Social Media Lessons from a Two-Year Old

What a difference a few years can make. For the last few months, I think I’ve spent more time talking people out of using social media than talking them into it. The pendulum has swung the other way, especially in the marketing industry. Everyone wants to be everywhere. Tumblr, Pinterest, Twitter Facebook, Vine, Foursquare, Klout – you name it, they want it. And not only do they want it, they want eleventy-billion fans/followers/likes/comments/minions/+1s too. Brands seem to be at war in some sort of social media arms race and there’s no end in sight. As I was sitting at home the other night looking over a proposed Instagram initiative focused on encouraging users to take pictures of the company’s products and use a special hashtag , I received some advice from a social media expert I had never consulted before.

After listening to me tell my wife about the idea in the presentation, my daughter Annabelle looked up at me and said, “why, Daddy?”

Me (dummy): “Well, because they want people to share pictures with their friends.”

Annabelle (social media expert): “What pictures? Like of kitties or doggies? I like kitties.”

Me: “Well, not quite. More like pictures of their products”

Annabelle: “Why?”

Me: “Because they want their customers to take pictures of their products and share them with their friends.”

Annabelle: ”Why would they do that Daddy?”

Me: “….”

Well OK then. Aside from considering setting aside some budget to hire a new (very) junior freelancer, I realized that my two-year old asked a question that everyone else seemed to have failed to ask – why? Why would someone share that?

Too many people get caught up in all the hype and hyperbole surrounding social media that they lose sight of what’s really important. Instead of using social media to achieve actual business goals like sales, attendance, or customer satisfaction, they chase numbers like fans, followers, mentions, or likes because those big numbers sound awesome in presentations. Social media becomes the end in and of itself, rather than the means.

As you develop social media strategies and tactics, take some advice from a two-year-old and ask “why?” But don’t stop there. Ask all the questions – ask who, what, when, where, and how too. Force everyone to stay focused on the business objectives, not the big numbers that sounds great in presentations. Following Annabelle’s lead, I’ve come up with a few questions that I now ask my teams all the time –

  • Why would anyone share this?
  • What’s in it for the customer?
  • What does success look like?
  • Why are we dedicating resources to this instead of that?
  • How will this help us sell more products/services?
  • What happens if we don’t do this?
  • How does this fit with our company DNA?
  • What happens when…?
  • Who’s responsible for…?

And the next time you’re listening to some social media expert drone on about some new social media tactic, try acting like a two-year-old and ask a bunch of questions. You might be surprised to discover that no one else has bothered to ask the simplest question of all – why?

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Kevin Lanahan

Out of the mouth of babes :-)We’ve spent a lot of time deciding when and where to go into social media. We usually look for a champion that would like to feed the beast, answer questions, and generally spend an hour a day (or more) grooming the outlet.

We just launched a Google+ page, but are not promoting it yet as we feed it some content. I hate it when someone announces a new outlet and there’s no content there. We’ve also shied away from Foursquare, Tumblr and other venues because, as a government, we don’t want to keep tabs on the locations of our citizens and we don’t have the staff to monitor user input.

We’re willing to explore, but we also need to see a benefit somewhere down the line other than just being there. Otherwise, we’d all be on Orkut and MySpace.

Samuel F Doucette

“Why are we dedicating resources to this instead of that?” — A question near and dear to my heart as a career manpower management analyst and process improvement practitioner. When used correctly with this and other questions in mind as noted in your post, social media becomes a mission enabler or a force multiplier instead of an end in itself.

Gerry La Londe-Berg

Thanks, good post. I always wonder if the effort to post is justified by the limited number of people who actually attend to the item, especially on Twitter.

Steve Radick

@Samuel – Love that you said, “social media becomes a mission enabler or a force multiplier instead of an end in itself.” When I was in government, social media had to be about the mission. I was always a fan of saying that social media is the means to an end, not the end in and of itself. If we didn’t look at it like that, it became really easy to cut it from the budget altogether (