the place this year, and now I’m in Madrid to meet with Journalists and Bloggers to discuss the future; Where is blogging going and what Web 2.0 learnings am I able to share with the local geeks etc.

There’s been a massive explosion in Europe within the blogging scene of late with over 2million Spaniards creating blogs, getting online and consuming content etc..

Reading the ‘Briefing Document’ …(all of this is still so new and alien to me y’know, I mean – ‘Briefing Documents’ – What?! Really?! It’s like an actual episode of Mission Impossible)… Anyway, reading the ‘Briefing Document’ just now there was a great quote from a well known Spanish Blogger called ‘Enrique Dans’ that goes as follows:

Companies are basically divided into two types, those that have had a problem with their image as a result of blogs and those that will encounter this problem in the future…

I chuckled when I read this.

It’s pretty much spot on.. for 95% of all companies.

The remaining 5% (and some may argue this number may be larger or smaller with equal vigor) have a presence in this space because they genuinely want to engage with their users and customers in a meaningful way. This doesn’t have to be some kind of ‘preemptive strike’ to head off any untoward conversation/posts that may happen online, it can really manifest itself from a deep yearning to truly understand your consumer.

Zappos are a fantastic a fantastic example of this. Yes, we’re a brand. Yes, we’re a company but also, and ultimately, we’re Human too.
Their strapline being “Powered by Service”… and their Wikipedia entry pointing out their use of ‘Relationship Marketing‘.

I’m a passionate believer in Social Media and all of that which comes along with it (I’ve wrtten about it before) but something that I will always ALWAYS come back to is:

This stuff ain’t rocket science. It’s merely about doing things right.

Recently, when I spoke at Nokia Open Lab, I talked around how the internet (and with that, Social Media), is the great amplifier. So the kind of person that you are, once expressed digitally in the online space, is magnified tenfold, depending on the platform you use and the strength of voice you have/pertain to use..

I think the exact wordage was:

To me, that’s what Social Media does, it amplifies the good things. There are alot of good people in the room and if you’re a nice person and it amplifies, amplifies out onto the internet, you’ll meet other people like yourself, other nice people…

So following that thought through further – but tying it back to the lack of rocket scientists required for this ideology – You could feasibly propose that those who would/will do best in this space are… Good People.

Humans are, by nature, social creatures…

What is Social Media then, if not an extension of this primitive need to connect?

Offline and/or online you’ll always find those who are more social than others; the party people, the polite people the rude people and the rankling people…

S’funny, at this point I’m reminded of an old school friend who, without fail, every Christmas and Birthday would send a thank you note to all that sent her a gift or a card. I’ve never had the patience, time or inclination to place such a high priority on this level of communication, (but I’ll always try and call or something, I’m not that bad).

But that’s not the point.

The point is, this friend, I think she’d be great at implementing Social Media into her place of work. I always thought she was a good person for doing this whole thank you note thing and well…

Social Media isn’t about Technology, it isn’t about being online or offline…

It’s simply about being Human.


Published at 17:22 Friday afternoon in Madrid.
Originially written at 10:15 Thursday morning, somewhere over Spain.

Last updated by at .

Author: James Whatley

Chief Strategy Officer in adland. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x

26 thoughts on “Madrid: Being Human”

  1. Earning money by connecting people – that isn’t evil – that’s very human. The troubadors and seanachai of “those old days” were paid and honored by society because they brought people together – so were the drama troupes of Ancient Greece. And those who published our books – be they the sources of revolution (Paine, Marx) or entertainment (Joyce, Fitzgerald) or a little of both (Dickens) were also key social network builders.

    Now we have companies from Google to SpinVox, Tatango to Dial2Do, Wikipedia to Twitter, trying to take us another level up. It is far from bad to be working to find ways which allow others to pay for human connectivity – leveraging capitalism for our social advantage, or to seek out the lowest cost ways of building bridges among humanity.

    Anyway, social networking is social networking, off-line or online. I build relationships online which might progress to F2F, or I have F2F relationships enriched and supported by social media.

    We’re social beings. Communication is good. Widespread collaboration is essential.

    Good work. Now go to sleep.

  2. Spot on. Blogs represent the human side of a company – and for us humans, a different side of us – after all. Hope Spain’s been good.

  3. Good to see the Spanish are fully on board with this. There’s a growing disparity in the PR industry between those who ‘get it’ [social media] and those that don’t, and it will decide some firms’ fates. I met a firm this week whose PR agency had not even mentioned anything outside the regular print/online media gig. Incredible!

    I’m in Madrid myself on Monday to meet a couple of agencies so I’ll let you know what their take on the whole thing is.

  4. Great post James.
    I entirely agree. We try to always do the right thing, but as humans we don’t always get it right. Being able to make apologies, then talk about successes and failures openly leads to much greater understanding.

  5. People who have not felt the personal effects of social media first-hand have a really hard time understanding this. Especially with social networking, many people I’ve talked to have this view that it’s just for some weird mutation of voyeurism where people can be vain and talk about how they like candlelight dinners and sunsets. Other people I’ve talked to think that social media is just trying to artificially create the social need we are missing in real life.

    Whatever the case, I love the way you explained this. It’s very much about being human.

    Twitter has completely changed the way I look at people. The very fact that I hear all these little thoughts from so many people around the world makes me realize that there are people like that sitting in the next cube over, or sitting next to me at Starbucks. People are interesting and are full of life and social media actually helps me remember that in all areas of my life, not just the digital landscape.

    Just like you said, an amplifier of the good things in people.

    Long story short, you’re right, and I can see it manifesting itself everywhere.

  6. I think you nailed it with “This stuff ain’t rocket science. It’s merely about doing things right.” In an easily searchable linkable economy, like social networking, people and companies need to act as if they’re in public. It’s a given that your moves will be scrutinized, so try making the correct moves the first time. And fix the moves that were, ahem, less-correct as quickly as possible.

    Good article, James. I’m subscribing!

  7. Indeed, great stuff. I like what Deanna just said, about how Social Media has allowed me to realize that other people have weird random thoughts, just like I do. When you bring a company into that, it fosters a ‘relationship’ with that company (or rather, the representative of) that you simply can’t duplicate through regular ads, regardless of what they say, where you see them, or how they’re presented.

  8. Amen, the good vibes / gracious folk always rise to the top of the surface, and it never ceases to astonish me how much people find a way to build community and connect, it’s awesome in the original sense of the word. Added bonus is that we’re all reframing traditional corporate business structures which are now completely outdated. Sharing more with less waffle and more twitter thank you notes. I’m a fan, keep amplifying. And pic of baboons is what really nails it 😉

  9. I am sitting here in the apartment of my mother-in-law, in the shadows of papermills in Wisconsin, a few hours from my home in Chicago, reading a post originally hand-written by someone from the UK, flying to Spain, who I met at Nokia OpenLab in Helsinki.

    This week the Web turned 18 – when I first experienced it in the early 90’s, I could have never imagined saying the above statement, especially with all of the variables!

    As others have said, you have to experience it to believe it. Now back to showing clients around the US about it…


  10. Some great pointers, and yes, we are human, and as such we make mistakes, but learn from them all the time, even learning from other peoples mistakes also. Agree with Dominic too about doing the right thing.

  11. Good read, this.
    I would argue that with social media, as in life, it is those who appear to be good that succeed.
    “…sincerity. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” George Burns.
    Which is why companies that ‘don’t get it’ are still trying.

  12. Awesome post James 🙂 honestly I think you hit it with “the great amplifier.” One is usually only a successful connector if they are a good person. If you are a bad person, transparency catches up with you whether it is online or offline. The greatest thing about it all is that you can connect with great people around the world, making life a lot better.

  13. Declaration: I’m a copywriter at Porter Novelli in the UK.

    ‘Being human’ is a phrase that’s being bandied about a lot at work at the moment in connection both with our own PR and with our client work. I’m not sure what people think it means but I know the result they want – they want ideas and copy that will ‘grab’ people, that will effortlessly mean something to them, that will, in that horrible word, ‘resonate’. They want personality.

    Finding a tone that will both reflect a set of very precisely defined corporate values and at the same time convey some kind of personality (without sounding fake and patronising) is a difficult trick to pull off. I think we’ve got some way towards doing it though, and the important factors have been encouragement, trust, bravery and as little interference in the minutae as possible.

    The bane of the copywriter’s life is writing by committee – you know how it goes, you craft one thing, it has a particular flavour, then it goes through approvals and it comes back with several alterations that totally change the essence of the thing.

    The same applies to any communications, especially social media. We know that behind the scenes, any corporate social media programme is going to be very closely monitored and hopefully subject to advice from people immersed very deeply in that world.

    That doesn’t change the fact that if you want to be human, trust a human to do it and trust them to be matter of fact, honest, cheeky, cynical or any other trait that defines who they are. In other words, let personality shine through.

  14. I couldn’t agree more with this post. And it reminds me a lot of a book I’ve just finished reading, called The Power of Nice. Social media is definitely bringing out the ‘nice’ in people, and reinforces my own belief that good things happen to good people. It may take a while, but if you continue to connect with people, and add value to their lives, their businesses, and their conversations, you will ultimately benefit from it.

  15. Yes, social networking is just an extension of humanity and based on all the replies there are a lot of humans out here simply Being Human. For some reason this expression reminds me of the 80s song Being Boiled, maybe a new lyric version of the song can be made to sing the tune of all the people who are social networking.

  16. I have not read all the preceding comments so apologies if I repeat what someone’s already said: Re. Amplification…I have a little different interpretation of that…if a person is pretty smart, depending on their tone, they can amplify pretty smart into very smart.

    Face to face contact negates that. If I’m out of my depth, I can’t conceal it for long when we’re face to face..
    Max O

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