(Surprise from Ben) Starting a social media sing-along

Day 28 of #Janblogaday: Surprise! I’ve swapped blogs for the day with Ben Teee-ohh. Find my post “The time I almost married Marky Mark” over at HelloBenTeoh.com.au. And to Ben: Mi blog su blog. 

singing

So there I was, in the middle of the busiest shopping mall in Adelaide (South Australia), flowers in hand singing solo to a complete stranger. It was a little awkward… for both of us. But in my head all I could think was “the chorus is coming…”

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It’s about time we stop talking about ‘social media.’ It’s about time that it should simply be implied in the way we use digital tools – everything online is social.

Everything online can be shared, downloaded and distributed – and we’re quickly learning that online privacy is an oxymoron. It’s just a matter of how easily we allow that to happen.

It should be no surprise that the cry of the social media evangelist is that sharing is what will drive the future of an organisation’s online presence. But admittedly, it can get a little awkward when you realise that by being present on social networks means you’re putting yourself in a one-on-one situation with individuals. It changes how we communicate, how we interact and how we share/produce content.

We need to start making plans to better understand and utilise the way that social media is transforming the way we do things.

Prior preparation prevents poor performance.

It was meant to be an experiment to see if I could translate what happens online with an offline experience. If you’ve ever heard of a ‘rickroll’ it’s an old meme/troll where people would say they’re giving you a link to something (e.g. – This is the best thing ever!) but really they’re giving you a link to Rick Astley’s classic, “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Who wouldn't want a flower from this guy?

My plan was to walk up to a lady, dressed in my suit and ask her if they’d like a flower and if she said “yes” I’d surprise her by launching into “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Simple, in theory – not so easy in execution.

The first few ladies I had approached looked a little creeped out, said “no” and walked away quickly. Not what I had anticipated. I couldn’t help thinking that this was going to fail even before it began.

But, I persisted and changed tactics – against my gut feeling, listening to the voices, I approached a guy who looked like he was in his early twenties and already a little awkward.

“Hi, would you like a flower?” I asked him. Suspiciously, he said “I guess so” and as I handed it to him, I started singing. Oh, it was bad. I was stumbling over the words, out of tune and too slow. It was horrible – but I was hoping that I could hold out long enough because I knew, ”the chorus is coming.”

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Engaging your audience on social media takes planning. It’s about knowing what you’re trying to achieve, how you’re going to execute it and how you’re going to measure it – all that strategic stuff.

Planning’s really important. But what happens when it doesn’t work? After all your reading an preparation, people just aren’t responding. It can come as a bit of a surprise, especially after all those social media people talking about how amazing it is.

Sometimes you need to change your tactics.

One of the biggest issues I’ve seen is that people approach social media as a one way medium – like a billboard or a radio ad or a page on a website. For people to engage with you on social media, you need to aim to create a space for you to listen to them.

If your goals involve listening, you’ll find yourself asking the right questions, posting the right content and evoking a response. You’ll also be working out what makes your audience tick and what they’re looking for from you.

Don’t go it alone.

You would think that someone singing to another person in the mall would draw a lot of attention, but in the busy-ness of it all, it was just another noise in the crowd. Sure, the guy I was singing to was listening (but also looking for a way out) and a few people walking past us stared as they continued along their trajectory towards the next shop, but right now it was just me and him.

If the goal of what I was doing was to create an interesting story for everyone there, it wasn’t working. I just wasn’t loud enough.” …But the chorus is coming”.

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The real surprise about social media doesn’t come from promoting your event, cause or brand but creating content that your audience craves. It may be something enlightening, something funny or it could be something that sparks a ‘righteous anger’ in them – the sort of thing that inspires them to take action. Because once they take hold of the message and share it with their networks, exciting things – surprising things, happen.

We’ve seen time and time again where someone creates a piece of content (like a video or a photo) and shares it out to their friends and family – but the world is watching. All of a sudden that video you took of your son after the dentist has hit millions of views and you’re being interviewed by talk-show hosts.

Social media isn’t about you or me. It’s about us and our collective voice. We have the ability to amplify any given content, making more of an impact than a single person could.

The chorus is here.

I knew I had murdered the verse. If only I had practiced in the mirror a little more or wasn’t so nervous, maybe it could have been better.

But everyone was in for a surprise because the chorus was here…

This was it. The chorus. It had to happen now. It had to. The verse was ending and I could hear my voice wavering in anticipation “…gotta make you understand…”

Suddenly, from out of the crowds, thirty people appeared from the flow of weekend shoppers, surrounding the two of us. In an instant, there was a mob of people singing at the top of their voices, echoing through the mall…“NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP, NEVER GONNA LET YOU DOWN…”

People who would have passed by the lone singer now stopped and pointed, surprised by the sudden rendition of Rick Astley’s classic. Some laughed, getting the rickroll reference, others looked puzzled – but they were all surprised.

Then, as quickly as it started, it finished with the end of the chorus. We quickly dispersed back into the crowd, leaving a bewildered audience and a slightly confused, slightly more awkward twenty-something year old holding a flower in the middle of a busy mall.

One down, three to go.

We made our way down the mall, finding the next person to hand a flower to and trying to stay as incognito as possible. But, as usual, once people caught onto what we were doing, we started drawing a crowd.

People were following us down the mall, watching as we chose the next person to receive a flower. Some even pulled out their mobile phones to get a photo or a video of what was happening. Others grabbed their friends and started pointing. “Watch that guy in the suit” one person said. “All those people are with him, just watch” said another. “Look, look! He’s handing out another flower!” we heard. “…keep watching him, the chorus is coming!”

rickrollchorus
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In my time as one of the lead organisers with the Adelaide Flashmob, I learned a lot about what it takes to rally people around an idea and how to encourage them to participate in some pretty crazy events (be glad I didn’t write about the No Pants Tram Ride).

A large part of that was listening to what the community wanted. Sure, there were cases where we said “definitely, no” and in other cases we encouraged the people who made recommendations to be part of the organising group, giving them access to resources in order to help them see their idea come to life.

The same goes for social media. People want to be heard and social media gives everyone a level playing field to do that. When we listen, we learn. We understand what our community wants, we can work within our means to provide that.

When we give what already resonates with a community, they’ll share it. They’ll amplify that message, that idea, that cause because you already know it’s what they’ve been looking for.

Who knows, you may be surprised that all of a sudden, from being a one person band, there’s a whole chorus of people behind you, singing along.

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Ben is one of those crazy nerdy kids who has managed to make a living out of social media (yah for social media managers!). He works at a snazzy company that wants to empower non-profits in their social web adventures and spends his spare time sipping wine in the outback. Ben blogs at HelloBenTeoh.com.au and tweets from @Hellobenteoh.

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January blog a day | Lindsey Talerico-Hedren More from #Janblogaday: Day 1: New… year, new resolution. Day 2: Two… things you should never say to your partner. Day 3: Bucket list… of (some un)realistic wishes. Day 4: Pet peeve… fountains are not the new jungle gym. Day 5: Fear not, even if I am a little crazy. Day 6: Embarrassment: Lindsey – 1, Dad – 4. Day 7: The shoe horoscope. Day 8: A little honesty. Day 9: Made with love: Wintery Instagram jam. Day 10: Grandma took my room, so I took her pajamas. Day 11: A husband confession. Day 12: Haiti changed me. Day 13: Top ten ‘why not’ finds at Walmart. Day 14: Guess that food. Day 15: A hug-free, dent-free left-hand side of the road. Day 16: I’m getting my own tube. Day 17: This is your brain on bacon. Day 18: Dear newly-wed. Day 19: Superpowerful and hungry. Day 20: Beauty to me. Day 21: Happy. Day 22: Lock me up in a kids world. Day 23: Social media in desserts. Day 24: Teacherhood of a dirty chalkboard. Day 25: el.oh.vee.ee. Day 26: 8 reasons you need New Zealand summer in your life. Day 27: Regret moments, not years. Tomorrow day 28: A surprise (post from Ben Teoh!).

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