What was my strategy when launching this blog? How about when I started using Twitter over two years ago when most people dismissed it as a fad, trend, and a tool for narcissistic individuals who wanted to tell the world what they had for lunch? My strategy?
I wanted to learn by doing.
I made mistakes, I also got some things right. I got a crash course in web metrics seeing spikes in blog referrals or comments when I would publish a particularly helpful visual, and less activity when I wasn't adding enough value. I'd see additional followers on Twitter built over time and even some growth spurts when someone with influence recommended me. Same goes for blogging. I've learned almost everything I know about this space by doing it. I've always learned by doing. It's instinctual for me—I have problems learning other ways, you can ask the nuns who tried teaching me in grade school. Which is why I'm perplexed that now that we're seeing brands actually do what I've been doing for years (learning by doing), we're all up in arms. Whether it be P&G, Skittles, or examples of brands that most of us applaud such as Zappos, I hope you see the writing on the wall here. Brands will actively engage on the social web by doing—and learn in the process. They can't sit on the sidelines anymore. The social web only kicks in AFTER something is put into the space. Just like I launched this blog in 2006. All of the effort came AFTER the launch. Listen. Learn. Adapt. This is what I believe in.
I recently came across a Forrester blog post which provided some actionable insights on P&G's "Digital Hack Night". I recommend you read the entire post. I also recommend you read Brian Morrissey's reaction to P&G's effort and the comments in the thread. Read both, you will be better for it. Digest, analyze and sit on it for a bit. But whatever conclusions you come to, you can be sure that the days of inactivity on the part of large brands, companies and organizations are behind us. Learning by doing may become the new ROI. Watch and see.
- "Social media is a full time commitment. Across the teams those who were able to generate the greatest number of sales were full time bloggers (or at least full time social media gurus). Even among the so called digerati those of us for whom social isn't our sole focus were left in the dust by those who do it for a living. What it means for marketers: don't think you're going to make an impact asking your current digital marketing manager to add Twittering and blogging to their current job description. Figure out what your role should be in the social media space and staff with people knowledgeable and connected who thrive on contributing to and participating in that space. Social media isn't something you turn on and off for a campaign; it's something you live and breathe every day.
- Suspicion runs rampant. No sooner had the project begun than the comments started coming back: who is this for, whom does it benefit, why should I give, how do I know this is legitimate? Fortunately Tide had provided teams with information, images and a website with full program details. Even so, most people needed a lot of proof points before they would embrace talking about the program. What it means for marketers: Anyone who thinks corporate America is welcome at the social party hasn't been paying a lot of attention. Corporate messages and their bearers are viewed with suspicion and in some cases, derision. Overcoming it takes patience, information and most importantly truly good intentions at the root of your efforts.
- You can't please all the people all the time. No matter what some people seem to believe that most corporate efforts spring from bad intent. Some people were angered there were no plus sized t shirts, some were outraged that P&G was involved at all wondering why they didn't just send their money to a charity. Most of these concerns were mitigated with a healthy discussion and an honest mea culpa when appropriate (the T shirt size issue was, admittedly, an oversight but certainly not a slight) but some of them spring from the conflict that comes from companies who need to sell goods and services entering a space that has been largely non-commercial. What it means for marketers. Take time to plan for worst case scenarios: how could your intentions be misconstrued and how and when do you respond? Accept that you will never be welcomed by all but with a good faith effort, honesty, transparency and a long term commitment you can at least get a chance to tell your side of the story."
Brands, companies, businesses and individuals are going to learn by doing. If you want to make money building your consulting business around their efforts—help them. Or get the hell out of the way.