Pinterest has a wonderful plan for my life.
I’m new to Pinterest. I really have no clue to what it is about, but one team from my Social Media Class focused on Pinterest—so I’m right there! So far I’ve search for (pinned?) exactly two things: an attic fan and a pair of boots.
Yesterday Pinterest came right back at me with…a DIY cat teepee. And a backless wedding dress.
How did they know?
I’m no cat fancier. And I’m more of a rent-a-tux kind of guy who enjoys being (already) married to Mrs. Kirkistan. But all this failure makes me wonder if Pinterest is curating my life into some odd, unforeseen direction. What is Pinterest’s wonderful plan for my life?
Pinterest: you scare me.
Reading student critiques of their social media experience is a highlight for me.
It’s impossible not to.
No one achieves the thing they set out to do, mostly because what they set out to do was so vaguely defined as to be well, impossible.
Which is perfect.
The class succeeds exactly because everyone fails. Not failing grades (mind you), but failure at achieving some vague world-altering purpose. It’s safe, convenient and inexpensive to fail in this class.
And worth every penny.
Because the lessons learned from trying something and hearing a target audience respond (or not, silence teaches many lessons as well) are entirely applicable to most any job these students will look for post-graduation. By trying and failing, they’ve learned lessons about specificity in word choice, the need to set a realistic purpose for engaging an audience, that social technologies can be fun and frustrating and that those tools require guidance and vigilance. They’ve learned a bit about what it takes to get heard in a crowded room and they’ve each had the joy of getting a response from out of the blue. Which, of course, makes a writer’s heart sing.
We’re coming away from failure quite optimistic, because we’ve counted the cost (to quote the biggest failure who succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest dreams) of influence and we know the tools and all of us have a sense of exactly how we’ll pick up those tools next time. We’re also coming away optimistic because we’ve exercised our passion in putting words around ideas that make us hum. And that is thrilling stuff.
To recap: fail faster so you can begin setting realistic steps to tackle your world-changing proclivities.
I think I saw the Cadbury Dairy Milk at least
once. twice. thrice.
Collaboration from the Get-Go
We’ve been tracing social technologies back to where they hit command and control cultures. But what if a startup determined from early on to fold in their customers—not just as buying machines but in limited partnership? A tweet from Sherry Reynolds (@Cascadia) captured a poignant plea for healthcare startups to be truly collaborative. I am eager for the same thing.
Many high tech startups like AirBnB, FitBit and Box are built around a collaborative model.. Who in healthcare is leading in this space?—
Sherry Reynolds (@Cascadia) March 04, 2014
Entrepreneurs who avoid collaboration may find themselves shunted off to the side.
A recent conversation with an agricultural/big data startup is a great example: they already have the Ph.D’s, the science and the published research papers in their pocket. That part is done. What they don’t have (yet) is the conversations with customers. Traditional marketing efforts might focus attention first on raising awareness, highlighting the problem farmers face and the benefit provided by the startup. That goal would be to get farmers to plunk down the cash for the startup solution.
But what if this startup began with thick conversations that pulled potential customers toward them? Certainly economic motivators would be part of the conversation. But a first-phase of talking and listening and talking and listening (typical conversation stuff) may grow the audience as well as provide clues as to the next steps for the startup. I think we routinely underestimate the power of being heard and the vision of building something together. Of course, this startup will need to decide just how far they will go in terms of partnering with conversational customers.
Their use of Facebook will be all about stimulating conversations. Only it will be for real—not a guise for just shouting marketing messages. Facebook would be the major communication vehicle for the short term. And movement would be powered by conversation.
What else would help a startup be collaborative from the get-go?
I’ve been gushing over Improv Wisdom lately, this 2005 book by Patricia Ryan Madson. I’m thinking of buying a number of copies to give away and wondering how I can incorporate it as a supplemental text in my next classes. The book is easy to read, memorable and full of actionable wisdom all directed at staying in the moment and building something with others. Ms. Madson—a drama professor at Stanford, improv maniac, eager collaborator and kind-hearted encourager—brings a lot of life to how we can work with others. Now I find myself ordering the primary source texts cited by Ms. Madson.
Ms. Madson has been kind enough respond to my tweeted epiphanies when reading her book. I am impressed by the longevity and timeliness of certain ideas. Ms. Madson’s 2005 book will likely be relevant for a long, long time.
As I finish with my Social Media Marketing class, I’m reading reflections from the students. One near universal regret was not having a clearer sense of their purposes for the communities they were trying to create. We spent focused time on this early on in the class, but forming a crystal clear picture of what we want to accomplish with others is neither easily understood nor often practiced. I know this from the number of companies I’ve been in that operated every day without a clear sense of what they were trying to do with their audiences.
Students resist the tightly-formed purpose and the close definition of their audience because it feels so restrictive. It just feels easier to write anything for everyone. At least that’s how the class always starts. But at the end of the class, there are multiple confessions about how the tight purpose and close definition actually freed them to say much, much more to their target audience. This experience fits with a bit of improv wisdom Ms. Madson offered:
Rather than asking “What do I feel like doing?” when a free moment arises, instead ask “What is my purpose?”
I love this question for my class and I love this question personally. The question presupposes I have a purpose and assumes I know that purpose. The question assumes I am conversant with my purpose and assumes I am in the habit of articulating it to myself and others.
All these presuppositions and assumptions are worth pursuing. Going back to our purpose again and again sounds like bearing fruit over a lifetime.
And this: Patricia Ryan Madson should write more books.
Image credit: imgur
Image Credit: PeterFromTexas
“Why let -2 degrees F and 24+ inches of snow stop you?”
Asked the guy in Duluth who bikes to work every day.