Tight Rope Walking and Social Media

by · June 25, 20130 comments

Many of us watched with bated breath as Nik Wallenda crossed the Grand Canyon on a tight rope on Sunday. It was treacherous to watch, so I can’t even imagine what it was like actually being on the tight rope. It got me to thinking about how this breath taking experience relates to social media and specifically your social media strategy.

In follow up interviews, Wallenda talked about the experience and the complications that arose during the walk. In a Today Show interview Wallenda talked about the challenges he was faced with. The first complication was that the tension in the tight rope was far less than they were hoping for, which resulted in more swaying in the line than was ideal. Wallenda said the reason he crouched twice during the walk was because he was trying to get the tight rope to stop swaying so far. 

Can Your Social Media Strategy Weather Current Conditions?

In social media, we put forth our best plans for a well-intentioned strategy; however, we must recognize that we are walking a thin line between serving our audience and serving our brands. Ultimately, the audience must win. When we find that the audience needs more flexibility in our approach, our strategy needs to be able to accommodate for their needs yet still deliver upon the needs of the brand. We need to be able to align our approach with the current needs of our audience, deliver on the brand mission, and be ready for unpredictability and the quickly changing needs of the audience.

Wallenda also discussed the challenges of the wind while he was crossing the Grand Canyon. He faced up to 30 mile per hour wind gusts which not only affected the movement of the tight rope, but it also blasted his face with sand. Really? As if it wasn’t enough that he was walking on a 2 inch swaying line, he also had to deal with sand pelting his face along the way!

Does Your Social Media Strategy Have Protection From the Elements?

Like Wallenda, your social media strategy needs to be prepared for unexpected complications. This includes a crisis management plan that details how to handle a blow up of negativity. Teams need to understand how and when to escalate a brewing crisis to management. They need to know protocols for how and when to respond to comments. Finally, they need to know who their core team for crisis management is and when to activate them. It’s critical that teams are prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best. There is nothing more stressful than trying to create a crisis communications plan during a crisis. Obviously, every plan will need to adjust based on the situation, but having a basic framework will go a long way in easing tensions if something goes awry.

Ultimately, Wallenda said he prayed the entire time he was walking and when he got to the other side he said, “Thank you Lord. Thank you for calming that cable, God.”  Wallenda recognized that there were a lot of elements in his walk that were out of his control and there was an external force that he credited for helping him make it.

When All Goes Well in your Social Strategy, Who Do You Thank?

It’s easy for marketing teams to run around the office giving each other high fives when everything goes right. The team celebrates a job well done and stands a little taller the next day. The team should celebrate, but they should make sure they are celebrating for the right reasons. Ultimately, the sole reason a social strategy performs well is because the audience responded. Sure the team did a great job in predicting what the audience would respond to, but ultimately the success really lays in the hands of your fans. After all, great strategies fail every day when the audience simply doesn’t respond. Teams should take the time to recognize the role their audience plays in their success. When the audience is truly at the center of everything the team does, everyone wins. Ultimately, your social media strategy is walking a tight rope too and your audience is at the center of any success you generate. Take a moment to thank them.

Did you miss the walk? Discovery is reairing the video here at various times. However, it does make me step back and ask if Discovery’s social strategy is in line with the audience. After all, I want to be able to embed the video here in this post so you can watch it at your leisure, but they haven’t made it available. My sense is they want to “control” when and where people view the video possibly to align with advertiser opportunities. This is slightly disappointing, because the video could have so much power if they let the audience help to distribute it for them. I’m left with an option of embedding a video posted by a fan or not embedding it at all. Personally, I have a moral dilemma with posting a video that doesn’t have the rights from Discovery to use it. Therefore, for copyright reasons, I’m choosing not to embed the video; however, you can search on YouTube and find it for as long as it exists.

What do you think? Did Wallenda’s tight rope walk bring up any parallels for social media for you? What other parallels do you see? Leave a comment and join the conversation.

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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