The Rule of Cool (Part 4)

This is it, I promise. I've rambled long enough.

In case you missed them, here are parts one, two, and three.

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Keeping Your Cool

With all my blathering away about coolness, I have yet to define it. Mainly, because it's impossible to define and is by its very nature unique to individuals. But of course this hasn't prevented people from trying. Here are a few attempts:

Cool is what’s on BuzzFeed or Reddit in the morning, but it’s not cool by end of the day. The more ephemeral, the cooler; Snapchat is cooler than Instagram, which is cooler than Twitter, which is cooler than Facebook, which is cooler than the Web, which is infinitely cooler than print. (Source: Carl Wilson, Slate, 2013.)

So... cool is transitory and evanescent.

There is no single concept of cool. One of the essential characteristics of cool is its mutability—what is considered cool changes over time and varies among cultures and generations. (Source: Pountain and Robins, Cool Rules, 2000.)

So... cool can be multiple things simultaneously and it depends on context.

"If status is about standing, cool is about standing free." – Grant McCracken

"Cool is a knowledge, a way of life." – Lewis MacAdams

"Cool is an age-specific phenomenon, defined as the central behavioural trait of teenagerhood." – Marcel Dansei

"Coolness is the proper way you represent yourself to a human being." – Robert Farris Thompson

In the novel Spook Country by William Gibson one character equates cool with a sense of exclusivity: "Secrets," said the Bigend beside her, "are the very root of cool."

In the novel Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett the Monks of Cool are mentioned. In their passing-out test a novice must select the coolest garment from a room full of clothes. The correct answer is "Hey, whatever I select", suggesting that cool is primarily an attitude of self-assurance. (Source: Wikipedia.)

So... cool is pretty much whatever the heck you want it to be.

For me, cool is about trusting your gut. It takes a certain amount of confidence to be able to look at things and make snap judgments on whether you think they are cool or not, and I've found that the best way to give myself that confidence is to consume A LOT of content. Just like you have to read, read, and keep reading to be a good writer, you have to keep looking at photos, art projects, videos, advertisements, etc. to begin to discern both your personal tastes and the tastes of the internet as a whole.

Some of the websites I check out regularly are PetaPixel (for photo and video inspiration), Wooster Collective (for street art, posters, etc.), This is Colossal (for general awesomeness, mainly art stuff), Untapped Cities (for cool stuff from around the world), Fun of Art (for more art stuff), and Brain Pickings (for general cool stuff and inspiration). Of course, it's also important to follow peers on social media - I follow hundreds of colleges on social media - as well as brands, ad agencies, creative houses, and other companies that produce great content.

It's also helpful to stay up-to-date on the latest thought leadership and trends of the digital sphere, which websites like Digiday and UnMarketing are great for. I also have a large bookmark list of blogs and websites that I check in on regularly... I would absolutely encourage you to spend some time on Google or (I say shamefully) checking out my weekly links roundups for some recommendations of sites to check out. I can't stress enough the value of keeping up on the trends, because this will help you connect the cool examples from artists, photographers, and videographers to marketing concepts that can assist with your overall branding and successful social media strategy.

You're never going to bat a thousand when it comes to being cool, and the nature of the beast that is social media managing precludes that from even being possible. For every instillation art project you pull off or crowd-sourced photo collection you create, there are plenty of events you need to promote and press releases you have to share and all that uncool jazz.

But I can promise you that if you are mindful of the value of posting cool content, if you spend the time to expose yourself to some of the most creative and original and jawdropping stuff that people are doing with photo and video and art and digital media and you start incorporating some of that into the content you create, you'll begin to see dividends. People will talk about it, online and off. Students will think it's awesome that their school did something like that. The school paper might notice and write an article about it. Alumni will happily share it with their friends, with a twinkle of pride in their alma mater in their eye. Prospective students will see it and tell themselves that this is the type of school they want to go to. 

Cool is the currency of the internet. Start trading in it!

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And thus concludes my ramblings about coolness. The end.

Great Social Media Idea: Admissions Awesomeness

The Rule of Cool (Part 3)