It’s summer in Minnesota, which means countless anglers are hauling their fishing gear to the shores of our 10,000 lakes, our many streams and the mighty Mississippi.
As a child, this meant many boat-bound hours, watching my Dad perfect his technique in his quest for “a lunker Walleye.”
From my vantage point, this task always seemed pretty straightforward. I could clearly see fish darting just under the surface in schools. Surely all a person had to do was drop a line and you’d be good to go.
[caption id="attachment_1255" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Yours truly, back in the day ..."][/caption]
But, as with most things in life, I learned that there is both an art and a science to landing “the big one.”
Sure, you can catch a fish by just plopping in a line. But to catch a GREAT fish, you have to learn to think like a fish.
These days, I spend my time watching far different streams – waves of social web conversations and connections that mingle, re-circulate and flow in nearly endless configurations. In some ways though, it’s just like being back on the boat as a kid.
During the course of the day, conversations bubble up from these streams, offering organic and effective points of engagement for a host of business purposes (marketing, sales, customer service, etc.).
Smart “social anglers” have learned to watch for these bubbles. They study the conversations and the needs that drive them. They note patterns of behavior, nuance and tone. They observe how people respond to the various lures dangled in front of them.
In some circles, this is referred to as “Digital Ethnography.”
Don’t let the fancy terminology here scare you. Most of us are, instinctively, digital ethnographers - often learning as a child that sometimes the best way to talk to people is to shut up and listen, first.
(I guess, by extension, fishermen* are “Aquatic Ethnographers,” and have been for centuries – watching their depth finders, sniffing for the scent of rain on the breeze and studying hundreds of carefully baited lines.)
But, just as there are people who subscribe to this thoughtful approach to fishing the socialized web, there are just as many that resemble a squirming kid on a boat whose only wish is for solid land and a working toilet.
Becoming invested in people - really listening to what they need, and then finding the least intrusive way to deliver it to them - can be an awful lot of work.
It's far easier to just dive for those fish with a big hunk of bait in your fists and a cloud of chum in your wake.
Chances are, after the waves have subsided, there will always be some little guy hungry enough to swim by and have a look.
Truth is, lazy marketers make money. They always have.
But in the end, they can only ever catch the short sale, never the long tail.
I don't believe in quick fixes, so I'm sticking with the fishing philosophy that I learned from my Dad - where it was always more about the day, the water and the time together, than anything we actually caught in a net.
You can learn a lot by watching schools of little fish pass by. But, if you're patient, you'll wait to drop your line and go for the lunker Walleye that's following right behind them.
*I’m all for inclusive language, but I just couldn’t bring myself to use the word “fisherpersons.”
I’m a consultant, strategist, author, educator, and speaker with more than 30 years of professional experience. I’m passionately curious, fairly sassy, kinda dorky and seriously good at what I do.