The “C”-Curve of Social Media Campaign Awareness

I’ve been struggling to reconcile an issue for a little while now. As I look at my Twitter and Facebook streams it is quite obvious that there are hundreds of people with all the answers regarding social media. I see a non-stop torrent of links to tips, key learnings, best practices and everything else under the Sun. But on the other hand, it seems every week brings a new example of brand self-immolation on some social network.  How can this be? In an entire lifetime you couldn’t read all the expert content on the How-Tos of social media, and yet…

Well, first I think it’s important to understand that we probably only hear about a fraction of the social media campaigns that are activated, and those fall into two categories: wildly successful and catastrophic. Take a look at this:


The "C"-Curve of Social Media Campaign Awareness. The "C" stands for Culture.

The “C”-Curve of Social Media Campaign Awareness. The “C” stands for Culture.

Why do social media campaigns, at least the ones we are aware of, tend to fall into one of these two extremes? I believe it is because of the way they connect, or disconnect, with culture. The best campaigns play with, align, leverage or otherwise amplify something happening in culture. From kittens to Star Wars to the Oscars, the winners usually are the ones that we can relate to, that are working with some sort of visual shorthand for an idea or concept we all know.

Conversely, the ones that bomb often do so due to cultural tone-deafness. When you don’t understand the conventions of a platform, or you don’t realize that you are using a term that the “kids” use to signify distaste, or you don’t think your post has racial, sexual or religious overtones, well, you are headed for trouble.

Strategy is important. Solid technical and tactical execution is important. But I think an understanding of culture, especially when we are talking about social media, trumps everything else.



New Year’s Resolution: Embrace the Epic Fail

Continuing my New Year’s resolutions, today I’m going to talk about my goal to try something a bit daring, a bit challenging and even a bit out of my comfort zone. The objective isn’t to fail, but rather to not let the fear of failure stop me from trying. It’s a bit like my post yesterday on Best Case Scenario. In that case I’ve resolved to focus on the potential positive outcome from a situation. With the Epic Fail I’m encouraging myself not to worry about the Best or Worst Case Scenario, but to just give it a go.

I think a lot of people try things, but not until they’ve removed so much from the project that the difference between success and failure is slight. Yes, they’ve done all they can to minimize total failure, but in the process they’ve eliminated the potential for knock out success. 

The result is a middle of the pack result. Now it used to be you could get away with that in business. Just make minor adjustments year after year. Maybe offer your product in a new color, flavor or size. But the competition is too stiff and consumers are too savvy and demanding. Incremental progress is a road to slow (but now accelerating) failure.

We all need to be ok with failure because that’s how we learn. That’s where paradigm shifting progress comes from. Again, the point isn’t to aim for comprehensive failure, it’s to allow for that possibility because sometimes the difference between that failure and a huge win is very small and only evident late in the game.

So, my second resolution for 2010 is to commit to trying something that may not be a sure thing, and not comprimising the idea to make it ‘safer.’