Four Steps to New-Bourne Social

In college I worked at a Mac lab, helping frenzied, overly caffeinated students to print their papers 10 minutes before class. For the most part, it was mundane, with the exception of a Tuesday night “Computers for Beginners” course for the Continuing Education class.

In that class, I helped the professor bridge a burgeoning tech divide among middle- to senior-age folks, by showing the difference computers and the Internet could make in one’s life and work.

During the first class of the semester a woman in her early 60s came to my desk to tell me her mouse wasn’t working. No big deal, I thought. I raced over to her computer station, jiggled the mouse wire and made it back to my desk before she could show me the problem. Resuming my focus on my soul-bearing livejournal, I heard, “It’s still not working.” I looked up, grabbed a backup mouse and walked over to her. She immediately picked up the mouse and started clicking it at the screen.

Like a remote control.

I had never seen such a thing. Her eyes lit up when she accidentally knocked a finger into the trackball and the pointer would jet across the screen.

“It doesn’t care what I click on!” She was flabbergasted. So was I.

This woman’s only connection to this new technology was her TV — it was her comfort zone and she expected in some way for the computer to function the same way.

That’s when first I realized that when faced with new technology or new technology channels, we rely on what we already know to define them. Integrating social media to a more tradition-thinking team should follow the same analogy. It’s the technology or the platforms that are new — not the behaviors. Years before there were computers in our homes or work, bulletin boards at supermarkets were the marketplace or hub for services like babysitting, selling a car or renting an apartment. Today, those same things happen in places like Reddit, CraigsList or even via a post on Facebook.

Recognizing where your team or business happens to be in their understanding of emerging tech is the springboard to help familiarize them with new channels. Helping clients become native speakers of new channels will get you to a better, deeper direction and start to move stakeholders from passive supporters to advocates.

Here’s a process to help convert the nays to yays.

Step 1 — Q&L (Question and Listen): Ask them to tell you more about their marketing approach, style, any hiccups along the way and success stories. Then sit back and listen. Listen for channel-specific buzzwords that may clue you in, or review their previous marketing mix to see what channels were emphasized (or de-emphasized). This is their starting point; recognizing that will help you figure out how to bridge the gap.

Step 2 — Teach, In Their Language: Once you’ve identified the starting point, create a session that demonstrates their similarities and introduces their differences. You may be impressed by the creativity an analog team brings to a digital assignment. And it’s critical that time is spent defining the success metrics around the new channel. Push to describe what success looks like and how you’ll make it measurable to be considered a worthwhile investment for the business.

Step 3 — The Bourne Exercise: Who are you? As you develop a baseline of understanding, create a document of a few criteria that helps identify what good creative looks and sounds like from your brand or business. This litmus test helps establish common language and facilitate conversation around the work that helps make deeper connections and provide better feedback for creative. Identify 3–4 criteria for that document and it’ll keep the team honest, as creative ideas push further.

Quick Aside: Ok, agency brethren, I know… what about the brief?!? Yes, in a perfect world where nothing happens between the time we brief and the time we approve content, the brief would suffice. But this world ain’t perfect, and people forget. The litmus test serves as a reminder of how we are going to judge content, how and what we ladder up to — not how we’re going to build it.

Step 4 — When In Doubt, Test: If you’re still struggling with getting better direction, consider an A/B test to help guide future creative and planning. Social media channels are excellent ways to test content. Platforms offer huge, diverse audiences and ways to target segments of them. It will allow you to test against two different perspectives and see which performs better within your community. Even better, the shelf life of a post or tweet can be fleeting. This means that you can test today and pursue another story, content pillar or creative style tomorrow as you document what resonates and search for your social identity.

New channels aren’t just designed to empower businesses, but to empower people. Regardless of role, industry or seniority, being social media savvy is a major advantage for conversation, relationships and engagement– and worth getting right.