Success Isn’t Always Front Page News

If there is anything that annoys me about social media, it’s how the same success stories are repeatedly used as example. If it’s not Starbucks, it’s Dell or Comcast or Naked Pizza or Old Spice.

Truth be told, these kind of success stories are few and far between. They’re anomalies, lottery wins and even flukes.

And, in some respects, they provide a warped view of social media’s potential. They become the benchmark for corporate campaigns, which sets expectations way too high. It explains why having a video “go viral” is seen as something that can easily happen with the right pieces in place.

In an ideal world, what we need is less talk about Starbucks, Dell, Naked Pizza, et al. Instead, there needs to be more focus on companies that have enjoyed success media “success” that has gone unnoticed by the media and bloggers because it has not been sexy or newsworthy.

I’m talking about companies that built stronger relationships with their customers, or offered better customer service, or saw renewal rates on subscriptions take a nice jump because social media proved to be an effective tool. It could be the local bakery that gained some street cred for having a Twitter account that added some fun to people’ lives.

We’re not talking about Old Spice but we’re still talking about success.

7 Comments on “Success Isn’t Always Front Page News”

  1. Totally Agree!

    Same in the venture world. Everyone views the grand-slam as the end all be all goal. But those deals are not where the true “beef”is in reality.

    Consistent incremental improvements by slogging it out and hammering away as we learn new tings everyday is the key. Taking some risks is necessary to win as well.

    This industry is full of “follow the herd mentality” it is funny. The bottom line is that the technology and trends move so fast that what is “right” one day may be “wrong” a month later. I see hardcore social media people in the biz now burning out. Especially when we see huge 1 million + viral videos setting the benchmark by billion dollar global brands who quietly have wasted hundreds of millions for every big win we see on the web.

    Nice refreshing point.

    Aloha, Tim

    (full disclosure – I work with Sysomos for past DEMO campaign)

    1. Tim,

      Agreed. The truth is most social media campaign work by doing it day in, day out. It’s a game of inches, not miles.

  2. And in reverse mode, I get tired of the social media set claiming the same-old stories of “digital” (or “PR”) disasters/crises. Like Domino’s Pizza. The cover article in an issue of PRSA’s The Strategist demonstrated quite clearly that things were well in hand at Domino’s. (Heck, the video didn’t even receive any coverage in Canada…I found it mentioned on ONE journalist’s blog, sum total.)

    Last week during a Blogworld “crisis communications” panel, Gap was being cited as having had a “digital crisis.” Puh-leeze.

  3. Agree it’s much less fabulous then these hoary old case studies suggest, but can’t help but find it ironic for our punching-above-its-weight company (Naked Pizza) to be lumped in with 4 Blue Chippers. I tend to think of our “success” as more elbow-grease innovation. In the garage, smelling the glove, living our story every day. And having a blast.

    At the end of the day, a decent example of what’s available to little guys with a big idea all over the world in this post-recession, post-mass media new day.

    Godspeed friendos,


  4. I completely agree. This has been amplified not only in social media but new business marketing books. We need more success stories (however small) to share which means creating them and then writing about them.

    To be fair, and as tired an example as it is, Dell’s approach is one any company can adopt. Unlike Old Spice, it’s about a series of changes in customer service and culture that happened to use social media as the primary channel. It’s about steak, not sizzle. There isn’t a company that can’t learn from that.

    Let’s bring on new case studies, please.

    That reminds me, was set up by Tod Maffin to act as a catalog of these stories.

  5. A maximum of thought delivered with a minimum of words. You distilled one of the big problems I keep seeing in social media. The Mom & Pop soda shop gets on to Facebook and expects to be Coke. A small nonprofit with a 2000 person email database can’t understand why social media hasn’t increased donations by 30%. I maintain that the big brands are worthy of watching because they can succeed and fail at a spectacular level. They’re like the New York Yankees. Those of us down the ladder can learn, adapt and steal ideas – but if you don’t have Starbucks’ budget how can you expect to perform like they do?

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