Permission Assets: A Tribute to Hugh MacLeod’s Social Objects

Five years ago, Joe Boylan introduced me to the crazy bearded dude who was the keynote speaker at an Inman Connect: Hugh MacLeod. Joe said he and about a half dozen others were all that was left in the room when Hugh finished his address (I’m betting Jay Thompson was one of those in there with Boylan). Most of “Real Estate” didn’t understand Hugh. They didn’t “get his gig“. Joe shared Hugh with me. I’m thankful. I’m pretty sure I get Hugh’s gig.

A lot of people “get” Hugh, and while you might call them geeks, the geeks run the earth. The sooner you “get” Hugh, the sooner you are to likely stop wasting efforts and start building a brand  worth building. What Hugh does is make sense of social media artistically, by taking “the conversation” and ascending to art. Most social media marketers sell a tool box of offerings that are disparate and geeky. If Hugh sells anything, he sells accessibility. In 2 to 10 words, he starts the conversation.

Hugh’s gig is a huge lesson for my industry. Real estate has been quick to embrace social media. There are many explanations for this. Number one, REALTORS like to advertise. I use to manage REALTORS and this was the standard arithmetic for a REALTOR advertisement:

Cost of add equal to or less than one transaction’s likely commission.

How is that for a durable business plan? In fact, I’d go one step further: when doing annual reviews with agents or discussing their business building strategies, I’d say the number one thing I heard most frequently was, “if I sell a single property because of it, it pays for itself.”

For the most part, Social Media is free. There is almost no barrier to entry. And that’s what makes it so hard. Instead of trying to be big on five to ten of the hundred or so channels a consumer might be on, social media instead requires sustainable connection on specific channels out of millions.  The Real Estate Market has been crippled, now going on month 66 of market correction locally. REALTORS are not stupid, they realize that the popular ways of advertising of the past like phone book placement ads and TV commercials are expensive and hard to pay for with their shrunken wages. But mastery takes time, and real estate’s embrace of social media has involved much shouting and the same slick images, and far less relevance and connection. It often lacks what Hugh calls “a Social Object“.

The problem is what to do with Social Media. The nice thing about a static phonebook ad was that it didn’t have to say anything. Use a fancy font, come up with a great moniker, have a good, trustworthy picture and you were set. The problem with social media is that you have to say something relevant. Merit applies. It has to be a point of connection. It has to be worth sharing.

All the links I’ve shared for Hugh route you back to one of his permanent manifesto pages, this one called “SO” short for “Social Objects.” Hugh’s obviously brilliant contention is that human beings do not gather randomly, that socialization happens for a reason: “Human beings do not socialize in a completely random way. There’s a tangible reason for us being together, that ties us together. Again, that reason is called the Social Object. Social Networks form around Social Objects, not the other way around.”

The purpose of this blog is to create lots of relevant social objects. Hannah and I formed Pikes Peak Urban Living because we both believe in the value of social organizing. This isn’t necessarily political; it is thought-leadership. Our job with our clients is not to sell them something, or sell something of theirs. Our job is to create something more durable, a permission asset, with each individual client. We take that permission asset which is founded on trust and relevance and pretty importantly, truth, and we collectively form plans of action in concert with our clients.

Here are some takeaways from Hugh, a quick sample of some of our favorites from Follow Hugh

Note 3.14 of Hugh’s Social Object’s Manifesto: The most important word on the internet is not “Search”. The most important word on the internet is “Share”. Sharing is the driver. Sharing is the DNA. We use Social Objects to share ourselves with other people. We’re primates. we like to groom each other. It’s in our nature.

Pretty Brilliant. Thanks for helping us organize our thoughts, Hugh.

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