Last week, Marketing Cloud attended the LeWeb Conference in Paris, celebrating the best of European start-ups, tech and social media innovations, and angel investors. It’s hard not to be overwhelmed by the talent and inspiration condensed on that scene, but in hindsight, a few speakers really struck a cord. One of those was Scott Dunlap, entrepreneur and long-distance runner. His talk was titled “One Ultrarunner’s journey to measure the human spirit”, but went far beyond running or spirituality.
Scott outlined the cycle of perceived extortion/euphoria, the chart that marks perceptions of how he feels during his legendary marathons. The pattern here is that his highs and lows become more dramatic as he takes on Mother Nature, and the lows are so characteristic he names and describes them in detail.
The first, ‘The Wall’, is where he’s faced with the limitations of his body aching; trying to make him stop. The second and deeper one is ‘The Pit’ where his mind, with its insecurities and doubts, torments him. Having overcome that and risen above the challenge, the last low is the ‘The Abyss’, invariably the deepest, most existential obstacle. Here the most fundamental questions –why am I here? why am I doing this?- demand answers.
The Cycle of Social Media Adoption
Scott Dunlap presented his personal story as a possible inspiration for start-ups going through the same endurance test. I believe he was still being humble, and could have applied it to the journey of technological innovation for organizations of any size. In my work with Marketing Cloud, I have come across the same cycle in the social media adoption amongst our client community, and found the notorious lows to be characterized in the following ways:
The Wall = The first structural problems. IT policies can pose some limitations, there will be hesitation amongst the staff, board members that need to be convinced of the ROI, use cases to be demonstrated, work flows to be outlined. Invariably, the first obstacles are structural issues and practicalities that can be overcome, but require some effort and flexibility, and are perhaps not included in the planning.
The Pit = The Pit in social media adoption terms is often a larger challenge. It will relate to the changes that might need to be made to the strategic message and method of a corporation or institution, and sets out to question those long-held truths. At this point it will be vital to understand to what extent the audience is shifting, how to respond to the new dynamic vibrating through an often traditional market and when to involve various other divisions of the organization that may help in making this a consolidated and sustainable evolution.
The Abyss = The Abyss comes when you think you’ve seen it all and implemented all the textbook elements into your structure. It questions your essence, your product, your value proposition, the ‘why are you here’ far beyond social media terms. The digital revolution has produced many useful tools, but also a generation with dramatically altered behavioural patterns and priorities. A place in this fascinating commotion will not be acquired once, but earned over and over, contributing to making this era’s outcome as true as its potential.
Scott Dunlap has faced his Abyss repeatedly and states that the key in overcoming this lies in expecting it. This is no different for a company’s social media journey. It is vital to observe this cycle – in your own organization or others – and to implement a clear learning process much the same way Scott has. Tools like Marketing Cloud enable this kind of monitoring, with access to historical data and a direct connection between a great diversity of social media initiatives and their statistical results. As always, Marketing Cloud is an instrument here, the strategy will have to be customized to the industry and context involved.