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How to Fail Better on Social Media
Posted on May 17th 2014
Unfortunately, not all social media programs are created equal. I would love to promise that one client’s social media program will garner the same success for another. No, not happening. Never happened, actually. But, what I can guarantee is that we will learn from our experiences, even in the face of failure – and we may do better next time.
Do you have social media regrets?
I’m not writing about learning from our mistakes as social media practitioners. Nor am I calling out anyone who accidentally tweeted what they were thinking when the information should have never gone public. I’m writing about a concept that we often only address until it is too late, until we have failed. That topic is failing better.
The idea is to recognize from a position of no fear why a social media campaign in motion isn’t going exactly as you had imagined. Is it too late to design new creative? Is too late to come up with new copy? Is the whole program lost? Or, are you at that “aha” moment of opportunity? It’s not the car accident that you avoided getting killed in, but the one that you walked away from and reflected upon because you’re getting back into a car.
Why do so many of us focus on the number of social media mistakes made?
If there was no lesson to learn we would not have an opportunity to learn how to prevent that event from happening again – if we can - nor be compelled to approach a similar situation in the future with an alternative strategy. I’ve helped develop and execute social media programs for government municipalities and agencies since 2009. Running promotions, sweepstakes and contests on government facebook pages has never been without a challenge. Generally speaking the issues aren’t big enough nor appropriately funded to get the word out about the event. A little success is often deemed a “good start” and followed-up with other program pilots. However, we can fail better.
If government social media programs have not generated adequate results, maybe it’s best taking the program to the streets. In one example, more residents opted to meet a government agency during a street fair to receive free Clipper Cards than answer a question on a social network to win the same prize. Many residents were visibly excited to meet a representative from the government agency in-person, once that representative announced on Foursquare that they were staffing an event and giving away a prize to citizens who they met at the event.
Don’t fear the reaper!
Maybe if a social media program on facebook is in need of more engagement, the government agency can promote the post with advertising highlighting the event to broaden the reach of the event. Do you see what I’m getting at? We’re failing better here. We’re not stuck in fear mode worrying about whether or not our social media program will succeed. We’re being proactive and, either in almost real-time, adjusting to compensate or coming up with additional ideas to help build more awareness and action.
The keyword, or the stopper ,is: FEAR. That’s what naturally happens to most of us when we’ve spent so many resources building up to a moment of launch only to be let down and paralyzed. The experienced of us don’t stop until we’ve done everything we can do to achieve our goals. Let’s just call the “others” those who have not learned that they too have the same power if they can only fail better.
Other ideas including running variations of the same social media campaign as a test to see which one flies - or, running limited smaller test groups with a social media idea to see if it meets objectives. Additionally, a social media program can target a certain multi-cultural demographic or leverage the success of other similar social media programs by duplicating efforts in non-competing regions.
Social media measurement is subjective
Don’t forget too that success is relative. Your program on Twitter may have only received a half dozen retweets, but those retweeters may have the influence of 100,000 citizens. Also, different public information officers value different metrics. Did your social media program influence a group to start carpooling? Did your social media program increase the number of citizens taking a pledge to start recycling? Did your social media program generate hundreds of thousands or millions of impressions, broadening the messaging of your organization’s bus service program to new audiences?
I hope to fail better the rest of my life. For I will never let fear convince me that I cannot do something better nor try again.