Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Your face, at rest

Recently the College Humor video "Resting Bitch Face" made the rounds on Facebook, which reminded me of something I've fought with all my life: people think I'm angry, but that's just my resting face.

It usually happens when I'm thinking Deep Thoughts. My wind will be wandering, when someone I know happens upon me and asks: "What's wrong?" I always answer that nothing's wrong, that just what my face looks like when it's in a neutral state. Sometimes they believe me, but not always.

That's just my cross to bear: I have an angry resting face. There's no anger behind the face, but unless I make a conscious effort to smile, I come across as angry and hostile.

This morning I was talking with my wife about how different local companies approach content marketing. The challenge with content marketing is you need to try to give something of value away for free, even though every mercantile bone in your body is screaming: "Don't do it!" You need to offer your readers (or video viewers) something that has intrinsic value, and you need to consciously not market to them in the process, because your aim is a long-term relationship and your potential customers need to trust that you won't ping them with constant marketing for them to opt into the relationship.

It's a hard task. Many companies fail at it. They set down the content marketing path, but with every piece of content there's a catch: fill in this form; give us your email address; fill out this survey; tweet this sentence. Every time a company tries to monetize its relationship with you, you're reminded that you don't actually have a relationship with them. Relationships are mutual and long-term, and these attempts to show short-term ROI sabotage both of those elements.

I was talking about this with my wife when it hit me: companies have resting faces, too. Companies like Moz and HubSpot present a stream of content with no catch; their resting face is a friendly smile that says, "Come sit over here; we have something you might like." Companies like SimplyMeasured, meanwhile, have a resting face that looks like a gleam in their eye; it says, "I have something I want to sell you."

(Not to pick on SimplyMeasured; they're just the first example that came to mind of a content marketer who repeatedly requires me to "sign up" for everything they have to offer.)

Whether you like it or not, your resting face has a huge effect on how others perceive you: whether they expect that you'll be likable, interesting, approachable, and trustworthy. What does your business' resting face look like?