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You Must Give Up Control

A recent call with a client brought to mind something that I think is critical for any agency trying to adapt to technological change: You Must Give Up Control. Agencies are notorious for wanting to control every possible thing: their space (down to the most granular detail), their work, their clients, and of course, their own image. That approach used to work, but I really think it is no longer feasible. (Think about how the portal approach to organizing the internet’s content was an utter failure in comparison to the creation of a robust search algorithm.)

Case in point: I have a friend who works for a leading textile design firm in Manhattan. She mentioned to me that they are not allowed to have any personal effects on their desks, and are given a horsehair brush with which to clean their keyboards and desk area every day. There are published decorative “standards” for the office that everyone must conform to, even the color of their computer desktop background is non-negotiable (gray, of course). Fascist you say??? Seriously, though, I think this is fairly common among small, but highly successful, design firms. They are usually lead by a charismatic (and possibly megalomaniacal) principal. But I’ve noticed that the “standards” of today’s communication are a major struggle for these firms.

So back to my call: I was discussing blogging with an agency, and they were very concerned about controlling the “voice” of the blog (not necessarily a bad thing) and wanted to make sure that the words in their blog’s tag cloud were pre-determined so that they would have a set group of keywords around which future blog posts would be written (kind of a bad thing). This is the absolute antithesis of how to use a tag cloud. The blogger should have editorial control over which tags are chosen for any given post in order to ensure that they are as closely related to the content of the post as possible. Approaching it the other way around is a sure-fire way to ensure that the blog will be stale and contrived.

Another way to look at it is this: A tag cloud should organically form over time, revealing trends and themes that are not really perceivable on a post-by-post level. For example, I noticed just today that “social media” was one of the top tags among my cloud (you can tell since it’s the biggest and boldest word among the almost 37 different tags I’ve used). I was surprised to see this, since in my mind, I didn’t think I wrote about social media that much. Well, apparently I do! Of course, I could go back among all these posts to see if social media is really the most appropriate tag to use, but I’m fairly sure that I haven’t been too cavalier in my tagging. Now, I might also say to myself that I should try to blog about other subjects more in order to even this out. Or I could just be ok with it. The point is that the tag cloud is an organically built index of the themes found in my blog. It would be strange to be dissatisfied with it at this point and want to control it more (No, I want to see SEO bigger in the cloud!). Who knows, I may end up with 10 new tags in the next year as the zeitgeist of our industry shifts.

Ultimately, I should be more interested in controlling the relationship between an individual tag and an individual post than controlling the overall tag cloud itself.

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