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David Armano – The Twitter 20 Interview on Visual Thinking and Social Business

Authors: Jay Baer Jay Baer
Posted Under: Social Media
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social-media-strategy-david-armanoDavid Armano may very well be the best writer of any graphic designer in America. He writes about social business, visual communication, and micro-interactions on his own blog, and for AdAge and BusinessWeek. (He also makes insanely great presentations). David has worked with some of the world’s largest brands, creating successful online experiences that make you smile, laugh, cry, or shout “hell, yeah!”

Of all the people I’ve met in the “social web” community, David is the guy who is most clearly one-of-a-kind. He’s not just an artist with a cowboy hat, he’s the real deal. He’ll make you think, as you’ll see in this Twitter 20 interview that merits reading twice.

1. @jaybaer: You started your career at What’s the future of print and print-based sites? Is there one?

  • @armano: Actually I started my career as a print graphic designer at Columbia House. The future of print is less frequency.
  • As for the Chicago Tribune, when I started working on there site in 97, it was the beginning of the digital revolution.

2. @jaybaer: You write for noteworthy print publications (AdAge, BusinessWeek). How do they remain relevant vs. blogs? Less frequency?

  • @armano: Adage is a great example. I write for their digital blog. They solicit up and coming writers who have their own audience.
  • Publications such as the Harvard Business Review and F@st Company do the same. Tapping new voices and getting traffic share as well.
  • So the answer for digital publications is actually more frequency, relevance, distribution and feedback loops (comments).

3. @jaybaer: Speaking of blogs, yours is massively successful (and a must-read). How has it changed your career?

  • @armano: I’m currently working out of @cornerbakery 🙂 Blogging has propelled me into strategy and insights. Back door route.
  • Blogging has also given me a hands on crash course in metrics, PR, social media, writing, CSS, and crisis management.

4. @jaybaer: So blogging changed the nature of what you do professionally? Tips for aspiring bloggers, given your experiences at L+E?

  • @armano: Everything I know about blogging can be found here Advice? don’t think of yourself as one—stay true to passion.

5. @jaybaer: I’m glad you mentioned metrics. Is the emphasis on ROI helping or hurting the quality of digital experiences?

  • @armano: Metrics help define goals and refine ideas. But metrics never create new ideas. lead with insights, integrate measurement.
  • Translation: everything digital is somehow measurable, but numbers and ideas need to co-exist for best results.

6. @jaybaer: What then, is the most tragically overlooked aspect of creating quality, digital experiences?

  • @armano: Utility. period. There is simply no reason to ever need or want to use much of what I see online.
  • Most digital efforts assume users will care—Good solutions start with the assumption they won’t, therefore value exchange is essential.

7. @jaybaer: Great point about utility. Is the push toward widgets, apps, etc. often the enemy of usefulness? Widget for widget’s sake?

  • @armano: No. Widgets are not the problem. Lack of identifying the right opportunity/problem is. YouTube solved Internet video problem.
  • Before YouTube, watching videos online was a painful experience. But we wanted to. Now it’s better. They solved a problem.

8. @jaybaer: You talk about micro-interactions & incremental customer experience victories. How can brands sync online/offline interactions?

  • @armano: Brands have to implement an iterative strategy. Learn and tweak. An overblown strategy leads to analysis paralysis.
  • So in other words strategy is more critical than ever. But not big document strategy. Design strategy that can adapt.

9. @jaybaer: If micro-interactions and customer experience is the new marketing, how does that bode for agencies and advertising?

  • @armano: Storytelling is still important, but as consumers increasingly become savvy they place less importance on it.
  • So, if advertising is merely about telling stories about brands, agencies are F#@ed big time.

10. @jaybaer: You helped change agency paradigm at Digitas,, Critical Mass. What must traditional agencies do to stay relevant?

  • @armano: I’m not sure if I changed anything—@criticalmass I may have influenced a bit—Agencies have to get comfortable blurring lines.
  • Ad agencies have to get comfortable with PR, Design agencies, strategy, PR agencies—advertising. It’s all related on the Web.

11. @jaybaer: You’ve said the Web levels the playing field. Do you think that’s more true than ever, or less true than before?

  • @armano: Hell yes—how else would I have an audience? I just started talking, giving stuff away. People decided it was worth something.
  • You can pull levers to get people talking, but it’s hard to fool them here. People will decide who they want to succeed.

12. @jaybaer: One of your great strengths is explaining complex things in simple visuals. Why don’t more companies go that route?

  • @armano: Visual thinking is about to EXPLODE thanks to people like @danroam/@davegray We live in complex times, need things simplified.
  • I once read “the people who identify problems will get paid to solve them” Visual thinking/communication does this.

13. @jaybaer: Your motto = Make the Complex Simple. With pace of change on social Web, many folks say it’s getting overwhelming. Agree?

  • @armano: It’s meta overwhelming and we will need meta filters to make sense of things. That’s where trust comes in. Trust = attention.
  • technology also plays a part. Algorithms can filter. Looking forward to new tech that filters social (human) input.
  • See aggregation/dashboards/data visualization and streams as delivery vehicles. Haven’t seen a tool that does it all—Yet.

14. @jaybaer: But doesn’t each of us ID-ing our own trusted people, sources, brands threaten an echo-chamber? Squashes dissent?

  • @armano: No. We do it anyway in real life. The shift is from institutions to people. We trust people more now, think peer reviews.

15. @jaybaer: You work w/ big brands that are used to control. How do they benefit from peer to peer influence? Facilitation?

  • @armano: In a word, yes. Efforts like My Starbucks idea put a brand in the role of facilitating interactions.

@jaybaer: Secret is to “humanize” institutions? Make it about people, not logos?

  • @armano: Look at what Intel just did. Less focus on the brand—more focus on people behind it.
  • Humanize everything. Communication, interactions, experiences. Social Business bridges the large void corporations have created.
  • It’s the next evolution of the Web, but even bigger. We want personalized service. We have more choices than ever before.
  • Humanized corporations can more meaningfully connect with customers & employees. Ask @zappos @wholefoods @homedepot It works.

16. @jaybaer: You’ve been heavily involved in “social media for social good” phenomenon (thank you). How does social transform giving?

  • @armano: We had a personal situation—folks like @chrisbrogan @staceymonk @kanter @scottyhendo R turning it into a sustainable model.
  • We all can help though—Again, shift from institutions to people. Trust + Chipin + Paypal + Influence = participation/results.

17. @jaybaer: You’ve recently left @criticalmass to join @jeffdachis @peterkim at a new venture. What can you share about why U jumped?

  • @armano: Oh man. I left a great gig in order to grow—Ultimately, I work with people smarter than myself. It’s scary but why I did it.
  • I also believe in the mission. A more holistic view of social business. At least that’s the goal. It’s too big to be siloed.

18. @jaybaer: You went from working with big brands, to a (well-funded) start-up. What’s the most jarring change?

  • @armano: We’re all doing some pretty hands on stuff. You leverage every skill you’ve ever picked up in your career and “go with it.”

19. @jaybaer: It’s a crazy, remarkable time right now. What’s your “Trend to Watch” for the next 12-18 months?

  • @armano: When @peterkim did his trend report I predicted “organizations will grapple with the human Web” and boy are they ever.
  • So, more of that. Most companies are lulled into “cheap” Web 2.0 solutions forgetting that people often fuel them.
  • Investments in people, process (a nimble one) and the right tech will be huge. We are just starting to see rest of iceberg.

20. @jaybaer: We don’t know each other well, but you strike me as a man on a mission. What is it?

  • @armano: Social Business Design—I believe this could be the approach. Want to throw my efforts behind this, help businesses transform.

Readers: there are at least 3 statements in here that you should enlarge, print, and tape to your office wall. Which are they? Add your comments.

(photo by David Alston (who was interviewed on Twitter 20 here)

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