A troop of scouts are in a big wood. Their Scout Master sets them the task of gaining light and warmth for the night.
One Scout gathers a load of wood, and starts his fire. Unfortunately the wind blows in the wrong direction, and the fire burns his tent down. He spends a lonely night in the cold and the dark.
Another Scout starts his fire, admires the immediate light and warmth, but then realises he has not gathered any fuel and his fire quickly burns out. He also spends a lonely night in the cold and the dark.
Scout number three, realises he will need a lot of fuel, so he finds a huge tree in the woods, chops it down and builds his fire on top of it. Unfortunately, he realises too late that the tree, and his fire, are miles from his tent, so he has to return to camp, and he too spends the night in the cold, and the dark.
The fourth Scout gathers lots of firewood, checks the wind direction, and digs a trench to prevent his fire spreading, but as evening draws in he realises he has no spark to light his fire. He also spends the night in the cold and the dark.
The fifth of the Scouts is a born leader, and he organises a few of the other scouts. One collects wood and stacks it neatly ready for use, one digs the trench, one monitors the wind, another gets a flint, and they light the fire. It burns bright and warm throughout the night and they have a great time toasting marshmallows, singing songs and generally doing “scouty” things.
The Scout Master returns in the morning and is just about to award the fifth scout a badge for his uniform, when he realises he has not seen his last remaining Scout.
The Scout Master calls his missing scout’s name, and soon his head pops out of his tent, and he drags out a brand new, warm sleeping bag, and a very bright torch. It transpires this scout had listened carefully to his Scout Master. The Scout Master’s brief to the scouts had been to “gain light and warmth for the evening”, he had not actually asked them to light a fire. The clever scout had realised he was not much of a fire starter, so hiked to the nearest hardware store and bought a torch, and a sleeping bag, and had the most restful of evenings.
There are several vital lessons clients can learn from this little story about Social Media:
- The first lesson from the first scout is clear, Social Media can burn your house down if you do not plan carefully what you want to achieve, and what way the “wind is blowing”, i.e. The Social context. It is staggering how many clients try and get Social Media to do what they want, rather than seeing what the constituency they wish to influence is doing, or wants to do. Do you know what your communities are doing/thinking? Have you a plan for changes in “wind” direction?
- The second lesson from the second scout, whose fire burned out, is obvious. Do you have enough fuel for your fire? Social Media needs a very different resource to manage it, and to fuel it. It needs a huge amount of high quality relevant content. Most client resources and processes are built on long cycle “campaigns”, not 24-7-365 content provision and response. Have you built a “Content Calendar” to plan your needs, have you built a “Content Factory” to generate the content required, have you built a “Content Envelope” to deliver the content and manage the responses?
- Lesson three from Scout number three is about understanding what will ignite, where. Many times clients start a “fire”, but often in the wrong place. For global clients this is often a real problem. For example I worked recently with a Global brand, in the UK, for the UK client. The UK client wished to build their Social presence in the UK. The brand’s American Facebook page was highly visible, and had a lot of content on it, but little was relevant to the UK consumer. The UK Facebook page was pretty hard to find, but they released a very funny video onto it. As you have probably guessed, the video became a great success in America (much to the anger of the American client, as it was not at all relevant to his marketing program), but not in the UK. Have you really planned where your Social Media will activate? Do you need to control where and how your Social Media works?
- Lesson four, from the fourth scout, is all about creativity. You can set up perfect processes and systems, but without the right creative spark you will not enjoy the “light and warmth” that Social Media offers. Successful Social Media creativity is the same as any form of creativity, and different also in that it needs participatory hooks and cues. Do you know what great Social Media creativity looks like? Does your team, or your agencies? How are you judging it?
- The fifth scout has many lessons to teach us. He knew that successful Social Media is a team game, and needs a fully integrated team, working well together, to gain the best result. It is not about having a department responsible for “Social”, or an agency. It needs the participation of everyone. He built a team, and a plan, and enjoyed the benefits that this team generated. Do you have a full “ecosystem” plan for Social Media? Does each department and agency know its role? Is there an integrated process that drives the Social Media agenda?
- The last scout, who bought a sleeping bag and a tent to gain light and warmth, also has a lot to teach us. The first is that just because he was a scout, he did not feel he had to make a fire. If a client poses a Social Media agency a marketing problem, the answer is most often that Social Media can solve the problem. This is invariably true of any agency, the truism of “the answer is yes, now what’s the question”, is very relevant to agencies of all types. Social Media may generate some “Light and Warmth” but it is not the only way to do so, and, as a client, you should recognise whether you have the appropriate skills/resources to use it. How are you ensuring you are getting objective advice? How do you know what media to use for what task? Is it sometimes better to pay more for guaranteed results?
So, that is our parable of Scouts and Social Media.
If your “troop” is struggling to light a fire under your Social Media efforts, give us a call, we would be pleased to help.
And, if you would like to see some of our favourite viral video phenomena, visit our Vimeo channel.
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