Once in Philadelphia, Franklin quickly distinguished himself as an agent of change, a man Malcolm Gladwell might be forced to describe as connector, maven and salesman. At 22, he established The Pennsylvania Gazette, essentially a printed blog of his essays and observations, a vehicle that earned him tremendous social currency. Shortly thereafter, he set up the city's first library, the Wikipedia of its day, complete with America's first librarian. A noted scientist, perhaps his least-known invention is the concept of paying it forward, freely sharing his ideas, inventions and on occasion his cash all with the hope that "it may thus go thro' many hands." Clearly, without Franklin, there are no open-source API's on Facebook and certainly no #good tweets on Twitter.
Having established his bona fides as social media pioneer, let me now call upon the ever-humble B. Franklin to offer us instruction on how modern-day marketing patriots can declare their independence from social media silliness. And while this piece is no Poor Richard's Almanac, it will approach the topic at hand with a similar clarity of purpose and simplicity in language. It will also do so knowing Franklin would have supported this author, "So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do." Finally, it will encourage marketers to take AIM, a simple acronym that befits a Franklinian approach to social media.
1. A is for Audit
All too often, marketers take the "Ready, Fire, Aim" approach to social media. The numerous social media pundits who prescribe dabbling over diligence encourage this philosophy. Back in 1748, Franklin would have warned you of the risks of this approach, noting, "It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it." Instead, Franklin would have encouraged a rigorous social media audit, offering, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest."
Hardly revolutionary, a social media audit lays the groundwork for a successful campaign, fulfilling Franklin's prognostication that, "Diligence is the mother of good luck." These audits can be done in-house but as Franklin warned, "Those that won't be counseled can't be helped." Kinaxis, a supply chain management company, sought the help of Forrester before it went on to triple its leads and double its site traffic via a rigorously planned social media program (see detailed case history http://bit.ly/cNOgPz .)
2. I is for Implementation
A great communicator himself, Franklin would have been undaunted by all the new options, evaluating each carefully in order to "Never confuse motion with action." When it comes to content creation, Franklin's remarkably timeless advice to, "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing," is as true for Twitter and YouTube in 2010 as it was for patriotic pamphlets back in 1775. Anticipating the transparency that enlightened marketers now seek, his proverb "honesty is the best policy," is truer today than ever before.
Franklin inherently understood social media implementation, and the critical roles of likability, entertainment and patience. For brands that want to build fans on Facebook and the like, Franklin offered, "If you would be loved, love, and be loveable." For brands afraid of having a little fun with their audience, Franklin encouraged, "Games lubricate the body and the mind." And for brands in an unrealistic hurry to gain traction in social media, Franklin noted, "He that can have patience can have what he will."
3. M is for Monitoring
As Postmaster General in 1768, Franklin monitored the routes of British mail ships to discover why it took them two weeks longer than private merchant ships to reach U.S. ports. Conducting his own focus groups with merchant captains and whalers, Franklin ultimately charted and named the Gulf Stream, which was acting like a firewall, slowing the movement of data from East to West across the Atlantic. Not new to the idea of monitoring, Franklin approached even minute details with earnest, noting, "A small leak will sink a great ship."
So, too, must social media marketers monitor their activities with rigor and respond accordingly. While lots of free tools are available to monitor everything from conversations to web traffic, organic search performance to lead generation, Franklin reminded us that, "Lost time is never found again," thus the anticipating the use of time-saving paid services like Radian6. With such a disciplined approach to social media, marketers can, in Franklin's words, "Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time."
Even 220 years after his death, Benjamin Franklin remains a beloved character, bestowing a treasure trove of wisdom for good citizens and good brands. In fact, among the 12 virtues that he drafted when only 20 years old, you will find the single best guidance for any brand I've ever read, "Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve."