Earlier this year Ford took a chance by putting their Ford Fiesta in the hands of an orange puppet named Doug. Rude, sexist and always ready with a quick comment, Doug's “off color” enough to make any brand shy away, but with Ford’s support Doug has developed a kind of cult following with people excitedly watching, laughing at and sharing his online videos, while learning about the Ford Fiesta along the way.
Ford took a chance with Doug. Only Ford knows what Doug has done for its business, but the key here is Ford wasn’t afraid to take a chance and try something even though they were a little uncomfortable. They didn’t go out to create a viral sensation or to achieve maximum ROI. They went out to try something new, and you can bet they’ve learned from it and are continuing to.
Failure Is Inevitable.
Even though social media has been on the tip of every marketer's tongue for years, it’s still a bit of an enigma. Marketers aren’t completely sure how to budget for it, who should own it or what to do. Naturally, there’s going to be a trial-and-error element because no right answers necessarily exist. It's not black and white.
Behind every successful social media case study is a series of failed attempts. Many experiments will fail before the magic bullet is found. Plan for success, but don’t be surprised if failure is the result. That’s how businesses grow and develop their social expertise.
This doesn’t mean brands should just throw ideas at a wall and see what sticks. Strategic direction is essential even in trial-and-error situations. Knowing where your audience is, what you’re going to to do and how is the only way to know you’re trying something worth trying and making a potential mistake you can learn from.
Mitigate failures by aligning internally on who is responsible for social media management and how company associates should or shouldn’t use social media to represent the company. Be honest with customers. They’ll see right through anything that isn’t authentic. Be honest to keep your customers on your side. If you make a mistake, admit it.
Fail Your Way to Success.
No one hits a home run on his or her first swing. It takes practice, a couple of singles and the inevitable strikeouts. The important thing to remember is to never take failure off the table. Being open to failure means you’ll be able to take the necessary risks to find what works. Go forth, and fail.