On Figuring Out Cluetrain

As I'm working away at figuring out our interactive strategy, one of my goals is to take advantage of social media as much as possible. In some cases, it's for pure, functional, "why reinvent the wheel" reasons, like using Flickr to manage and share images with our customers. On the other hand, a brand like ours has a ton of potential for social media engagement, and even without us doing much in this arena, there's already a good amount of online chatter -- most of it positive -- about us.

In the few cases where we've launched something to see how it would work, the response has been great. It seems as if there's a desire to talk to -- and about us -- and as soon as something appears to address that need, it's very well received. For example, a couple of months ago, we launched a simple blog. We didn't see it as a huge risk since we were investing a bit of money for set-up and our own time to update content. In the two months that we've been up, we're averaging about five new posts per week, traffic has gotten to a nice daily average, we've received over 600 comments, and we're slowly reaching that nice area where our visitors are starting to answer each others' questions via threaded comments.

None of this is earth-shattering news and you could definitely say that we're late in the game with even something as simple as blogging. The point is that when it comes to social media, a lot things are really hard to predict. You can build something with the best of intentions but if no one shows up, if people don't start engaging with you, then it's all seen as a waste of time and money. Compared to traditional marketing, like TV or print, you don't have the same issue because you can create the ads, buy your media, and you can be fairly certain that a given number of people will see your message. I guess this is one of the challenges we face sometimes in trying to get organizational buy-in for things like social media. It's hard to sign over a budget, take a leap, and hope that people show up.

Then again, maybe the best way to approach this is small and slow. As with our fledgling little blog, you try something, see if it works, and if it does, you do a bit more. This is what made me think of the cluetrain manifesto on my way home the other day. I've read it a few times now, and for years I've had a tough time really understanding it. I mean, on paper it sounds fantastic. Especially for anyone in this industry, you read cluetrain and nod your head knowingly as you go along. Then, you consider putting the same ideas into practice and getting sign-off from your CEO and the nodding slows down a bit. I guess it's because the ideas in the manifesto challenge the way that business has been done for decades, if not centuries.

So here's the thought I had. Maybe "figuring out" cluetrain isn't about sitting down and crafting a social media strategy that takes full advantage of all these media and audience shifts. Maybe it's a pipe dream to have one of these strategies sail right through C-level approvals. Maybe it's more like learning a new language. If you didn't grow up speaking English, you wouldn't jump straight into reading Shakespeare or Chaucer -- you'd start with "Jane has an apple" and move on from there. Maybe the best approach for us is to launch a handful of these small "Jane has an apple" initiatives over the next year; measure and tweak along the way; try to directly learn as much about (and from) our audience as possible; get the rest of the organization more comfortable with our presence in this space; and take another run at "King Lear" twelve months from now.

What do you think? What's been your approach to figuring out how social media fits into your marketing mix?

1 comment:

Cameron T said...

I've done some large social media...how do you..."campaigns" in the past. My best advice:

1. Leverage what's out there: Flickr, FB, YouTube, etc. It reduces barriers to entry and, typically, cost. But hey, there are downsides as well...

2. Start with planning a long-term strategy...and think big. You need to know your goals before you can plan your first tactic. Get informed and see what has worked in similar industries, but make your strategy unique.

3. Then it comes down to trial and error - so start small (risk and $'s). You'll soon learn what works for your brand and your audience.

4. Learn and repeat.