Social media marketing is all about communication.
Communication is a funny thing in that such a small part of communication is the words we say, write or read.
The whole “context” issue is a huge one in communication.
I got a clear lesson in this today.
How I ended up with a brown paper bag filled with 10 multi-colored condoms instead of moist towelettes.
This morning, I had to take my oldest son to the health department to get a vaccine he’ll need to live in a dorm in college next year. As we signed in, I was acutely aware that we were entering a place filled with “ill patients”.
I guess the recent conversations I’ve been having about a horrible flu virus that is going around must have been triggered as I was signing in. One of our friends was actually hospitalized recently because of this “super bug” and a client of mine was complaining that one of her trainers was sick with it yesterday. I share this to properly frame what happened next.
As I’m signing in, I see a basket on the counter with a sign that says,
“Take one and protect yourself.”
The basket is filled with brown paper bags, neatly folded and taped shut.
Remember, the overwhelming thought in my mind at the moment is, “Oh please, I really don’t want to get sick with that flu.”
So I grab one of the packages, confident the “protection” it provides will be against the myriad of diseases being incubated in the life sized petri dish called a waiting room. I pick up the brown paper bag along with the number assigned to us and I head to the crowded waiting room.
My son asks, “Hey! What’s in the bag?”
I reply, “The sign says it’s “protection”. Maybe it’s a shank!”
I’m not joking as much as I’d like to be. A couple of the people in the waiting room were kind of scary looking and a shank might come in handy.
My son snickers at my comment. I continue, “No, seriously it’s hand sanitizer.”
With that statement still hanging in the air, I open the bag and reach in. I was expecting to extract those little packets with the moist towelette inside. Instead, I pull out a brightly colored condom.
It wasn’t exactly the kind of “protection” I was expecting.
I guess my utterance of surprise was very audible. My mistake was on display for all, much the distress/ amusement of everyone in the waiting room.
I spent the rest of the visit enduring relentless razzing from my 18 year old son. I made sure to let him know that the proper use of one of those 18 years earlier would have meant I would have had this morning free to do what I wanted instead of dragging him to the health department.
I still defend my misconception… er, misunderstanding of the sign!
I mean, my greatest concern wasn’t catching an STD or preventing pregnancy – my most pressing concern was making sure I didn’t contract one of the multitude of diseases being incubated in that waiting room!
By the way, I did eventually find an antibacterial goo dispenser when we entered the 2nd “inner” waiting room and I doused myself liberally.
The moral of the story and how this applies to social media marketing…
When people arrive at your blog, website or other advertising material, they already have a conversation going on inside their head. If the conversation on your blog – on your website or in your advertising materials isn’t clear – you might be surprised at how “distorted” you message can get.
Had I seen that basket at the check-in counter of a strip joint, I probably wouldn’t have been confused as to what they meant by “protection”. However, as I looked at the sea of coughing and visibly ill people – I wasn’t thinking sexy thoughts – I was trying to figure out how to escape without catching what they had!
I just wonder how many children have grabbed one of those bags and been treated to an impromptu sexual education lesson in the lobby of the county health department. I’m just happy I wasn’t having to explain to a six year old why he couldn’t play with the brightly colored, individually wrapped balloons.
Context plays a HUGE role in communication…. both on and off the web!