Monday, October 12, 2009

rebooting to social media? Bruce yourself

I saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band earlier this year, but they just closed down Giants Stadium this week, playing the last concert in that venue...and that trip down memory lane, updated for today, could be the best example yet for those of you trying to make the transition from traditional communications to social media and beyond. Springsteen's ability to connect with his audiences is legendary for a reason. Here's what I learned from The Boss that you might be able to use:
  • Take requests from your audience--even if they ain't your hits: The Rolling Stones' "This Could Be the Last Time" was the song Bruce chose from the requests written on signs from his fans (crowdsourcing at its best and most immediate). He called it "the perfect request for this evening." Be as gracious in including others' material and crediting them, and become a source online for good information--no matter where it originated--in your specialty area. I can tell you from personal experience that the crowd's fascinated watching an artist they love performing another star's song, because you can see how he learned and absorbed it. Even better: This crowd knew they'd help choose a special number. Try it with your fans.
  • Go deep into your backlog: At this final concert, Springsteen and his band played the entire "Born in the U.S.A." album, fitting because it was their debut hit when they first played the stadium in 1985. You've got just as much in your archives, if not more. Consider creating social media paths to let your aficionados, alumni and average-askers find and navigate the deep well of information they want. Check out the specs and evaluation data from the Library of Congress's experiment with Flickr collections from its vast photographic holdings, or the blog created from George Orwell's diaries as examples. What are you sitting on that could be shared? Can you offer one "album" of content from a significant part of your company or organization's past?
  • But don't just repeat yourself: Jay Weinberg, son of E Street band drummer Max, has been substituting for his dad on Bruce's tours this year--18 years old, and touring with The Boss!--and while Max was in the house for this concert, it was Jay who played on the Springsteen classic "Born to Run." In social media, switch up your bloggers and tweeters so that less experienced team members take a turn. You may discover new voices that connect with your audience in ways you can't imagine ahead of time.
  • Create special content: You can go here to see a video of Bruce singing "Wrecking Ball," the song he wrote for the occasion of this last concert in the stadium. It's written from the stadium's viewpoint, a twist his fans are analyzing even now. Better still: It's free, but only available on Bruce's website. Special content gives your longstanding fans a chance to find something new amongst the familiar, and builds a different level of connection and camaraderie with your audience.
  • Don't get too goofy: While there were many sentimental moments, Bruce also marked the occasion by calling the stadium "the last bastion of affordable sports seating," an echo of his well-worn description of the good life in the beyond as having "cold beer at a reasonable price." Have a self-reflective sense of humor about your communications with your audience and let it show...and don't take your social-media forays too seriously.
I've helped universities, nonprofits and companies with orientations, training and strategies in using social media as a communications tool, helping them choose and launch pilot projects tailored to their audiences' needs. Want to Bruce yourself or your organization in social media? Contact me at info[at]dontgetcaught[dot]biz.

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