What makes things cool?

Alfred Thompson talks about what makes things cool.

Lots of PR people buy into his hype. That I alone can make things “cool” just by saying so.

This simply is not so.

What you don’t see behind the scenes is the cultural pressure that builds up through tons of people who are telling me things are cool.

Here’s a question: if I said “Quechup is cool” would you believe it?

Absolutely not.

Why? Because it wouldn’t match what you’re hearing in the conversation space.

Facebook became cool over three years.

I remember a conversation I had with Jeff Sandquist who told me that Facebook was being used by everyone at his daughter’s college.

I remember getting tons of requests from tons of you to join up.

I remember having dinner with Kevin Rose and having him begging me to join Facebook.

Aside: if Kevin Rose says something is cool it probably is simply because HE is cool.

It really bugs me when PR people assume that if I write about them or put their product on my show that it’ll “make them.”

This is NOT true.

What would I do if I wanted to make something cool?

I’d document the 10,000 news sites and blogs that get onto TechMeme.

Then I’d figure out how to get at least 100 of them to use my product and become crazy evangelists for it.

You only need 100.

Talk to Guy Kawasaki for how to turn people into evangelists. Or talk to the Church of the Customer folks.

Start at the bottom of the stack. Getting someone with five readers to use your product will be a LOT easier than trying to get through to Mike Arrington (he has 700 companies who tried to get his attention for the soon to happen TechCrunch Conference).

I watch about 880 feeds, almost all of whom have been on TechCrunch at some point or another.

So, if you have 100 people who are rabid fans of your product believe me I’ll hear about it, read about it, and be forced to share their thoughts on my link blog. Speaking of which, the video at Google of the graphing calculator story is, indeed, cool.

Anyway, it’s amazing to me how few PR people really understand how things do get to be cool.

MySpace got cool musicians in Los Angeles to use it. That’s why I heard about MySpace.

Anyway, Alfred is a lot cooler than he thinks he is. He was a teacher and helps teachers use technology. That makes him, in my book, a lot cooler than me.

Comments

  1. I think the tipping point comment Bob Warfield left is a good one. In part it is about being a connecter. The “cool” people are often people who connect ideas and people from different segments of the population. I also think that they shift the balance between things that are close to each other. If there is a sort of 55/45 split the cool people can shift the balance to the 45 product on cool factor. Can they shift a 90/10 to the 10? No, of course not. But around the margins, and I think a lot of things are really close, the cool factor is huge. Why else would they be willing to pay some cool basketball player millions to sell underwear?

  2. I think the tipping point comment Bob Warfield left is a good one. In part it is about being a connecter. The “cool” people are often people who connect ideas and people from different segments of the population. I also think that they shift the balance between things that are close to each other. If there is a sort of 55/45 split the cool people can shift the balance to the 45 product on cool factor. Can they shift a 90/10 to the 10? No, of course not. But around the margins, and I think a lot of things are really close, the cool factor is huge. Why else would they be willing to pay some cool basketball player millions to sell underwear?

  3. I am a pr person and to me it is simple – something is “cool” if it is useful. Things that are the most useful are those things which enable more efficient and effective communication – FedEx was cool….if you are a good pr person you must find the center of the dialogue wherever that may be and if you or your client has a useful contribution – great. If not then you/they will not get what is wanted out of the dialogue and should get smarter about those clients with whom you work.

    As for you making things cool – I read what you have to say every day and learn a lot which makes you cool to me and my clients whom you have mentioned here have been happy however if what they offered was truly not useful I am not sure even you could have made it cool.

  4. I am a pr person and to me it is simple – something is “cool” if it is useful. Things that are the most useful are those things which enable more efficient and effective communication – FedEx was cool….if you are a good pr person you must find the center of the dialogue wherever that may be and if you or your client has a useful contribution – great. If not then you/they will not get what is wanted out of the dialogue and should get smarter about those clients with whom you work.

    As for you making things cool – I read what you have to say every day and learn a lot which makes you cool to me and my clients whom you have mentioned here have been happy however if what they offered was truly not useful I am not sure even you could have made it cool.

  5. I remember an article on the google blog. Google algorithms doesn’t use pr anymore for ranking a site, but many people are trying to increase sites pr by any means. :)

  6. I remember an article on the google blog. Google algorithms doesn’t use pr anymore for ranking a site, but many people are trying to increase sites pr by any means. :)

  7. I’ve known Alfred for 20+ years now. We both worked at DEC (a cool place to work). I can confirm that Alfred has ALWAYS been cool and a great guy to boot.

    Alfred, we miss you on Soapbox! (an online community that started in DEC over 20 years ago and still runs on a VMS system, a very cool OS)

    mike

  8. I’ve known Alfred for 20+ years now. We both worked at DEC (a cool place to work). I can confirm that Alfred has ALWAYS been cool and a great guy to boot.

    Alfred, we miss you on Soapbox! (an online community that started in DEC over 20 years ago and still runs on a VMS system, a very cool OS)

    mike