Andy Warhol & Social Media

“In the future, everybody will be famous for fifteen minutes…” Andy Warhol uttered this now prophetic phrase decades ago and I think it sums up the next decade quite nicely. In an age where white collar execs try to make sense of Social Media by googling articles and reading proposals from ‘social media gurus’ through their bi focals perched on the end of their noses, they wonder if the world has passed them by.
I’ve worked in some of the most competitive industries in the world, and I have a few “reality checks for white collar execs” when it comes to social media…

1. Your Strategic Position: “Vigilant Facilitator”: What I mean by this premise is something you will immediately relate to, because you’ve used it in your speeches to aspiring management within your ranks over and over again throughout the years; it’s an old school strategy that’s still pertinent today, “Do right by the customer and they will do right by you–pay attention to your customer’s needs and the profit will come…” I knew you could relate. So stop looking at Social Media as ‘What can this electronic phenomenon do for me?” and start asking the Jack Kennedy question: “What can I do for my customers with social media?” The profits will fall into place if you start with this overacrching premise for your strategic plan. Social Media is today’s “cyber barn dance”–can you imagine hawking product at a barn dance? No, you’d be the sad guy in the corner behind a trade show booth while people danced and talked about your crass approach to sales behind you back while they trade recipes, share photos, and chat about the trips they took. Don’t be that guy! In Social Media, you want to be the “Fiddler at the Barn Dance”, perched on stage, providing background music and keeping the tempo. You are ‘vigilant’, checking the mood and response to the tunes you’re playing–are they having fun? Are you playing the tunes you like and not the tunes they want to dance to? You are a ‘facilitator’ in that you are seeing to it that they are having a good time. You are a ‘Vigilant Facilitator’…you don’t have to guess whether they’ll come back to the next barn dance, you already know. They’ll come back if they’re having a good time–they won’t return for a sales pitch, a thinly veiled sales pitch, or a commercial. I liked Starwood Hotel’s social media scavenger hunt where customers could win free nights, but I didn’t love it. Why? I’ll explain later.

2. Cut through the Noise: I hate to quote Warhol twice in the same article, but it’s good for this point; “Don’t pay attention to what they write about you, just measure it in inches..” I’m 43, so I’m fortunate enough to have been wedged in between the dot com boom around the beginning of 2000, living right in the heart of San Francisco–you’ve never seen more 20 year old kids driving Porsches around and living it up in roof top hot tubs filled with champaigne than this giddy time. Why, and what happened next? From ‘dot-com’ to ‘dot-gone’ in just a few years. The sales premise to then white collared execs with distinguished streaks of greay around the temples was all about ‘Hits’! I was still producing direct mail campaigns with great results, keeping an eye on the web, but producing great results wasn’t enough for many of the CEO’s who kept asking me about the web, and how could they get in on it? These pimple faced kids were touting the extraordinary number of hits per day on their websites, or able to produce them through cutting edge SEO tactics…but I kept asking “What about the sales?” The acne flecked foreheads would wrinkle and with a roll of their eyes, they would feign dismissal for thos ‘uninitiated’ who didn’t understand the web. Billions were spent, and lost. The rest of the sales pitch centered on negative returns for several years before profits were possible. This was a strange concept to an MBA used to making money for his clients–today. So fast forward from ‘Hits’ to blogs, followers, and ‘friends’…My advice? Same today as ten years ago, cut through the noise, stay focused. I’m going to stun a lot of people with this next statement, but I’m canceling my facebook account. It’s too commercial, and I’m already over it. They have privacy issues and I am simply subject to way too much white noise from this social media hub. My advice for your facebook strategy? Go to the developing international markets like Brazil–they haven’t experienced all the commercial activity yet and they’ll still respond. I had an old girlfriend who is today a lawyer living in SC with 3 kids. I found her on facebook because she’s friends with my brother’s wife (honest, honey!). First thing she says to me, no bull, “You will rue the day you join facebook”. She’s right. The traveling salesman came out of the woodwork to join the barndance, hawking everything from their clothing lines to charity groups to idiotic chain letters promising money and free computers from microsoft. The Facebook Barn Dance Ain’t No Fun No More. Sorry Mark, you have one less friend.

3. When you’re confused by the clutter and white noise, see rule #1…

by MK

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