Studies in contrast

Have you ever gone grape picking? It’s an interesting experience – you look for ripe grapes and pick them. Sounds simple, but if you’ve ever gone picking, you know the danger of diminishing contrasts.

Here’s what I mean: pick the ripest grapes off of the vine. Keep looking at the vine and without the contrast of the truly ripe, less ripe stuff tends to look ripe. There’s less to contrast it with, less to judge it by, and so your brain perceives it as ripe.

Ripening grapes

When you get home, instead of a basket of ripe grapes ready to eat, you have an entire melange of grapes in different stages of ripeness. Some stuff you’ll look at and wonder why you ever picked it.

Now flip your view to the world of digital marketing and social media. Who do you follow? Who do you judge to be expert, to be experienced, to be most likely to help you when you or your business need help?

Take a step back. Are those truly the ripest grapes available, or are you making judgements based on limited contrast? There are plenty of people online promoting themselves as experts in this or that, but ask yourself if your horizons and social circle are wide enough to give true contrast, to judge whether that person truly does shine no matter who they’re compared against, before you hire them for your business.

I’ve seen this mistake most often in hiring. A hiring manager will get a pool of resumes and a mandate to fill an open position. In the absence of a truly great candidate, they’ll pick the best of a bad lot and then have to suffer that person until they quit or are fired.

Here’s one way to make sure you’re still getting ripe grapes and not being blinded by diminishing contrasts: change grape vines. I try to submit myself as a professional speaker to lots of industry-specific trade shows rather than just social media events because every time I’m on stage with a completely different group of people, I get a chance to see a different social circle, a different fishbowl. I get to pick from a different grape vine entirely.

You don’t have to be a professional speaker to do this. Change your searches. Instead of just watching, Googling, and subscribing to social media folks, look for different industries or verticals to follow. See who are the expert marketers in industrial concrete, Muslim faith based groups, fiber optics, European porn, etc. and start following and subscribing to those people. You’ll be amazed at how different industries value different things and get a truly broad view of how business and marketing can be done. This in turn will make you a far better practitioner as you’ll have more sources for processes and strategy than someone who’s trying to scrounge up meager pickings from the same depleted vine everyone else is working.

Beware of the danger of diminishing contrasts. Explore different grape vines and get out of the social media fishbowl while others remain trapped, because when all the ripe stuff is gone, all that you really have left is…

… sour grapes.


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