I watch a lot of kids’ cartoons. I always have. I probably always will. As a kid, I got up at 5:30am, snuck into our living room, turned on the big floor model TV and watched my personal favourites, hours before I was supposed to actually roll out of bed. Now, as a dad, I shouldn’t be surprised when my son shakes me at 6:14am and tells me it’s time to watch something. Today’s shows are overtly educational. “Watch Thomas learn how to not be a terrible train.” “Look at Caillou learn that whining will simply make his parents want to sell him to the circus.” I don’t remember my morning cartoons teaching me a lot but now that I look back, I realize that they were ahead of their time. Here is a 36-year-old mans’ childhood cartoon guide to social media.
Information Is Key
Every morning at 5:30am I turned on the television and watched G.I. Joe. I had the action figures as a kid and just a few years back, when they came out with a couple of poorly performing box office blunders, I watched them…a few times. There’s a phrase from that show that has stuck with me my entire life. Sometimes I use it as a joke, sometimes it’s a mantra and sometimes it’s just some honest to goodness great advice.
“Now you know… and knowing is half the battle.”
Ask any social media manager or pundit what they could use more of and they’ll tell you; it’s data. Social media is all about knowing more. It’s about knowing who’s watching and listening. It’s about knowing what those people want. It’s about knowing where they are and what they’re doing.
But it’s not enough to just know things. As Joe says, “knowing is HALF the battle.” The number of people that I know that have Google analytics running on their pages, and look at numbers and then don’t do anything with those numbers astounds me. It’s flabbergasting.
When I post something, I want to know what people think. Are they reading it? Are they engaging? How did they find me? What did they do once they found me? Having a basic understanding of analytics will allow you to figure out what works and doesn’t work and for those who think social media feels a lot like beating your head against a brick wall, I would suggest that you need a deep dive into your data. Companies like Udemy offer inexpensive courses that will get you up to speed with where your people are. Now you know… and knowing is half the battle.
If All Else Fails
The cartoon that has likely had the biggest impact on my life is the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There was a time in my life where I could easily sing you the theme song (as I write this a few of the lyrics are coming back to me) and a much sadder time in my life where I could complete the entire Vanilla Ice rap from the movie. I’ve watched the Meghan Fox reboot and I’m going to watch the sequel, probably in theatres. But there’s one thing that I’ve always loved about TMNT; a solid commitment to cheating.
What do I mean by cheating? Well, MOST episodes of the show involve the turtles going somewhere they shouldn’t, finding out someone’s’ diabolical plan and then kicking and punching them into submission. But the thing that I love is why they’re almost always there in the first place. There are so many episodes and movies where the entire plot hinges on one simple thing; pizza.
Whenever the writers couldn’t figure out why the turtles would be there in the first place, they would suggest that one of them (usually Michaelangelo) wanted pizza, so they came out of the sewers to get a slice. What does that have to do with social media? EVERYTHING.
Sometimes it’s hard to get your point across. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with ways to get people’s attention. But there’s always pizza. And coffee. And people getting hit in the crotch. There’s always an “if all else fails” option where you can assure that people are going to see and share your message. Recently, that “pizza” has been gifs. The most recent updates of Twitter’s native app have come with a searchable gif database that allows people to capture attention simply and effectively. It’s the pizza plot point.
Now I’m not suggesting that cheat your way to the top or take shortcuts. But I am suggesting that some days if you just want to get started, it’s ok to tweet a gif of two cats hugging or an ostrich with drawn on arms or Captain Jean-Luc Picard engaging in an epic facepalm.
Find Your Community
I was never big into Beavis and Butt-head when they were actually on the air. My best friend Pat was a huge fan but I found them to be a little intense and a lot obnoxious. As I got a little bit older and started to understand satire (still working on it) I started to find them pretty amusing and the creator, Mike Judge, has made some of my favourite movies (Office Space and Idiocracy) and one of my favourite shows (Silicon Valley).
At one point, while trying to woo a woman, Butt-head (I know…I know… but stay with me) delivers a line that I’ve always loved.
“I noticed you have braces…I have braces also.”
It’s pretty innocuous on the surface but I think that no quote I can find better encapsulates effective social media than this simple line. Social isn’t about yelling at people about what you’re interested in. It’s about finding what they like, love, loathe and live and connect with people where they are.
Small word of caution. In the film, Butt-head is subsequently tossed out a second-floor window, so it’s important to understand your community before you try to woo it.
We’re Still A Bunch of Kids
I know that we’re all grown up and we’ve got grown up jobs and mortgages and we like wine and books that don’t have pictures, but there’s a reason that we’re seeing more and more adult themed cartoons. In the end, we’re still basically a bunch of kids. Social media, for all intents and purposes, is still growing up. So while we need to approach it professionally, we also need to ask ourselves how serious we’re really going to take ourselves. Funny is funny, interesting is interesting and just because you wear a suit and tie to work doesn’t mean you need to get buried in it and certainly not today.