The other day, Dr. Susan Giurleo left a profoundly interesting comment on one of my blog posts. She noted that our expectations in Social Media may have been set based on what some of the original users of the technology set forth as what could be possible. The problem, Susan notes, is that not a lot of those claims had a lot of meat behind them. None of those claims had really been through a rigorous process of testing and evaluation. Now, some years later, we may be in the process of figuring out that yes, you can make money online, but maybe not in the way that we all thought.
Susan’s comment brought to my mind a comment Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcolm makes in the movie Jurassic Park (the movie has been playing a lot on television…I can’t help it). When Malcolm is first asked for his opinion about the park, he chides John Hammond, the founder of the park for being irresponsible with so much power. “Your scientists were so concerned about whether they could that they didn’t stop to ask if they should,” he says.
This line of thinking led me to other parallels between the world of Social Media and the world the Jurassic Park movie presents, so let me dig a little deeper and we’ll talk about those.
1. The “could” versus “should” angle: So let’s dig into this one first. A lot of people say that you *can* do your marketing using Social Media. You *can* build your business using Social Media. You *can* get away with just using Social Media at the exclusion of anything else. But should you? I realize it’s fashionable to just focus on the “could” and jump in from there, but well…look what happened at Jurassic Park.
Do you want your company to get eaten up by velociraptors just because you didn’t wonder about the “should”? I don’t.
2. The control issue: One of the more poignant scenes (and one of the least violent) is after Ellie returns from trying to find Alan Grant and the kids. She comes upon Hammond and they talk about how this massive power he created is loose and well…eating people. Hammond thinks he knows how he could have maintained control, but Ellie corrects him. “You never had control. That’s the illusion.”
So it is in the online world. It’s easy to think you’re in control of your own destiny. It’s your blog. It’s your Twitter account. They’re your followers and fans. But let’s face it – people online are kind of like dinosaurs. Some just do what they do. Others pack hunt. Others can just kick your butt before you realize what ate you (maybe that’s stretching the metaphor a *bit* far). So yes, you can control what you put out there, but you can’t control all of the reactions to that content. You can’t control, certainly, what will resonate with people and what will not. Control is an illusion.
3. Keeping the right people on your side: One of the biggest mistakes Hammond makes is that he botches his relationship with Dennis Nedry. Nedry is the guy who handles all of the technology that runs the park. In his hands runs the power to turn protective gates on and off, to turn the phones on and off, etc. From Nedry’s perspective, he is completely under-appreciated and underpaid, and as a result, he decides to steal some of the dinosaur embryos and give them to a competitor. It is because of this that all of the fences are turned off, and it is because of that the dinosaurs are able to run free (sorry if this spoils the movie for you, but it *has* been out since 1993).
Did Hammond really under-appreciate Nedry? It’s hard to tell, but what really matters is that Nedry felt he wasn’t fully appreciated. Now hopefully valuable members of your community won’t completely sabotage you if they feel under-appreciated, but the point remains that you need to listen to and respect peoples’ grievances, even if you can’t always make them happy.
4. The dinosaur diggers are still the experts: Alan and Ellie are archaeologists and paleo-botanists, respectively. They are used to learning about dinosaurs in old-fashioned ways – by digging up bones, studying them, and drawing conclusions. Dr. Grant doesn’t even like computers. Although Hammond intends to create an entirely new way to learn about dinosaurs via his Jurassic Park, he still needs experts in the old ways to sign off.
This is a step that Social Media has missed over the years. There were not many efforts to reach out to marketers, PR experts, and other people who had not yet jumped onto the Social Media bandwagon to make sure things were making sense. Instead, it was simply noted that Social Media was replacing traditional marketing. Let’s face it, terms like ROI may be less muddy today if this effort to build a bridge had been made when Social Media was just beginning to take off.
Have you considered “could” more than “should”? Are you potentially giving yourself too much credit for controlling your online situation? Are you possibly ignoring members of your community (or your company, for that matter) who feel unappreciated? Are you relying on experts or are you going full force ahead no matter what?
It’s hard to say that there are right or wrong answers to these questions, but the framework of Jurassic Park and what happens in that movie certainly makes me wonder how things could go wrong in the online world. It might be worth a thought or two.
What do you think?
Image by Jean Scheijen. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/vierdrie