Social Media and Communication: How your mindset shapes the mesage.

social media marketing communicationSocial media marketing is all about communication.

Communication is a funny thing in that such a small part of communication is the words we say, write or read.

The whole “context” issue is a huge one in communication.

I got a clear lesson in this today.

How I ended up with a brown paper bag filled with 10 multi-colored condoms instead of moist towelettes.

This morning, I had to take my oldest son to the health department to get a vaccine he’ll need to live in a dorm in college next year.  As we signed in, I was acutely aware that we were entering a place filled with “ill patients”.

I guess the recent conversations I’ve been having about a horrible flu virus that is going around must have been triggered as I was signing in.  One of our friends was actually hospitalized recently because of this “super bug”  and a client of mine was complaining that one of her trainers was sick with it yesterday.  I share this to properly frame what happened next.

As I’m signing in, I see a basket on the counter with a sign that says,

“Take one and protect yourself.”

The basket is filled with brown paper bags, neatly folded and taped shut.

Remember, the overwhelming thought in my mind at the moment is, “Oh please, I really don’t want to get sick with that flu.”

So I grab one of the packages, confident the “protection” it provides will be against the myriad of diseases being incubated in the life sized petri dish called a waiting room.  I pick up the brown paper bag along with the number assigned to us and I head to the crowded waiting room.

My son asks, “Hey!  What’s in the bag?”

I reply, “The sign says it’s “protection”.  Maybe it’s a shank!”

I’m not joking as much as I’d like to be.  A couple of the people in the waiting room were kind of scary looking and a shank might come in  handy.

My son snickers at my comment.  I continue, “No, seriously  it’s hand sanitizer.”

With that statement still hanging in the air, I open the bag and reach in.  I was expecting to extract those little packets with the moist towelette inside.  Instead, I pull out a brightly colored condom.

It wasn’t exactly the kind of “protection” I was expecting.

I guess my utterance of surprise was very audible.  My mistake was on display for all, much the distress/ amusement of everyone in the waiting room.

I spent the rest of the visit enduring relentless razzing from my 18 year old son.   I made sure to let him know that the proper use of one of those 18 years earlier would have meant I would have had this morning free to do what I wanted instead of dragging him to the health department.

I still defend my misconception… er, misunderstanding of the sign!

I mean,  my greatest concern wasn’t catching an STD or preventing pregnancy – my most pressing concern was making sure I didn’t contract one of the multitude of diseases being incubated in that waiting room!

By the way, I did eventually find an antibacterial goo dispenser when we entered the 2nd “inner” waiting room and I doused myself liberally.

The moral of the story and how this applies to social media marketing…

When people arrive at your blog, website or other advertising material, they already have a conversation going on inside their head.  If the conversation on your blog – on your website or in your advertising materials isn’t clear – you might be surprised at how “distorted” you message can get.

Had I seen that basket at the check-in counter of a strip joint, I probably wouldn’t have been confused as to what they meant by “protection”.  However, as I looked at the sea of coughing and visibly ill people – I wasn’t thinking sexy thoughts – I was trying to figure out how to escape without catching what they had!

I just wonder how many children have grabbed one of those bags and been treated to an impromptu sexual education lesson in the lobby of the county health department.  I’m just happy I wasn’t having to explain to a six year old why he couldn’t play with the brightly colored, individually wrapped balloons.

Context plays a HUGE role in communication…. both on and off the web!


  1. Hey,
    I loved the comment “look at the bliss that lives beyond fear” for the pic of my daughter and dolphins.

    I guess for your story “look at the joke on the other side of fear.”

    The story is another hiarious way our mind gets sucked into the illusion we’re safe with another product.

    I personally tell my guardian angels they better be protecting me!

    Tess The Bold Lifes last blog post..My Kid Did Something Bold & Thrilling

  2. Does that mean you took that photo yourself?

    In parallel to your comment about using one 18 years ago, if we didn’t have all these pesky customers we wouldn’t have to worry so much about communicating with them!

    Problem solved.

    Jason Cohens last blog post..Easy statistics for AdWords A/B testing, and hamsters

  3. Jason,
    Surprisingly enough, “natural” wasn’t one of the colors I got in my little brown bag! Red, green and yellow were my three color choices!

    As for communicating with customers – you’re sounding like a Despair poster!!!

    TOO FUNNY!!!

    Tess –
    It’s a good thing I don’t “fear” talks about sex with my children or today would have truly been the trip from hell!!!

  4. Hi Kathy. This was hilarious! So what happened to those red, green and yellow… protectors? Now this was misleading advertising at its best. Where on earth did you find that picture?

    Davinas last blog post..What Have You Done for Your Blog Lately?

  5. Hi Kathy,

    That’s too funny. I love the part where you said, “Had I seen that basket at the check-in counter of a strip joint, I probably wouldn’t have been confused as to what they meant by “protection”. ”

    I hear what you’re saying about when someone lands on our blog, etc. I’ve landed on blogs only to shake my head and leave wondering.

    P.S. I’m guessing the contents of the little brown sack may end up in your son’s suitcase as he goes off to college. 🙂

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..Give Your Readers What They Want

  6. Kathy, I couldn’t help but chuckle at this post. My times have changed regarding sexuality, it’s just out there and it’s important, but I wish it were a little more discreet.

    “proper use of one of those 18 years earlier would have meant I would have had this morning free to do what I wanted instead of dragging him to the health department.”

    i loved that line. so true and i should have had a bag of them myself years ago.

    Naturals last blog post..My Two Left Feet

  7. Davina – the image is from istockphoto – you’d be surprised how many images they have on this “subject”.

    Barbara – ACK on the thought of that little brown bag leaving with my son – but also ACK on the thought of it NOT leaving with him. ACK – ACK – ACK!!!

    Natural – 99% of the time, I enjoy my 18 year old son’s company – just for that hour he was REALLY getting on my last remaining nerve!!! That’s where the whole “had I used these 18 years ago” remark originated!

  8. Very amusing tale! It certainly would be a great opportunity for safe sex discussions in the future! 🙂

    I don’t remember such things being so visible 20+ years ago at the college health center. Would have made things much easier back then for folks I’ll bet….

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coachs last blog post..Profit by goodwill – give freely to your list subscribers

  9. Barbara – it wasn’t the college health center – IT WAS THE COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTER!!! The place was filled with mothers getting immunizations for their toddlers, preschoolers and elementary school children. We were there because there was an outbreak of meningitis and now college freshman are required to have an additional immunization to live in the dorms.

    That’s probably why I was taken by surprise by the contents of the package – the place wasn’t filled with hormonal teens but BABIES!!! Sigh!! Yes, it was great conversation fodder for me and my teen – but it wouldn’t have been appropriate conversation 12 years earlier.


  1. […] which drives us to share. When I thought I was picking up a bag containing hand sanitizers and discovered they were condoms – I blogged about that experience as well.  It’s not just about bitching about poor […]