I’ve had the pleasure of hearing Gary Buchanan, Disney Parks Social Media Managing Editor, speak twice: once at the Disney Social Media Moms Conference and again at Type-A Parent Blogging Conference. Gary is one of those guys who brings enthusiasm to everything. What Gary shares with his audienceis how Disney approaches social media, creates community, and provides magic. The bottom line is Disney finds success through play and collaboration.
Everything Gary shares makes me think about how we as smaller entities can use those same principles.
Stop! Re-evaluate Your Social Media Goals.
My dirty non-secret: I’m very Type-A. For me, one of the side effects of being Type-A is that I’m hyper-focused when I start working on something. I become so engrossed with learning, implementing, and meeting goals that I forget to have fun. Now I know not every project will be fun, and the reason I do what I do is that I love social media. It’s fascinating to watch how platforms and relationships evolve, how the overall community grows, and how the world population embraces and guides change. When I become so lost in the process or so focused on the next deadline, though, I forget to play. When I forget to play, social media (or anything, really) is no longer fun or interesting. It’s a burden. I suspect you’ve felt that too. Bloggy burnout is something everyone feels at some time or another.
So how do you avoid it? Stop. Just take a break and re-charge through play. It helps if you keep your plans flexible.
Collaborate. Let Your Ideas Have Sex.
Can I say that in a post about what I learned at Disney? I’m not sure, but let me explain what I mean by “let your ideas have sex.” There’s a really smart and interesting guy named Matt Ridley. He wrote a book called The Rational Optimist. In it, Ridley makes a strong case for collaboration – what he calls ideas having sex. To ensure there will be a next generation, humans have to procreate. For ideas to move to the next level they too must procreate.
Disney’s motto is “Date an idea, don’t marry it.” In other words, it pays to collaborate. The fastest way to get better is to share. Don’t hoard your ideas like they’re the last donut in the box.
The first idea you have is great (c’mon we both know it). And you think, “Yes! This is what I’m going to do. It will be wildly successful.” And then you sit on it for a day or so and in the twilight right before you fall asleep you have another a-ha! moment that adds a completely new and useful facet to your original idea. You’re on your way! Your ideas are already having sex.
You know what will really kickstart the idea procreation process? Talking with anyone else who will listen – both within your industry or niche and without. Talk about your ideas. Ask for feedback and really listen to the recommendations.
Listen. Get Your Mickey Ears Out.
You’re pretty smart so it stands to reason you have pretty smart friends. Those are the people you want to share your ideas with. Kickstart your idea procreation by sharing your ideas with them.
These smart people you’re talking to about your idea, what are they saying? Pay attention to what they respond to. You may be surprised that what others want or need isn’t what you thought and you’ll need to re-think what you’re offering.
As I was writing this I started to ponder something. I’ve read that it takes 11 times of trying a new food to really know if you like it or not. Is this the same for ideas? Do you need to re-visit an idea at least 11 times (and make changes as necessary) to know if it’s really what you’re looking for?
What I came up with is this: Yes. Because ideas need time for change and evolution. So take your time. Talk about it. Listen. Keep your options open.
Disney knows exactly who visits them, what their demographic is, when they come, where they stay, whether they park hop (and how often), where they eat, and so much more. I received a pamphlet this week reminding me of the exact dates my kids will be out of school for three different breaks and encouraging me to plan at least one trip.
How does Disney get all this data? They ask and then they listen. And then they ask again.
Disney gets data by giving you a tracking device (your Key to the World, aka your all-in-one room key and park ticket, and now the MagicBand and MyMagic+) and tracking your park habits. They can see what’s working, what’s not, where people are dropping off, and more. They use that data to improve your experiences in the future. Disney listens to what people want and they find a way to deliver.
That’s great, but how does it apply to you? You have the means to track your audience as well. You have email lists and Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools at your disposal. Use these listening tools. It takes effort and planning, but you can track your own audience and their preferences. As you go through the data ask yourself what you can give your community to meet their needs and take things up a notch. How can you make your audience feel special? I bet you have a few ideas. Start bouncing those ideas off your friends and see what happens.
Disclosure: I was invited to the Disney Social Media Moms event in May, 2013. I was not paid to write this post, nor was sharing this information a request or requirement for attending the conference. If it were, don’t you think I’d have written it sooner than 5 months after the fact?