Lately I’ve been reading “The Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum to my girls before bed – a feat I find fairly amazing considering they are two and four but that just goes to show you the power of the narrative even for those who are really young.
I’ve never read the actual version (that I remember) but we all know the story quite well by now from the classic 1939 film.
Tonight we’ve arrived at the part where Dorothy has melted the Wicked Witch of the West with a bucket of water and the motely crew of friends returns to The Great and Powerful Oz. They want to cash-in on what he had promised them should the successfully complete the mission he set before them: taking care of the aforementioned witch.
Dorothy swept up in a tornado and whisked away to this strange land, desperately wants to return to the grey and plain Kansas where her beloved Aunt Em lives.
Her devoted little dog Toto just wants to do whatever his little mistress wants.
The straw-filled Scarecrow wants a head of brains so that he will not be a fool for the rest of his life.
The Tin Woodsman longs desperately for a heart to feel again the love he once lost.
And the Cowardly Lion craves the courage to back up his formidable roar, should anyone ever call him on it.
This odd group journey in some sort of blind faith to the Emerald City in the belief that Oz will make grant all their wishes and make everything all right for them.
Call me crazy (please just in your heads) but I can’t help by see the similarities of these characters with the different approaches I often see in those considering whether social media is a good thing for their business.
Let me explain:
DOROTHY: She’s innocent, she’s naïve and she’s killing witches left, right and center! She doesn’t grasp that she’s in a whole new (and potentially amazing) world, with infinite possibilities, she just wants to go back to her drab little Kansas with it’s plain, flat countryside.
Why? Because that’s all she knows and she’s scared of the unknown. What’s worse? She doesn’t even get that she’s got all this amazing power inside her (annihilating two slave-driving evil witches in two weeks… that’s pretty badass!)
Many look at social media the same way, it’s scary and daunting and all so new. They are scared to take one step on that yellow brick road because they don’t know where it will lead and they don’t realize the power that they have inside. They want to go back to Kansas, or advertising or marketing the old way even, if it’s not effective because it’s what they know and they feel safe. Dorothy barely enjoys any of her new experiences, she’s just pines for home.
I get it; it’s hard to be badass on purpose. But if you don’t try, you never get anywhere magical.
SCARECROW: He wants to know everything now – he wants the followers, the clout the influence NOW! He’ll enlist marketing software or any other ploy to get him Twitter followers FAST and it doesn’t matter what quality they are or even if they are in line with his brand and marketing goals. Who cares right? It’s all about numbers! Or he thinks he can do it all himself; read some books, a few blogs and he’s good to go. There’s no need to ask questions or seek out experience – how hard can it by once he knows how?
What he lacks is not brains, as Oz explains, but experience. Every day, every learning curve, every follower he gains organically, every question he puts out there will make him smarter and savvier on line, but it will take time.
Social Media is a long-term strategy, but like intelligence, once it’s there its value is immeasurable.
TINMAN: Ah la Coeur! The heart! The woodsman made of tin wants to feel the ache and pain of love, the tenderness of joy and all the other cornucopia of human emotion. He knows that without an emotional attachment we do not feel tethered to anything.
So then, what could be wrong with wanting more heart in your social media strategy? Aren’t we supposed to be engaging others on an emotional level with our business?
Of course, with one caveat.
While it’s important to engage others on the visceral level in order to be effective you need to have a healthy dose of balance of passion and drive.
Negative comments about your company on Facebook or Twitter are not personal attacks instead they are opportunities for growth, to change the discussion and someone’s image of your brand.
Helping and promoting others online is a wonderful way to increase your own brand presence and promote good will but it’s important to focus on what your brand needs. Writing guest posts for fellow bloggers while ignoring your own doesn’t make much sense neither does speaking at a conference that has nothing to do with your business.
A solid plan helps you to address when disgruntled clients or customers arise or to know when online opportunities and relationships are in line with what you are doing or not and that allows you to say “ I’d like the opportunity to change your opinion”, “no thanks” gracefully or to let it go.
Prepare for a little heartbreak and harden your skin like the tin of the woodsman. As he so gracefully notes: “For my part, I will bear all the unhappiness without a murmur, if you will give me the heart.”
COWARDLY LION: FEAR. It’s the four-letter word that keeps us from reaching out from being authentic and engaging and audacious online. It’s that nagging bit of self-doubt that makes us worry that if we roar loud enough, someone will notice us and challenge us to move outside of our comfort zone.
Some say that it’s easier online, the anonymity makes us braver but I think it’s the opposite. To really be authentic in an environment where people can Photoshop Facebook photos, or everyone is trending a meme you have to look up or using an app you’ve never heard of, is hard.
Many of us feel like posers but we do it anyway. As Oz tells the anxious beast: “All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. True courage is in facing danger when you are afraid…”
How about you? Are you ready?
TOTO: Sure, loyalty and blind devotion have their place but picking one person and following that person down some sketchy yellow brick road? Nah-uh! Dorothy led him through a poisonous poppy field; he was chased by weird beasts and manhandled by enchanted winged monkeys.
That doesn’t seem like an effective use of his time.
How many times have you blindly followed without bothering to ask – is this right for me? Challenge the status quo, question motives and create your own opportunities online.
Had that pooch been able to think for himself a little more (or speak but I digress) he might’ve looked over at Dorothy and said “Girl, what’s up with those sparkly shoes? Think they do anything?” and saved himself a whole lot of danger, hunger and circuitous walking.
THE GREAT AND TERRIBLE OZ: I think Oz is a great analogy for the Internet. A power that seems beyond our control, so mystical and persuasive, fascinating and frightening. An entity that wields a power so intense that it could convince us to build up a big green city and huge palace for it or wear green spectacles all-the-time without question just because it seems to have some special power we don’t.
In reality, digital communications and social media are not magical things you should stand in awe of, they are simply tools -fantastic tools- that can help you reach out to others and to tell your story. We power them. We make them magical.
The right person can help your harness the power that social media has to BEST suit your business needs and your vision and can help demystify the enigma.
Always remember behind the smoke and mirrors and theatrics may be a little old humbug balloonist who happened to be at the right place at the right time!