Wednesday, August 6

Mr. Rogers -- The First Social Media Evangelist

I normally don't blog about work, other than my lameass struggles as a mom trying to work and visa versa. But talking to an old friend today, got me thinking about Mr. Rogers and social media -- my entire industry became clear to me. Mr. Rogers was the first-ever social media evangelist.

When I was a kid, I was a Mr. Rogers fanatic. I never liked cartoons (too fake), but with Mr. Rogers Neighborhood I could learn, share and -- with all the transparency in the world -- enter a world of make-believe.

What Social Media Can Learn from Mr. Rogers:

1. If you invite someone into your world, address them as personally as you can and let them see more than the front door.

2. Learn something. Listen to someone. Teach something. All the time. The synchronicity of these things working together that Mr. Rogers does with such ease is what marketeers investigating social media cannot seem to grasp.

3. Pick a topic other than ones you are interested in. Even toilets are interesting (I stopped being afraid of falling in after seeing that episode with Mr. Rogers). Mr. Rogers was best known for engaging in real conversation with people of all walks of life. Does your social media strategy do that? Do you care? Are we just numbers?

4. Engage in make-believe, but let your audience know that you are. No fakes allowed in social media. That's a big stretch for the PR industry (although my best client is doing great at embracing the idea) whose world is about spin.

5. Be human. When my mom took me to see Mr. Rogers Live as a kid, I was star struck. My brother crawled right up on the stage and sat on his lap. I gave him flowers. I knew him already. I know his world because he let me see it.

6. Be honest. I had no fear of Mr. Rogers, not one single episode. I don't have a fear of anything he addresses with my own children. I trust him. Over time, he and I built trust for one another. He trusted I'd show up to watch his show and I trusted that he wouldn't frighten me while still showing me a new world.

7. Move slowly. Mr. Rogers' ability to let us learn as he slowly drew us in was always mesmerizing to me. We have the ability with social media today to blast out emails, slam opinions down a Comment field at the speed of light or Tweet our frustrations so fast, even auto-fill can't keep up. Move a little slower. Remember to unplug (that means even ones without plugs) and walk away every now and then. The web is a crazy index -- careful not to get caught up in using the megaphone too quickly because it'll be out in the sphere forever.

8. Stick to your convictions but never, ever, be disrespectful. Mr. Rogers was a vegetarian, Presbyterian minister and conservative. However, his lifestyle never encroached on anyone else's. He was always courteous. Social media can be a breeding ground for disrespect. Respecting our consumers, our readers, our fans, friends and colleagues (however different their take is) is an absolute foundation of our industry. I've seen CEOs mouth-off on blog comments like they were in a combat zone. We can, and should, do better.

9. Let technology pave the way, however frightening. Mr. Rogers spoke before Congress during the time when VCRs were becoming household items. He was a strong supporter of the home-based technology and its potential. He spoke on behalf of parents, children, as an educator and television producer. Afterwards, his show had a short feature each day called "Picture Picture" where a video tape, delivered by the mailman, would play, teaching us all something new. Social media's current darlings like Twitter, FB and mobile video (yes, honey, that one is for you), are only precursors to what is next. What is next? Who knows? But Mr. Rogers knew enough to stand on the bleeding edge of technology.

10. Stick to it. Come on, seriously. The Internet (don't give me that grandfathers of the internet thing) has been mainstream for 14 years. That's nothing. Social media has been popularized (although by so many other names) for two years. Mere infancy. If we have the stay power of Mr. Rogers, we'll be the luckiest industry around. His show aired from 1968 until August 2001. Through that, he managed 33 years of consistency and longevity -- two qualities social media needs to survive.

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agordonson said...

such an insightful blog. thank you for reminding us how meaningful the teachings of mister rogers were - then and now.

donna said...

I used to watch Mr. Rogers, too! It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood...