7 reasons to ignore expert advice and waste no time experimenting with new tools2014-04-30
Whenever a new tool hits the market, you’ll find somebody ready to tell you why you shoudn’t waste your time with it. Critics have different reasons for rejecting the latest app: It serves no legitimate business or marketing purpose, it’s not ready for prime time, the potential risks haven’t been determined yet, it’s a flash in the pan.
The first comments I heard from marketing circles when Snapchat was new dismissed it. What value was there in pictures that evaporated in 10 seconds, and besides, there was nothing like a brand page for people to follow. Now, Snapchat is fast becoming a standard marketing platform. Suddenly, there’s a cottage industry in articles and posts extolling Snapchat’s virtues, presenting case studies and listing innovative ways to use it.
Some of the companies that were first to test Snapchat’s waters—like Rebecca Minkoff and Taco Bell—have grown big follower numbers. For McDonald’s and Taco Bell, Snapchat is battleground for brand advocacy in the breakfast wars. Gary Vaynerchuk calls it his most valuable marketing tool.
More recently, we’ve had dismissals of Whisper and Secret, thought both have been the focus of interesting communication efforts. A TV series paid Whisper to add its images to the mix. When users whisper a secret using one of the right keywords, one of the images is dished up as the background. As for Secret, Vic Gundotra’s departure from Google was first reported as a Secret post.
When a new tool appears that seems like it’s drawing an audience—especially your—audience, there’s little reason to hold off on undertaking an experiment or two, and there’s plenty of justification for taking the plunge:
- You have a content strategy, not a separate strategy for every platform, so adapting your stories and messages to new platforms isn’t a drain on resources.
- It’s no big deal if the platform doesn’t take off. There’s no huge investment to lose, and for a while, it paid off. You can apply what you learned to other platforms.
- By testing the waters before a platform gets big, you have a bit more leeway than usual to make mistakes, since they won’t get the same kind of attention as a gaffe on Facebook or Twitter.
- If your target audience includes early adopters, an app’s first user cohorts fit the bill.
- If the tool becomes a hit, you’ll already have content and fans waiting when the hordes arrive. Think about Red Bull on Instagram, for instance.
- You’ll undoubtedly reach some people you’re not reaching on other channels.
- The practice of experimentation will inform other activities while making your communication efforts nimble enough to adapt to the accelerating pace of digital change.
To temper this enthusiasm, a note of caution is in order. Jelly, shrugged off as a communications vehicle by many of the initial reviews, was so quickly adopted that one commentator said he was uninstalling the app because his feed was so overloaded with marketing. Personally, I haven’t experienced this on Jelly; the number of questions shared by organizations in my feed is still in single digits. But overwhelming an app that’s still building an audience with commercial material could kill it before it has a chance.
But short of flooding a community with branded content, experimentation should be the norm for our organizations, not something we sit back and let other organizations do first.