by: David Armano

"A combination of good strategy and poor execution is like a Ferrari with flat tires"
~Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap

I've been thinking about the one prediction I contributed toward Peter Kim's 2009 Social Media list and it's been haunting me. So I went back to some basic personal inspiration and truths. A truth that we all probably know but are often times hesitant to admit is that it's really HARD to do something right. If you chew on Forrester's latest study—which points out that corporate blogs aren't trusted or doing all that well—as a marketer your first inclination may be "well, right—we tried a blog, and that didn't work, so let's try something else".

And that's just wrong.

Pardon my frankness here—but hear me out and take the words of Mr. Neumeier very seriously. Execution matters—in fact, it's everything. You would not be reading this blog right now if you didn't sense the countless hours I spend on it. The dedication it takes to keep this machine rolling. The effort I put into screening out signal from noise in order to try to deliver some value. It is a labor of love, and hopefully that's what keeps you coming back.

There are relatively few successful case studies in this space—and I can share with you from a personal perspective why that is as I've met some of the people that fuel them. I visited the folks at Dell when they were only a fraction of a team, the thing that I observed about them was their passion and commitment to the space. They understood not only the tools and how to use them—but were themselves immersed in the networks. Their jobs didn't end at 5:00. I recently had a chance to visit Zappos, and you can tell that the culture there is different from most organizations. In fact, recently their CEO went out of his way to help us redeem a coupon and my wife was blown away that he took care of the issue himself as opposed to delegating it to someone else. It's no suprise that the Zappos presence on Twitter has nearly 30,000 followers. And lastly—have you actually spent time with Frank Eliason from Comcast? I have, and I can tell you that he never shuts down. He's constantly trying to help people or point them in the right direction.

If you're scratching your head wondering why your socal media initiatives aren't the bright and shiney object you were sold—it's time to realize that there is a truth here that goes beyond social media all together. The fact is that it's hard work to produce something of value. It's really tough to do something that gets people talking (in a good way), and no amount of strategy can produce trust. Trust comes with time, interactions and has to be proven.

Trust has to be earned.

If you've bought into social media—know this. A strategy is very important—especially when we're talking about large organizations with numerous decision makers. But we're talking about a slow burn here. I started this blog in February 06, and my career has benefitted from it—but it's an ongoing effort that requires passion, dedication and commitment. Same goes for the the way I use Twitter. There is no way around it. In order to get these initiatives off the ground, work is required. A lot of it.

If you are a brand or organization struggling with your own social initiatives, I'd recommend you think about the following questions:

1. Do you have a passionate and dedicated team who will obsess over your efforts?
2. Are you trying to provide value or "quick hits"?
3. Are you willing to engage your customers/consumers?
4. Are you willing to empower your employees/agencies to represent you?
5. Are you willing to risk failure?

That's a start. I guess we could walk away from a Ferarri with flat tires, because there's not much you can do with it. Or you can roll up your sleeves and do what it takes to get it fixed. It'll probably be messy—you might even get a little grease on your shirt. But think about the places you could go.

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