What’s So Special About Social Media?


vulnerableLast week, I mentioned that one of the reasons social media was failing many marketers was because we haven't identified the magic algorithm. I still don't think there is a magic algorithm… but after this week, I can point to one of the special traits of social media. It's vulnerability.

The next section is sort of personal… so if you feel it's a bit much, then jump to the section following it!

About the Loss of My Grandfather

This month has been a rough one. A couple weeks ago, I buried a good friend from high school. And yesterday, we buried the family patriarch and the man I was named after, my grandfather, Douglas Morley. I know many folks have some incredible grandparents… but my grandfather was quite a unique person. He enlisted in the Canadian Royal Army and served in World War II. He was an explosives expert, was commissioned and retired at the rank of Captain. In a time when it wasn't quite popular, he chose to marry a beautiful blonde Jewish woman – my Grandmother, Sylvia.

My grandmother was an unique, strong woman as well. Until her death in 2003, she was the quiet matriarch of the family. While my grandfather served throughout Europe, my grandmother grew a successful company – quite unheard of at that time. My grandfather worshipped my grandmother…. and I don't say that lightly. When my grandfather lost his wife after 58 years of a beautiful marriage, he wrote that the wings that had helped him fly his entire life had been clipped. I'm not sure that I've ever witnessed a man who was so unconditionally, unselfishly devoted to his wife.

As her health failed, every chance to wait on my grandmother was jumped on by my grandfather. He never hesitated – even with his own back problems and health issues. When things got really tough, he put her in a hospice. Days after, he didn't like how she was being cared for and set up a room back home. He was by her bedside day and night. He had folks come in to do her nails and hair, too. It was nothing short of amazing.

At the funeral, I met many people that my grandfather had touched. Like a gardener who didn't speak English that took care of my grandfather's home. I never knew that my grandfather had financed the man's business. I met his caretaker, an African American woman who cried over his coffin and told me that she had never felt more loved by any person. I met his Rabbi, who he continued to study with after my grandmother passed (even though he remained a Protestant). There were folks from all over the world that either came or sent their condolences. The Masons came and gave their ceremonious farewell to a brother. A member of the American Legion came and paid homage to another veteran lost from the greatest generation.

My grandfather was buried in his dress uniform… and always the joker, he was also buried with a doorbell switch he asked for in the event he woke up (he told his great grandson he was going to wire it up to randomly go off when my Mom visited the cemetery!). After the bagpiper played God Save the Queen and The Last Post… the bagpipes lit up with an incredible rendition of Hava Nagila. We all cheered and laughed, we all shed a tear… and we all smiled and said goodbye to an incredible man.

I'm not sure anyone has had such a strange and wonderful tribute given to them. It's important to note that my Mom, who unselfishly cared for him day and night these last few years, planned this incredible fairwell.

Back to Social Media

When I wrote that my grandfather passed on Facebook, hundreds of people took the time to comment. I received a deluge of emails, text messages, tweets, phone calls and personal notes. I haven't participated much since then… the family is key right now and supporting my Mom (an only child) has been the focus of my attention. My clients, friends, and followers have all been so supportive of my time out from being social. Words can't express how blown away I've been from you folks. Thank-you.

I'm not writing any of this for empathy or sympathy… I just wanted to follow up when I could and share with you folks why I've been quiet. I believe my grandfather's life needs shared and celebrated, not mourned.

As well, it's made me understand what may be so special about social media. I've always had a rough time with the word engagement… it's beginning to sound premeditated and manufactured. Vulnerability isn't the same as engagement. Engagement happens between two willing parties… vulnerability happens when one party simply opens themselves up to the other. Vulnerability can also open you up to scorn, ridicule and possible criticism. But more importantly, vulnerability opens you up to connecting on a level with your audience that no other means of communication could provide. Being vulnerable can't be written into any marketing script.

That's what is so special about social media.


  1. 1

    My sincere condolences ole friend. Your Grandfather sounds like an amazing man. I wish I had the privilege to have met him. You were fortunate to know your grandparents. Mine died when I was too young to remember. So cherish the memories.


  2. 3

    I’ve been in marketing for 30 years. Social media works only when there is direct engagement and real communication. I find it amusing that it is often treated as a magic bullet. Without engagement and real communication it is an exercise in futility. The number of followers is secondary to the quality of that engagement.

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