Ready. Set. Let Go….

It’s spring in Minnesota. So we hauled out our four year old’s bike and spent some time with her revisiting the basics, like…

Don’t look down at your feet. Look ahead at the sidewalk.
Don’t pedal backwards unless you want to stop moving.
Don’t run into the back of mommy’s heels. That hurts….A lot.

Afterwards, we set out for a spin around the block.

By the time we’d gotten half way around, she snapped into the groove of it and suddenly flew off ahead on her own.

And, I freaked out.

What if she got hit by a car coming out of the alley?

What if she forgot how to use her brakes and tumbled over the handlebars?

What if a ravenous dog ran out of a yard and just upped and ate her?

And then I took a deep breath and remembered, “Oh yeah…this is what’s supposed to happen.”

It’s not possible to steer my daughter’s bike for her. She has to do that herself. And, sooner or later, she’s going ride that thing off into her adolescence.

And I was reminded at that moment of all the companies I’ve talked to lately who are freaking out about social media.

These companies have their own precious offspring – a message, reputation, product or game plan that they’ve invested lots of time and attention in crafting, pruning and polishing.

And then they stick this precious artifact online into a social environment and it just takes off down the street.

The loss of control takes their breath away…

  • What if people have bad things to say about their company? (Good. Better they say it to your face than behind your back.)
  • What if the message gets mutated and twisted and taken out of the preordained context? (Quite all right. Now you have something to engage them in discussion about.)
  • What if it gets misattributed or ignored or – heaven forbid – stolen by a competitor? (Been known to happen. Try to be more interesting next time.)

Yeah…all these things could happen to any company that uses social media as a marketing tool.

(Just like a gigantic Rottweiler could chomp my kid’s arm off while she’s tooling around the block.)

But what if you loosened your fists, took a deep breath and imagined more

  • What if your message, set free, transforms into something more powerful and impactful than your company could ever have strategized for?
  • What if it organically grows and attracts its own community of ambassadors who are happy to serve as your marketing evangelists?
  • What if the act of letting go doesn’t become your company’s riskiest marketing move, but your wisest?

Either way, you’ll never know until you let go of those handle bars.

Like any caretaker, I’ll never stop worrying about my daughter, no matter how many years I watch her pedal off ahead of me.

But, I also know that the fear of watching her ride away is always followed by the magic of watching her return – a girl forever changed by her freedom.

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9 Responses to Ready. Set. Let Go….

  1. Ellen Rindal says:

    This is great. I’m working on developing social networking avenues for my small company. The part I’m having the hardest time with….being interesting.

    • I think we all get hung up with the interesting part. I guess what I’ve found is that it’s amazing what other people will find interesting. If you communicate in an authentic voice, that alone tends to be interesting (since so much of what we read is presented in glossy “marketing speak”.) I’d rather listen to one person tell me what they worked on today and how it made them feel than listen to even 30 seconds of a fast food ad.

  2. Fabulous analogy. And as risk tolerances vary greatly from person to person the ability to let go regarding messaging (and parenting!) will be an individual experience.

  3. Lisa Foote says:

    Wow – what an insight. I’ll be quoting this often.

  4. Nice post – we just persuaded the EU and MTV to do this.

  5. Oops my link did no appear. Anyway its Nice post – we just persuaded the EU and MTV to do this http://www.caneuhearme.eu/eu/

  6. Great post, Jen!

    I can’t wait to steal it and pretend it is my own.

  7. Dan Mandle says:

    This was a fun post to read, and uplifting as I thought about the freedom and mobility of cycling–alongside the relative freedom of open conversations. Conversations made easier by social media tools.
    But I still see huge issues for some companies with conservative policies and or legal departments. The positive “what-ifs” listed in this post won’t help support agency folk or client-side marketers pushing their bikes up a steep hill.

    • I totally agree. For some of these industries (financial, banking, health care), social networking probably just isn’t in the cards. As far as making a case for the others though, it will take some extra work. My company’s been producing day long bootcamps on this topic, focusing on the hows, whys and ROI. Seems like it almost takes that intensive of an immersion to explain all the nuances so that it makes practical sense (and gets beyond all the “You should try it! It’s cool!” hype).

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