That old black magic.

I sat in on a very interesting conversation for work recently, where a group of automotive enthusiasts were discussing whether or not someone who is truly passionate about cars or trucks must also be passionate about working on their car or truck.

A really smart guy said that while he gets a sense of accomplishment from the projects he’s able to complete on his truck, there are certain areas, like transmission work, that he has no interest in ever learning, and would rather leave in the hands of professionals.

“That’s black magic and voodoo as far as I’m concerned.”

His comment elicited some laughs from around the room, and the phrase stuck with me.

I do some fairly esoteric, complex and/or technical work.  Some of my clients genuinely want to learn at least at a high level, the basics of what I do for them.

For others, social media and SEO and web marketing is black magic and voodoo.  They don’t want to know how it works or why it works.  They just want some kind of assurance that it will work.

I love explaining what I do, the same way some people love explaining how a manual transmission works.  But not everybody wants to hear that explanation.

To me, it’s an interesting story, how it all fits together.  I’m usually pretty good at telling the story in an interesting way.  But for some folks, it’s not a story they care anything about.  They just want me to skip ahead to “the good part”:  what they’re going to get out of it.

Unfortunately, as with black magic, voodoo and other kinds of alchemy, it’s not always easy to predict exactly what you’re going to get with social media.  You can put the right things in the cauldron.  You can add the fire, at a temperature that’s worked before.  You can chant the right words.

And sometimes, magic just doesn’t happen, despite a great recipe, lots of hard work, and seemingly all the right ingredients.  Or maybe some magic happens, but it’s not the way you planned it.

You always learn something (even if it’s “what doesn’t work”).  But that can be cold comfort when you were hoping for something a little more impressive.


  1. ·

    I work in IT and have always interjected humor into explanations. People don’t really care about the dry details even if they ask.

    Other person: “What do you do?”
    Me: “I’m a software developer.”
    OP: “Really? That’s cool. How many lines of code do you think you’ve written?”
    Me: “Eleventy billion.”
    OP: “No way!”
    Me: “Way.”

    In a previous life I did a lot of IT training, and there are areas where end users don’t need the specifics. A colleague had the best tactic for that: “You put the other person’s e-mail address in the To field, click Send, a miracle occurs, and it shows up in their end box.”

    I use both eleventy billion and the miracle line a lot.

  2. Kat

    Wait. Are you telling me emails DON’T work by miracle?

    I’m going to need a moment to process this…


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