Social Media with a Slow Hand

Back in the day, I was confused when I heard that guitar god Eric Clapton’s nickname was Slow Hand. His playing, always tasty, always appropriate, seemed fast enough for me. But as I pondered this apparent contradiction I noticed that, unlike some of his flash guitar peers, such as the unbelievable Jimmy Page, Eric rarely broke out a really fast solo. He wasn’t obsessed with notes per minute, like today’s YouTube subculture of BPM guitarists.

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A few years later, I came across a Clapton quote that put his approach in perspective: He said his goal in life was to make his audience cry with just a single note. That’s impossible, I thought. A single note without a context to prepare the audience means nothing.

So what does this have to do with social media?

Two things:

  • It’s not all about the speed, but rather about tastefulness and appropriateness
  • In order to have your audience respond to a single note, you need to build context

I don’t want to take the Clapton metaphor too far, but his guitar playing does have a couple more lessons for social media.

First, he is probably the most tasteful and economical guitarist currently playing. He doesn’t embellish needlessly like an Eddie Van Halen. He’s not trying to impress you with his virtuosity like a Joe Satriani. He plays no more than what is required, and always in service of a cohesive solo.

The second Clapton lesson is that he rarely repeats himself during a solo, unlike pretty much every other guitarist, including other great guitarists like Joe Walsh and especially Carlos Santana, he doesn’t have a bag of clichéd musical phrases that he trots out frequently.

Slow Hand Social Media Messaging

Put all these Clapton attributes together and you get a pretty nice framework for your approach to social media messaging.

  • Don’t overload your audience. Adopting the Old Media advertising paradigm of more impressions and more repetition equals more sales can be ineffective. You need to strike a balance that enables you to be heard above the noise while not causing your followers to ignore your boring repeated messaging.
  • Be tasty. The Online Slang Dictionary defines tasty as “something really good, attractive, or just cool.” In the guitar world, taste refers to choosing what to leave in and what to leave out. Often, less is more. Martin Smith of Atlantic BT refers to online marketer’s penchant for spewing a torrent of information as Chinese Army Marketing. You don’t need to overwhelm your community with every little detail of what you’re selling. Leave space in your music.
  • Create the context for an emotional response. This is a big one, and a hard one for most marketers to get. We make decisions primarily from our gut, like Homer Simpson. Yet most social media marketing is geared toward our Spock-like rationality. During the 2011 holiday season, the social media ninjas at Coke showed us all the best approach. Coke selected several Filipinos working in America, sent them back home for Christmas and followed them with video cameras. They posted a YouTube video that had not a single mention of the brand in it. It’s about family and people and feeling good. And it makes me choke up a little as I write this because it is so sweet and compelling. I have told dozens of people about this in the intervening time, and have included it as an example in the books I write. What’s that worth?

Provide context and an emotional connection when using social media and you’ll see better results.

The bottom line? Social Media isn’t advertising. Overwhelming your audience with repetitive messages may work in the short term, but your goal should be to forge a relationship and an emotional connection with your community (not your target demographics). Be tasty. Strive for that one note that makes people respond. Avoid Chinese Army Marketing and use a Slow Hand, like the Pointer Sisters preferred.

P.S. I love all the guitarists I mention in this post so haters, don’t hate . . .

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