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Taste the Clever

By Jessica Albon

Taste the Clever

Blue tongues by Loren Kerns

Too many of us think online marketing and brand building is all about being clever. We think that if we just say the right things in the right way at the right time to the right people, they’ll be dazzled by our sparkling wit and rush to hire us.

And so we aim to be always “on” on Twitter, tweeting only things that are ROTFL. We try to write blog posts that put our oh-so-boring competition to shame. We choreograph elevator pitches that are so darn “memorable” that no one knows what the heck it is we do (but, hey, at least they remember they don’t know what the heck it is we do, right?).

The problem with all this is that, assuming you’re actually being clever instead of just trying to be clever, when you’re so clever all the time, your Tribe starts to find you “larger than life.” That means they often don’t approach you, even to hire you.

Most of us are building a Tribe because we want to support them and interact with them, not because we want to sit on a mountaintop somewhere and pontificate (cleverly) about something. And that means we need to let our Tribe participate instead of just watch.

When we’re really, really clever, people feel they don’t have anything to add and so they get in the habit of just sitting back and letting us entertain them instead of stepping up and contributing. If you exclusively sell entertaining, easy-to-use products (for instance, music downloads), this might not be a problem. But, if you sell any sort of service, or a product that requires people do something with it (like a home study program), it’s time to shift how you approach being clever.

For too long now, we’ve been told that “clever” was necessary in order to stand out. But, a funny thing happens when everyone’s trying to be clever–clever becomes the norm. So, everyone’s out there in social media trying to score points for being the Most Cleverest Ever and all that does is make everyone look less clever.

If you need (or want) audience participation–and most businesses do–it’s time to switch up how you think about clever. It’s time to open up space for your Tribe to “Taste the Clever.”

(Psst… If your Brand Siren is Katharine, this is going to be a bigger challenge–and more an even more crucial one–for you.)

When we let our people participate in the clever–when we don’t just let them in on the joke, we actually let them improve on the joke–we’re letting them Taste the Clever. We’re letting them join in on the fun instead of sitting back and watching the fun. Basically, we’re letting them get a word in edgewise.

See the difference? It’s subtle, but it’s important. Instead of teaching your people that you’re always on, always entertaining, and always fun, encourage your people to dive in and have fun with you. Changing up your approach will help you make more sales, get more reader interaction, and grow your Tribe.

I’ll close with an example…

(That’s a deleted scene from sitcom Parks and Recreation. Admittedly, I understand very little of what Patton Oswalt proposes here, but it is a great example of being really funny and entertaining and… not letting anyone else get a word in edgewise.)

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Amanda May 2, 2013

That’s such a funny scene–love that show.

I’m going to have to give this some thought. I can see how some other people are really clever and that keeps me at bay, but I’m not sure if this is something I’m doing in my business or now.

Lynne Donaldson May 2, 2013

I’m not a Katherine, but I do this all the time! Thinking I need to keep people entertained and be always on. I don’t really think of myself as especially clever, but I do feel like I need to only *say* things that are especially clever, if that makes sense.

Amy May 2, 2013

Nodding along in amusement, Jes. We’ve talked about this one before, and it’s totally still my default. Must do better!

Tyler May 2, 2013

P&R is so funny. Wondering how u know u have this problem?

June May 3, 2013

Where did you find this? I love Parks and Rec and had no idea this was floating around out there.

I’m a Kat and totlaly do this, like, to excess. I’ve noticed lately it feels like my list is just waiting for me to do thenext clever thing instead of participating and joining in. Ugh. Need to rethink. Thanks!

Leslie May 3, 2013

Never seen this show before, so I don’t really get the joke, but I do get your point. I think this ties into what you’d said about Connecting the Dots, no?

Anna May 3, 2013

Love, love, love this! Will def give it a try. Wrote note to self: stop trying to be clever all the time. Let people *participate*. Thanks J!