Rules can be helpful, but they can also close your mind to possibilities and immobilize you. When it comes to social media, the first rule you’re likely to be told is this:
“Never start a social media initiative until you know your objectives.”
Not only do I believe that it is possible to break this rule (and still be successful), but in two situations, you are better off if you ignore the rule. The first situation is when you are so stymied with how to get started and fearful of getting it wrong, that you end up sitting on the sidelines. The second is if you have tried using social media but are disappointed in the results because you thought you’d get thousands of Twitter followers in short order or have your video go viral, ignore the rule and start over without expectations.
Recognizing an opportunity does not mean that you can predict how it will play out
At Lion Brand Yarn Company, when we first started getting into social media, we had some ideas about what we might achieve, but our involvement was sparked mostly by the realization that something significant was happening in the world of marketing and we wanted to be part of it. In my last post, “What to Expect From Your Corporate Blog,” I wrote about the fact that we outlined our objectives, but truth be told, we only had some vague ideas about what would happen –which is why I shared the details of what we discovered only after we launched our blog.
We started with little more than the sense that listening to and talking to customers in ways that drew back the curtain on who we were, and allowed for real conversations with far flung customers would be a good thing. We liked the possibility of creating relationships directly with customers. Back then, that was pretty much it for our objectives.
We worked with an agency that helped us get our blog and podcast set up and give us some guidance but then they pushed our boat into the water and we sailed off on our own.
“Done is better than perfect”
I recently toured the Facebook offices and saw that saying on their walls. It reflects their philosophy of constantly moving ahead to try out ideas. Facebook has over 2,500 employees and yet they are a nimble company. If a programming team believes they have a credible idea for improving the site, they code it. No committees, no position papers, they just write code and they ship. As a result, sometimes Facebook presents users with confusing and frustrating new features, yet they still manage to eke out a user base.
It helps to have a corporate culture that allows experimentation and we have that at Lion Brand, along with a CEO who is willing to listen to his Marketing VP pitch an idea and then trust his gut that it is worth a shot. It helps that the out-of-pocket costs were low and when everyone pitches in in the beginning, you can get started without extra staff.
Rather than asking yourself, “what are we going to get out of this?” proceed with the following question in your minds as you create content and interact with readers: “How can we be helpful to our customers?”
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