My wife always tells me that I have a horse shoe in my ass. For some reason I have this knack for walking into a space with no preparation and coming out on top. Case in point: I volunteered to coach community soccer this year. Every week I do pretty much the same simple drills before each game – starting out with a cheer and one simple task – can you touch the ball over and over again while looking at me (not the ball). Now the goal for community soccer is not that you win all the games, but instead that everyone scores at least once by the end of the season. It’s not even half-season, and we are well on our way towards that goal. Horse shoes – I do almost nothing and success falls in my lap.
Now for the other side of the coin. I was asked to do a presentation on social media – something I have done over and over again with varying degrees of success. I prepared my way to no end, asking for help from various mentors, reading everything I knew and didn’t know about social media. Brought the stats. Found the right images. Followed every piece of advice. Fifteen minutes in, it became obvious that I prepped wrongly. Somehow I assumed the wrong things about my audience, remembered the wrong facts and worst of all, appeared to have lost touch with a subject I used to love so much.
The aftermath of this experience was a series of negative “never again” messages to people who asked me how it went. My attitude was “social media is old enough now that people already have their opinions. I am not going to change their minds. Social media now is more about tea parties and social justice warriors trying to use attention to influence policies. Or click bait journalism and cat photos. If you want a social media success story in this world, you will have to invest in Facebook or Twitter ads while ensuring a minimum presence to protect your brand. After that, there’s nothing else.” As one person in the presentation suggested, (referencing the book) “social media is bullshit.”
Two people brought me back to (actual) reality. The first was Bruce Walsh from the University of Regina Press. (PS. The Education of Augie Merasty is an excellent book that I intend on reviewing sometime in the next week also, Ken Coates kindly added a recommendation to me in his book about #idlenomore also published by the press) who somehow managed to get me out of this negative funk with his always positive personality. The second was Giles Crouch who is always a go-to for any ideas I have about the future of digital. They both reminded me of things I already knew. Social media is only part of the story. Like a computer has a monitor to show its outputs, our world has social media to show us a big world going on around us. Social media is not the story – our crazy world is the story and social media reflects it back to us.
So if you are a business wondering about a social media strategy now that social media is now both obvious and dull, I have to go back to my soccer success story. I wasn’t successful because I had horseshoes up my backside. I was successful because I didn’t overthink it. The only thing a U8 soccer player with minimal skills needs to beat other similar u8 soccer players is an awareness of the field. You need to see your players, your opponents and the goal. That means taking the focus off the ball and putting it on where you want the ball to go and when.
I am not going to spend any more time blogging to business people about strategy, planning and branding. There are far better people to discuss those things than me. The bottom line is that the story of social media for business is one that sends us back to fundamentals. I’ll lay them out for you.
- Customer service. Your front-line staff need to know that bad experiences carry fast, sometimes through social media but also through email, mailing lists and word-of-mouth. Yesterday my wife had a poor customer experience at a government service that nearly had us changing major life plans just to avoid dealing with them again. Good experiences will carry too. You can’t please everyone, but you can try. The example I always offer was one time when I had every possible security inconvenience at the Denver Airport and somehow still felt like it was the greatest thing ever. That’s customer service.
- Basic supervision. If you are a manager or supervisor, you need to know how your people are doing. Just the basics will get you there. Have short one on ones, ask people how their interactions have gone, what has been working, what hasn’t and give both positive and constructive feedback.
- Look-up. In online terms, I think this means going to page 10 of your Google search results. Don’t focus on what’s captured everyone’s attention. Focus on what is important to you and your business.
I am no business owner, but I have looked into the deep heart of social media and found both lots of bullshit (usually 40% of all messages on a topic are just that) but also lots of really thoughtful dialogue and sincere discussions about what does and does not make us happy. Hopefully this little tidbit helps make you happy too (if it doesn’t make you rich)!