Weird Internets: The Branded Facebook World of Bill Hitchert, 'Chief Visionary Officer' of BH Ideas
Weird Internets is a series in which we spotlight and explore funny, bizarre, or otherwise interesting corners of the internet. Today, we talk to Bill Hitchert, master connector, Facebook visionary and the man behind the up-and-coming "BH Ideas" meme.
It's generally accepted that you don't make friends on Facebook. In fact, it's odd, and something approaching impolite, to friend someone you don't know and don't have any mutual friends with. There are, of course, people who do this anyway: People who "friend" strangers unbidden, not because they're lonely but as part of odd, small-scale "multi-level marketing strategies" (also known as pyramid schemes) and earn-cash-working-from-home rackets — low-level internet entrepreneurs, or maybe hustlers, who speak stilted, new age-inflected dialects of the jargon-heavy language of social-media strategists and people who call themselves "gurus" and "ninjas."
Bill Hitchert is one of these people. I found Bill through Tumblr, where a blog I follow, Megacycles, had been obsessively documenting, through screenshots with short captions, his Facebook presence. He seemed to be involved in some kind of self-starting marketing or branding exercise involving his company BH Ideas, one that rooted itself less in a specific product or service than in the constant forming of "connections" on Facebook with other members of this lost tribe of internet marketers. He wasn't a scammer — he didn't ask for money, unless you wanted to buy one of his BH Ideas-branded mugs — and he wasn't, exactly, a spammer. He was Bill Hitchert, "Chief Visionary Officer" of BH Ideas. I did what anyone would do, reading about someone like Bill: I friended him on Facebook and spent hours reading through his timeline as he discussed marketing strategy and Goji berries with strangers.
"BH ideas is first and foremost, a brand," he told me when I Facebook messaged him and asked him what BH Ideas is. (Bill would only speak to me under the condition that I write about BH Ideas "artfully," and be "mindful" of the brand's unique "energy." He would not directly comment on the Megacycles Tumblr.) "BH Ideas is also a team of people whose digital discourse forms a mindshare... My role within the company is as Chief Visionary Officer. I moderate the online discussion, generate promotional content, workshop ideas with team members, and guide the development of the BH Ideas brand identity."
That brand identity has been built on the back of Bill's "connections" — his Facebook friendships and frequent wall-to-wall conversations with people with whom he shares a vocabulary and a strategy: Multi-level marketers and click-to-pay schemers like Rick Ling, an Australian man trying to launch a business selling Goji berries; and Pimpa Jiranyakul, whose skill at making connections for her business "Pimpama_earncashback" is now legendary. (Bill, not a man to say "no," has also connected with several people who seem disinterested in marketing.) Bill's Facebook timeline in 2010 and through most of 2011 is amazing, frequently hilarious reading, as his relentless optimism and unflagging earnestness rubs up against his dedicated, hustling connections
But as the BH Ideas brand has grown, Bill's "team" is increasingly young and internet-savvy, and his work has turned away somewhat from those internet-marketing connections to exercises in meme creation. Over the last week, Bill has been encouraging his team to write BH Ideas on their arms. "When you write BH Ideas on her arms," Bill wrote, "you're essentially telling her that, through personal branding techniques, she can find her way out of troubled times and into a world of personal, professional and financial freedom." His connections — again, mostly the young and Tumblr-friendly — responded with dozens of photographs of themselves with "BH Ideas" written on their arms.
If the BH Ideas arm-writing meme means the end of BH Ideas' first iteration (as a place to examine and connect with entrepreneurs and marketers) and the start of its second (as an exercise in branding and meme creation) that doesn't bother Bill, who has has big plans for the future.
"2012 is going to be huge for BH Ideas and there's room on this train for everyone: it's a team effort," he told me, adding that BH Ideas 2.0 could come as early as next month. "We're climbing to the top, we're future-oriented, and we're sure as heck not looking back... We've had an Arab Spring, now let's have an BH Ideas 'Idea Spring.' Destination: NOW. We'll be waiting for you."
INTERNETTING SINCE: BH Ideas has been around since April 2011; Bill tells me he's been around much longer. "My background is in business administration, but I really came into my own during the social media revolution of the past few years. Originally from back east in Radford, VA, I've moved out to the greater Seattle area to get involved with the tech/dotcom boom."
WHERE TO START: To really get the full Bill Hitchert experience, you need to friend him on Facebook (when I friended him, he posted on my wall: "Greetings! I'm happy to welcome you to my Personal Digital Network (PDN). There's nothing more energizing than exchanging ideas with others, digitally. If you like the business I do, please have a look at BH Ideas, the multi-national brand which I'm developing. Check it out, and give it a "LIKE" if you want to get on board! I look forward to hearing more from you soon, .N ҉ A ҉ M ҉ A ҉ S ҉ T ҉ E... Max!"), but a good deal of the BH Ideas concept and brand is disseminated through the Megacycles Tumblr and Bill's Twitter account.
BEST KNOWN FOR: The BH Ideas brand, which briefly had a Know Your Meme page, and inspires near-fanatical levels of devotion on Tumblr and Facebook.
FAVORITE INTERNET THING: I asked Bill what and who inspired him. "Not involved in multi-level marketing, but a lot of my closest connections are with those organizations, and I derive a lot of inspiration from their work and their entrepreneurial spirit. To name a few: The Numis Network, the Empower Network, Rick Ling's Prospex, RB's Keys to Successful Cash Gifting and The 2011 Surges Program. Lots of motivational speakers and thinkers such as Bob Proctor, Robert Kiyosaki, Gary Vaynerchuck, Septo Indarto, Randy Gage, and of course Jim Rohn, have also been hugely inspirational to my work."