I'm preparing for a day of trainings in Chicago on Wednesday at Making Media Connections. Last year, I gave the keynote and a workshop, and this year they invited me back again. I'm going to be teaching two intermediate/advanced workshops, one on mapping metrics to social media strategy and the other on listening. (The secret sauce by the way is David Armano's Listen, Learn and Adapt)
I read an interesting post called "Jumping Off the Social Media Cliff" which raises a great question, "Are you a lemming or a base jumper?" In other words, are you embracing social media because "everyone else is ..."
What I mean by that is a question as to whether your organization is following others blindly into the chasm of social web participation or are planning and preperations being made first? Are the right people being educated and given the proper tools? Is there a plan with a specific objective?
Chasing after the competition into Facebook, Twitter and blogging without a plan is the Lemming approach. You can almost visualize swarms of companies jumping off into the abyss following competitors, self serving social media consultants and momentum created by mainstream media hype, each yelling “weeeee, social meeeeeedeeeeahhhh” and then realizing (maybe too late) with wide open eyes that they’re not prepared (no social media policy, no roadmap). There’s no chute, and the ground is coming up fast.
The reference is lemmings blindly committing suicide by jumping off cliffs in the Arctic is a bit of an urban myth. Contrary to what you may think when view the above Disney clip from the movie White Wilderness, lemmings do not hurl themselves off of cliffs and into the sea.
The film crew induced lemmings into jumping off a cliff and into the sea in order to document their supposedly suicidal behavior. According to snopes.com, rodents actors were placed on a snow-covered turntable and filmed from various angles to produce a "migration" sequence. Next the creatures were transported to a cliff overlooking a river and herded into the water. The entire sequence was choreographed using a handful of lemmings photographed to create the illusion of a large herd of migrating creatures.
The reference to base jumpers is an activity that employs a parachute or the sequenced use of a wingsuit and parachute to jump from fixed objects, with the parachute unopened at the jump. Based stands for the four categories of fixed objects from which one can jump: Building - Antenna - Span - Earth
So the point is that if you are going to jump off the social media cliff, make sure your parachute opens. And to tease out that metaphor a bit more, that means having:
- Having a clear objective
- Knowing the audience
- Deploying the right strategy
- Have the expertise/time or capacity
- Understand cultural barriers to adoption
- Pick the right tools
Oh, yeah, there's also the secret sauce:
- Listening before, during, and after a project
- Learning - using qualitative insights and hard data points to understand what is and what isn't working
- Adapting your social media effort or organization based on your learning or experiments
I found a fantastic example of Twitter as a focus group in Nina Simon's blog post, "Everyone's Smithsonian.' Not only does she illustrate the valuable qualitative insights you can glean from social media listening efforts, but shows how to apply them to a museum context. Nina's secret sauce is:
- Listen to and understand what your visitors/users need.
- Confidently and clearly state your institutional mission, values, and capabilities.
- Develop relationships via any and all useful platforms that allow you to connect 1 to 2.
I like how she connects the dots between objectives, listening, relationships, and platforms.