Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Parable of Social Media

Once upon a time, there was a small classroom in a local school. The teacher used to come in every day, ordered his pupils to sit down and began talking at them, using methods he had crafted over many years. The children were docile – they didn't know any different. One pupil put his hand up to ask a question. The teacher told him to be quiet. The boy was.

Then Social Media came along. The classroom grew exponentially, until pupils from all over the world were all in the same classroom. They started talking to each other. They started to make small groups for those with similar interests. They stopped listening to what the teacher was saying.

Frantically, the teacher tried to shout louder. He tried direct mail, one-way e-newsletters, telephone marketing, print adverts, even giant posters! But nothing caught the children's attention. They didn't want to be spoken to. They wanted to speak to each other.

The teacher was in a frightful state! All of his methods were no longer working – what was he to do? Concerned, he went to visit the head-teacher, Sat in her office, he quietly explained what had happened. “Whatever am I to do?” he enquired. The head-teacher, a wry smile on her face, turned to him and calmly assured him..

“Be part of the conversation.” She said.

Getting up, the teacher returned to his global classroom, where children from all over the world were now having thousands of conversations with each other, sharing news, swapping stories and getting together with others that held similar interests.

Walking up to one of the groups, the teacher listened to what the pupils were talking about. Slowly, he realised that it was something he knew lots about. Waiting for a pause, he then proceeded to talk with the pupils. They listened to him. They liked the fact that he was talking with them about the things they liked. The teacher grew happy again. He used this new method to go round the global classroom and teach the pupils the things he wanted to teach them.

They started to listen to him again.

And everyone was happy.


It amazes me how many marketers are still stood in front of the chalkboard, using traditional methods to engage a global room of consumers. Like it or not, Social Media has changed the world, and marketers need to change with it. Consumers no longer sit in rows like docile sponges, soaking up direct marketing that is thrown their way.

Put down the chalk. Walk amongst your audience and listen to what they are talking about. What they want. What makes them tick.


And then engage.