Why it hasn’t worked for me, and I wonder how it works for you?
Today I’m telling my story at Social Media Arizona. It’s about my early efforts, struggles, and successes with social media strategy for sustainability and green marketing. I’m not whining. I’m learning. This is my right of passage in social media, and I welcome any advice you might have.
I’ve chosen to structure my story as a screenwriter would in pitching a Hollywood producer a movie. This structure comes from Blake Snyder in his screenwriting book, “Save the Cat!” I’ve found you can use his concept of 15 story beats in every great tale for just about anything you want to communicate powerfully.
So grab a cup of coffee, and put your feet up, because I’ve got a doozy for you.
The logline to my story – that one sentence that answers the question, “What is it?” – reads:
In a bid to survive the devastating economy, an optimistic businessman first has to overcome the unrequited love of his new marketing darling – online social media – before his muse will save him.
Opening Image: (Cutout of my head with eyes dreamily peering upward at all the social media logos in a thought cloud; like visions of sugar plumbs dancing in my head. Then the “caching” of dollar signs replace my eyeballs.)
Theme Stated: How you tell your story is more important than where you tell it. (The logos in the above image are replaced with the line, “Once upon a time…” and my face turns to puzzlement as the dollar signs drop from my eyes in a crash.)
The Set-up: Park Howell runs Park&Co, a growing Phoenix agency with a growing client list. In fact, the firm is celebrating its 15th year in business on March 1. Park’s pretty proud of his team and what they’ve built. He owns his own building, works with 16 wonderful employees, and he and his interior designer wife, Michele, have three lovely kids, each a creative entrepreneur in their own ways. Park&Co is right on track to take over the world. Always fearful of becoming a dinosaur, Park and the agency embraces social media early and begins successfully using elements of it for their clients.
- The agency used iTunes to help its client distribute its training videos worldwide, saving the company more than $250,000 in its first year of the program.
- Park&Co has have given rural Arizonans a voice in Washington D.C. by capturing their stories of needing jobs and broadcasting them through YouTube.
- He has created Ning networks to gather people online for Goodwill and Water Conservation causes
Catalyst, or “Inciting Incident”: Then “Bam!” In October 2008, the world ends as he knew it with the beginning of the global recession. (Picture of ship sailing off the edge of a “flat” world.) The “New normal” was dawning. It was not enough for Park to help his clients weather the storm with decreasing marketing resources. He had to insure the survival of his own agency. Park followed the lead of many captains in the industry, and they all pointed to online social media as more than a temporary lifeboat, but the new marketing world order.
Debate: But can he pull it off? What will it take? Does he launch his own blog or amp up the agency’s online presence? What is his story, his niche, his expertise? Which social media tools, proven or not, will he employ? How will he measure it? What will he measure? What matters? Who cares?
Break into Two (Act 2, the “Love Story”): Following a Vegas ad agency seminar, and biz dev. gurus introducing Park to the sultry and sensational attributes of online social media, Park falls head-over-heels. He develops his own blog, “A Brighter Shade of Green Marketing,” that focuses on one of the agency’s successful niches: Sustainability.
He takes time to listen to his potential audiences with his new accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, FriendFeed. He monitors Digg, StumbleUpon, Technorati. He hosts online polls and posts videos. He participates in webinars, creates a Ning network, and reads social media romance novels like Bernoff’s “Groundswell,” Brogan’s “Trust Agents,” Baer’s “Convince & Convert” blog, and a plethora of novelettes in the form of free eBooks and SlideShare presentations.
Everyone’s a social media expert and he wants to be invited to the dance. He is delighted and surprised when he is asked to speak about social media in a niche within his niche: Water conservation. He researches, and writes, and posts lists, and links, and insights. He comments on other blogs, reaches out to sustainability writers, and Tweets about everything but where he’s having coffee.
Midpoint: Park finds himself in a feverish, but seemingly one-sided courtship with social media. He’s ready to round third base and head for home. Readers are going to come flooding in. The phone is going to ring off the hook. One person cautions him,
“How are you going to keep this up – working four to six hours per day on social media – when you’re going to be so busy handling all of the new business?”
Great question, he thinks. Then, in a figurative gesture, he puts his hand to his ear, leans forward toward the very computer he’s been banging away at for 10 solid months, and stops for a moment to hear what his effort has earned him in the way of new business.
Bad Guys Close In: As Park’s doubts about his social media abilities grow, and its relevance as the new marketing beloved, the economy worsens. Not ready to abandon his initial romance, even though her delicate hand seems just out of reach in the way of biz dev reciprocity, he has to reinvent how his agency can remain sustainable in this new environment of more project work, less campaigns, and dwindling budgets.
All is Lost: Park travels East to meet with other agencies for a two-day session on “Best practices.” The more they talk of scheduling tweets, publishing lists because people don’t read but scan, how bloggers game the AdAge Power150, the more Park finds himself repelling from the process.
Dark Night of the Soul: Park returns to Phoenix more confused than ever about his wooing of social media and the unrequited love he has received in the form of zero new business.
Break into Three: With the help of his brilliant team back at the agency, and what he’s learned from the accumulated months of research while pursuing his social media muse, Park arrives at the greatest truth of all:
It’s not where you tell your story, but how well you tell it.
She doesn’t want you to simply show up with flowers. She wants you to freely share your heart and soul. Only then will she give back.
Finale: Park realizes that behind the siren song of online social media lays many virtues that aren’t at first apparent. Online social media loves you back by:
- Making you a better listener
- Honing your writing skills
- Recognizing and capitalizing on trends
- Developing ones self as a more skilled online communicator/marketer
- Building expertise in your chosen niche outside of social media
- Employing your new found knowledge to guide your customers
- Creating more enlightenment to innovation with easy access to thought leaders
- Exercising resiliency and self-discipline in your daily development
- Perfecting presentation abilities
- Enhancing your own leadership skills
And most of all, social media helps you become a better storyteller.
Tomorrow, I will tell Part II of my story. I will share with you compelling stories being told offline and on that make it easy for people to share. These are stories that in many ways are changing the world. And they all have one thing in common…