What LOLcats can teach us about social media efforts

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I was watching the other day as some folks inside the social media fishbowl were poking fun at a company’s somewhat ham-handed attempts at using Twitter. Phrases like “clueless” and “they just don’t get it” were bandied around and it occurred to me that this judgement was overly severe. Yes, the people executing on a campaign did so with less than the quality or integration into the community that you’d like to see, but it was a start.

Here’s the reason why bad social media efforts aren’t all that bad. Clay Shirky pointed out in an excellent TED talk at TED@State that LOLcats were a vital and important sign that the gap between being a content consumer and a content creator had been bridged. A LOLcat picture may be the bottom of the barrel as far as creative and artistic expression goes, but it’s a significant jump to go from never creating to taking that first, tentative step of content creation.

For everyone railing against social media efforts that are less than well thought out or less than flawlessly executed, try taking a step back and seeing the larger picture. A poor attempt at using social media means that someone at the company at least understands a little of the value of being social. A poorly executed social campaign means that they need more practice, to be sure, but they’ve made the transition from non-socially aware company to at least minimally socially aware, and that’s a huge first step to make.

Our responsibility, the folks who are active, experienced practitioners, is to help show new folks the path to the extent that we can and that the new folks on the path are willing to accept a guide or suggestions. Instead of greeting less than perfect efforts with derision, help educate and you might not only help someone understand the social space, but in a few years’ time, you might have yourself a powerful ally and partner.

For those interested in Clay’s original talk, you can watch the video below.

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3 responses to “What LOLcats can teach us about social media efforts”

  1. Lolcats also manages to create a community, complete with all their in jokes, Just try reading the comments. From the community, the product no matter what you think of it, is sustained, and new content is filtered into the stream. The formula from one theme to another is copied and expanded upon. there is now a whole network of like minded content. A low to no barrier of entry style of content makes the addition of new community members that much simpler.

    The more you look it really is brilliant.

  2. I’m looking at your last two posts together Chris. Yesterday’s post seemed to end with a focus on identifying deficits and working on them. However, in it you noted the intent to find a way to support someone to move into action rather than call them a pussy.

    This post changes focus a bit and takes a more strengths based approach; “someone at the company at least understands a little of the value of being social”.

    Put together, the idea of first identifying strengths (motivation, or a taking the first step in using SM), is important to name before moving into focusing on deficits. It allows you to mark where you are and what you have accomplished on your way to your goal. It provides a foundation from which to launch.

    I see and hear the tendency to jump all over those who may be doing something wrong, or who may not be doing enough. I appreciate you flipping that focus. Which makes me thing that instead of starting with ‘understanding and helping them figure out what they need the most to succeed’, perhaps starting with understanding what assets they already possess could be the support they need to address those deficiencies and move them on a clearer path to achieving success.

    Thanks as always for a great post.

    1. I agree Rob (and Chris.) More and more people are at least FINALLY trying to learn social media tools and how to create a working strategy. Which, like you said Chris, means that they at least either see the true value for themselves OR they see the perceived value that many people around them are projecting and they’re willing to give it a try.

      Learning how to use social media is much like learning to ride a bike. Without any help, you get on, try to peddle a bit, then fall over. You get up, and do it again, same result. BAM! You try one more time and still, over you go. So at this point you either become determined to learn on your own and keep going OR you decide this social media stuff is crap and start telling everyone you know not to get involved. (One way we get our naysayers!)

      See the difference? With help, us experts give them a good explanation before they even get on the bike. We tell them what to expect, how it will work, and that we believe they can do it. Then, sometimes, when they get on and start riding, we’re holding the back of the bike. A few times doing this… and they’re off on their own, confident that they can take it from there.

      That’s our job!

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