Monday, September 7, 2009

Article: The Mime in A Box

Look over there. No, over there, at that stupid mime. Look at him walking into that wall. Now he’s turning and there’s another wall. He’s amazing. There’s another wall. Now he’s in a box. I hate those guys.

They may annoy you, or scare some, or leave you scratching your head, but mimes are amazing communicators. Without words or clown props, they are able to tell a story. That guy over there knows how to control his body so well, it actually looks like his cheek is pressed up against a window. He has us all seeing walls that aren’t there.

This is just like the blogs I’ve read telling us what social media can’t do. They tell people there are impediments there, trying to convince people that they can’t push against them. Time after time though, there are people who find a way to show us all that the walls didn’t really exist in the first place.

I’m not saying that social media works better for some strategies than others, but through working with small businesses, I’ve learned that the rules are made by the people using Social Media and not some guru. It works for one strategy for some companies, while that same strategy won’t work for another company. So here’s a few “no-no’s,” as a mime might say, that I’d take as more “hmm, that’s challenging.”


I have read over and over again detractors that bring up the fact that social media doesn’t lead to sales. To me there are two arguments against this mime routine against social media. First, one can argue that most forms of advertising and marketing aren’t sales tools. I worked 10 years as an advertising copywriter, enough to realize that sale spikes can relate back to non-sales techniques such as a brand’s Super Bowl ad runs or the judges on American Idol slurp down a Coca-Cola. The other argument is that the internet in general, more readily leads to sales because the point of purchase for so many things is right there. I just recently helped a non-profit called Foundation Rwanda come up with a commercial that ran on several cable channels and Hulu. Most of the donations they saw came from Hulu, because all the viewer had to do was click right on the ad to get to the point of sale, in this case, point of donation.


I also disagree with the idea that social media only builds short term traffic. To me that’s as silly as that mime over there now walking the imaginary tightrope. Yes, for the uninteresting and humorless sites, short-term hits might be the best you get. But I have been a regular subscriber to several blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels and twitters, because they are downright entertaining. I’ve listened to one fantasy football podcast for five years now, even in the months most quarterbacks are doing nothing but playing golf on Sunday.


I’ve also read that social media can’t provide balanced traffic to a site. This is one of those that I don’t have proof either way that social media can’t provide steady traffic, if it’s out there. In my house, I tell my kids that “can’t” is a very dirty word. I’d rather see someone try, then people ruling it out. And if you do know how to do it, let me know.


I somewhat agree and somewhat disagree. I don’t think social media necessarily should be the make-up of an entire marketing plan. Obviously there are other things to consider: promotions, events and advertising. There are some businesses, however, that are doing no marketing right now or have so little money that it paralyzes them. To these companies, I don’t see anything wrong with them using free social media as their only marketing. I think it’s more important to be out on the sites, then only behind your desk wishing you could communicate to more people.

In the end, my thoughts reading about what Social Media can’t do are the same thoughts I have watching a mime stuck in that box, in both cases I just want to go over and throw test the box. Break the illusion. I may be incredibly naive and I know I’m going against the numbers here, but I still think social media is in its infancy. Soon, we’ll all be proven wrong about everything.

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