What Flying Can Teach You About Social Media

by Jason Falls |
Wright Model A Flyer flown by Wilbur 1908-09 and launching derrick, France, 1909

Image via Wikipedia

Orville and Wilbur Wright were nuts. I’m talking crazy, cuckoo, bats in the belfry nuts. They took some bed sheets and 2X4’s and somehow thought, “We can actually project ourselves through the air with those and live to tell about it.”

They were nuts. But they were right.

I took off from O’Hare last night and realized that companies who have tread the untested waters of social media to this point were also nuts. “Turn our brand over to the consumer! Let random members of the public make comments on our website! Let front-line employees, not CEOs or communications VPs respond to customer complaints or issues!”

What the hell were they thinking?

The same thing Orville and Wilbur were: It will work. We can do it.

And they were right.

Name one company on the planet that went from being known as having the worst customer service in the world to some of the most open, honest lines of communications on the planet in less than a year. Dell did it because they were nuts. (Actually, they did it because they had no other choice and nothing to lose, but it worked and now they’re lauded for it.)

Name another company known for years as being a black hole for customer communication, even profiled in Hollywood documentaries for their callous, cold shoulder to the public, which now freely allows that same public to interject their opinions — good or bad — within the comments section of their CEO’s blog. Surely someone at General Motors told Bob Lutz he was nuts. (Okay, they probably said “crazy” because using “Lutz” and “nuts” in the same sentence would have been great fodder for silly office email poems.)

Once you get in the air, there will be turbulence. Take a deep breath, buckle up, keep your nose pointed down and press on, my friend. You won’t crash.

You will have to deal with screaming babies and malodorous near-sitters from time-to-time as well. Just remember it’s easy to fake a smile if you grit your teeth.

As your company or clients come to the table wondering what it takes to build successful programs in social media, you’re going to have to find a tactful way of telling them that it takes being nuts. Or at least having them.

Without the acorn, mighty oaks do not grow.

Writer’s Note: Since I’m aware several of you are anal-retentive, I find it necessary to point out that an acorn is technically a fruit, not a nut. But if you’re hung up on that, you will never see the forest for the trees.


About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).