In 2009, Alex Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit, gave a short talk on Ted.com titled, Alexis Ohanian: How to Make a Splash in Social Media. In just four minutes, Ohanian shared the story of a humpback whale that Greenpeace wanted to save from whalers. In short, Greenpeace attached a tracking device to the whale and challenged the Internet community to come up with an endearing name for the whale. It offered users a choice of three names. Two of those names were inspired and one was a joke, Mr. Splashy Pants.
The Internet community overwhelmingly fell in love with the name Mr. Splashy Pants, but Greenpeace wasn’t thrilled with the choice. As Greenpeace pulled back, the Internet community continued to make its case. Users created Facebook pages, shared links, and encouraged others to vote for Mr. Splashy Pants. The more passionate users became, the more involved other users became. The name Mr. Splashy Pants won with 119,357 votes (78 percent). The next highest name received just 4,329 votes (3 percent).
Recognizing that the Internet had spoken, Greenpeace embraced the quirky name and created an entire campaign around it. It sold Mr. Splashy Pants t-shirts, buttons, and other goodies – and it accomplished its mission of pressuring the whalers out of the hunt. Mr. Splashy Pants was saved thanks in large part to the millions of social media users who got involved.
Ohanian made several interesting points about the power of social media. For example, the bulk of the voters got involved not so much because they’re passionate about saving whales, but rather out of an “interest for doing something cool.” He said that the Internet levels the playing field – and it costs nothing.
Perhaps the biggest lesson from the story of Mr. Splashy Pants is this: When you engage in social media, be prepared to lose control. The playing field has indeed been leveled. Ohanian went on to say that “It’s okay to lose control; it’s okay to take yourself a little less seriously… You no longer control the message. And that’s okay… If you want to succeed, you’ve got to be okay to just lose control.”
If that thought scares you, social media may not be the best choice for you. However, if you’re okay with losing control and taking yourself a little less seriously, you may be able to accomplish your goals just as Greenpeace did through the power of social media.
Ohanian recommends that whatever you do, be genuine. Can you give up a little control over your message, take yourself a little less seriously, and be genuine? If so, you are ready to leverage the power of social media. Whether your ultimate goal is to raise awareness for a cause or sell more widgets, social media is a powerful tool that can take your message beyond expectations. But where should you start?
- Committing to social media – It’s here to stay, so get involved. Commit to spending at least 15 minutes per day engaging in social media and responding to your followers.
- Sharing relevant, interesting information – While you may be tempted to use social media pages to showcase your products and services, you’ll need a balance between providing engaging content and sales pitches.
- Being genuine – People don’t want to follow corporations, they want to follow people. Be yourself, yet stay true to the corporate identity or your personal brand at the same time.
- Encouraging interaction – The more followers interact with you and share links, the more powerful social media becomes. Your message then extends beyond your social media circles and into those of your followers.
Social media is powerful, and it’s here to stay. Are you ready to make a splash?
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