As coolness expands, content companies tremble

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So this week I posted a YouTube video of Nappy Roots on my facebook profile and got immediate rave reviews from my college age nephew. And I started to wonder if he thinks I’m actually cool.

Here’s the thing: I’m really a fraud at being cool. I use the Internet as a “cool engine” that has more mojo than I ever would by myself. If you think of a 98 pound weakling wearing a robot suit that allows him to crush cars with a single blow, you can start to understand how much I need the Internet to be cool.

I’ve always sought cool, but had no idea how to get there. But I have learned three things lately:

Cool isn’t what it used to be

Before Social Media (YouTube Facebook in particular) there wasn’t a stream of on-demand pop culture to tap into. Your social status was based on what TV shows you watched and what was heard on the radio. The really cool kids browsed the pop rock section in the record stores. And they liked a TV show on cable that the rest of us couldn’t get, and so on.

Compare that to today, when the Internet sports thirty years of TV, music, and a whole universe of user generated content. It’s impossible to judge someone as cool or uncool these days because there is just too much content out there to judge. Today, “cool” seems to be gauged by how sincere you are about your feelings for the things you say you like.

Social networks teach you to be cool in private

The big hurdle to being cool before the Internet was that people didn’t learn how to talk to each other. The elite had their own language, and the dorks never really had a chance to learn the lingo. Now that the cool people are conversing publicly with their cool friends, any old dork can learn the lingo, practice it in the privacy of their own circle, and start speaking in their language when they do pipe up online.

Coolness is automated

The programmers building the Internet (largely a group of very smart dorks) have put considerable effort into systems that show related items and “if you liked this, then you’ll also like that” logic. This means you can start an application like Pandora (a music streaming site) and it will build you an ideal music channel simply based on finding music similar to the song you asked it to play. You don’t need to know anything about music anymore. You’re instantly cool with just one mouse click.

The new COOL and business

As a business owner, it is important to know how to get your products and services into the ‘automated coolness stream.’ The vast indexing engines might pick up the words you use to describe your services, but they might not understand what exact micro-category to add them to. Post your products and services in multiple places, using the tags provided by each service. For instance, if you sell retail items, post them in Amazon, on Craig’s list, and in EBay in order to help the engines understand what you’re selling (and to whom).

It’s also extremely important to learn the lingo of the Cool online. Follow Twitter to learn the tone of the people leading your industry and then copy it. It’s a great boost if you can jump into the conversation and sound like you’ve been there forever, and conversely, it’s devastating when you sound like a dork.

The culture online is very welcoming, if you follow these few simple rules of Cool. It’s easier than it used to be… even a dork like me can look cool now and then online.

Marci De Vries is president of MDV Interactive, a web consulting firm in Baltimore. Reach her at marci@mdvinteractive.com.