Sunday, December 9, 2012

4 Tips to More Entertaining Social Media

 In his blog post The Social Content Conundrum , Oracle's Mike Stiles helped me synthesize a jumble of thoughts I have had rattling around in my head since my interview with an entertainment brand this week.  Mike's post is about the importance of being entertaining in content.

Many of you know I am a former comedian.  But in my corporate life, this is not something I integrated into my toolkit.  In fact, it was recommended by many that I remove it from my LinkedIn profile while searching for a new job.  I was glad I didn't.   I have made some contacts and had interviews as a result of it.

This week I interviewed for a position with a popular entertainment brand (think television, internet, events, products, and more.)  The VP I interviewed with was very different than the typical corporate VP.  He didn't nod and yes me to death. He really knew his stuff at the most detailed level.  And he gave me time.  He took more than an hour of his time with me to explore my fit for the position despite a family crisis going on that day and his own reservations about my fit for the company.  His biggest concern was that as a result of my post-comedy career in corporate America, I wouldn't know how to fail.  Yes.  His idea of the right candidate is someone who would go to the edge and fall off the edge if they had to. Imagine a job where your creativity is encouraged like that?

He's right. At my last job, failing wasn't an option.  So I racked up successes.  Sometimes that meant playing it safe.  I won't say I never pushed the envelope because many of my successes were due to thinking outside the box and approaching problems from a new angle, developing new ways of working to increase efficiency, improve results and reduce cost. That is what I was measured on.

When I moved into Social Media, I tried to push the edge a little bit.  In one example,  The Onion poked fun of a sophisticated technology marketed by the company.  The Onion piece was very funny.  It was not personal.  The Onion is an equal opportunity disparaging news source, and makes fun of every one of the company's competitors in other stories.  What makes The Onion piece so funny?  As with most humor, it was a magnification of a real perception and someone finally had the nerve to call it out.  It made clear to me what others hear when technology companies communicate.  It also received over 9K social likes and shares. The people likely to have shared or viewed the video would be those most interested in the technology because of the underlying truth that the company was communicating in buzzwords rather than in a way that was connecting with our target audience.  This piece would not have been funny to those outside of technology or those who do not purchase B2B technology solutions.

The Onion presented us with a giant opportunity to improve the perception that others had but weren't voicing and the Onion voicing it resonated with them.

My recommendation was to have our experts on the topic interview an onion about its experience with the technology and leverage the video.  I wrote a comical script in response.  It included the accurate information and message about the technology presented clearly without the corporate speak the Onion had rightly spotted and exaggerated in the video.  It included a strong call-to-action.  The Onion provided an opportunity for us to entertain and inform the right audience.  Responding as I suggested would have presented the company as much more bold, confident, helpful, and hip and likely have drawn a larger audience than we had seen in the B2B space.

Many who "get it" in terms of social media were very supportive of my idea.  But how do you take a giant corporation from playing it safe to hedging their bets on an entertainment factor?  How do you get executive buy-in from those who refuse to participate in social themselves and in fact see it as another communications channel to push messages through?  I let it drop.  I played it safe.

Safe doesn't go viral. So I have come up with four tips for social practitioners in getting out of the comfort zone when the right opportunity strikes.  I'll be ready next time, will you?

1. Do it now.  Apologize later.
2. You Snooze, You Lose.  Save for a Rainy Day.   Set aside some social budget for immediate action on an unknown opportunity that may present itself  - social is real time.
3. Monitor and Monetize.  If you go out on the ledge, you need to show the payoff  immediately.
4. Don't Launch Your Rockets Before They are Built.  Keep it quiet until it takes off successfully.  If you invite everyone to watch it fly, they will watch it explode if it doesn't work.

I almost included a Tip 5 "Have your resume ready" - but you will never need it.  If it doesn't work, no one is going to see it.   If it does work, no one is going to be holding you accountable. They will all be taking credit.

Have you ever taken a big risk in publishing something outside of the comfort zone for your organization?  Tell us about it in the comments below.  Are you still happier in the safety zone?  What makes you stay there?