Taking a Practical Approach to ‘Outta the Box’ Thinking
Participating in creative “blue sky” brainstorms is one of my favorite parts of my job. I love hearing my colleagues’ ideas while also watching them react and dissect the ideas I throw against the preverbal wall. Lately many of GroundFloor Media’s (GFM) brainstorms have focused solely on the social media efforts of our clients, and as we start to look ahead to 2011 for many of our accounts, the emphasis on creating dynamic digital strategies continues to grow.
Through this process however, I am reminded that sometimes we, as creative PR and marketing professionals, need to step back for a moment and make sure that our ideas are still rooted in practicality—budget, team bandwidth, resources and the target audiences’ needs and expectations. At GFM that often means aligning ourselves with brilliant partners in the areas where we are not experts so that when we dream up a “crazy” idea about launching an augmented reality iPhone application, someone can walk us through the true cost associated with building and maintaining such a complex technology.
It is easy to get swept up in the excitement around the newest and sexiest social media tools—hey, it happens to the best of us. So below I’ve reflected on recent examples of when it was necessary to “pause” the high-speed social media brainstorm train to make sure the we were actually staying on track to the final (i.e. the client) destination.
“Let’s launch an iPhone app” is a phrase uttered during countless brainstorms today. However, do you really understand the cost, commitment and content that are needed to develop a truly unique and experiential application? Are the majority of your end-users even using Smartphones? Do they want to access information about your company, product or service while on the go? These are basic questions you should ask, as they provide a general framework of the research you need to do before leaping into a mobile application recommendation.
“We should launch a Foursquare promotion!” Hyperlocal tools and news sources like Foursquare, Gowalla and Examiner.com are fun to use and are expanding to offer many exciting tools for marketers. But like the example above, is a company really ready for a full-blown Foursquare “Mayor” promotion if customers aren’t even engaged with them on Twitter or Facebook yet? It’s important to make sure that we aren’t pushing our clients into phase two or three of a social media program before they’ve fully committed to phase one. A better use of time might be to really focus for another six to nine months on creating a flurry of organic and steady engagement on the “basic” social media platforms before diving into the more niche applications that are frequently visited by early adopters.
“If you build it they will come,” is a famous phrase, but not always relevant in the world of private online communities and groups. Custom social networks such as Ning.com (now a paid service) and LinkedIn Groups offer people an online area to gather and interact within a moderated setting. But before you dive in to create one it’s imperative that you really think about the bandwidth and resources it takes to keep a custom community updated and relevant. Can someone log in daily to respond to posts and questions? Will original content be created weekly and will it be different enough to stand apart from your other social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter or a company website? Is your audience passionate about connecting with other likeminded people about your product or service? Custom communities offer a “sky is the limit” approach to marketing creativity, but realistically you want to make sure enough people will be there to listen to make it worth the investment.
As a social media enthusiast, my goal is to learn about and embrace, albeit just personally at times, as many social media tools as I can. Teammates and clients alike rely on personal enthusiasts in the social media space to keep them up to speed on the latest trends in order to help shape future programs. However, as PR practitioners, we must take responsibility for bringing a practical approach to our creative recommendations—which sometimes means saying “no” to a trend or tool we’ve been eager to put into practice. In the long run, everyone benefits from a social media reality check before diving in.
– Alexis Anzalone