Social Media: The Sidecar Analogy

Imagine that your business is a bike. A gorgeous, sexy, shiny beast of a motorbike. All parts of the bike work in harmony with each other, including the rider, so together the bike and rider can successfully reach the chosen destination and navigate any bumps in the road they may face together. The tank is full, the engine is purring, so it’s visor down and let’s ride!

Now I’d like you to picture, sitting alongside the motorbike, is a sidecar. If you’ve no idea what a sidecar is, and I know there’s quite a few of you, then check out the image at the top. This is how I see the relation of social media within a business, with the bike being the business and the sidecar representing social media. Here’s why:

1. Multiple Connections

A sidecar doesn’t just connect itself to one bolt of a bike. To be more stable, there are multiple connections ensuring the sidecar is stable and remains alongside no matter how bumpy the road gets.

As with the sidecar, social media can’t just attach itself to the marketing team. Sure, it’s most often marketing who facilitate the social media strategy, but it’s the responsibility of all teams within an organisation to tell the story of the business.

2. Working Together

The sidecar doesn’t have its own engine, steering wheel, or a brake. It goes wherever the bike goes because, if it doesn’t, it will just stop. It also doesn’t have it’s own chosen destination, of course. It goes where the bike goes, not the other way around.

Social media shouldn’t have its own agenda either. It’s there to support the business and help it take the business to where it wants to go. Questions that need to be asked here are:

a. What does the business want to achieve in the coming months?

b. How can social media help it to get there?

3. Personality

When you look out to a road if a bike with a sidecar was driven past you, which would you notice first? I’m going to assume it’s the sidecar before the bike, right? Why? Usually, because it’s different. It adds personality too.

The same goes for social media. As Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman at Ogilvy UK wrote in his book “Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don’t Make Sense”:

“Effective communication will always require some degree of irrationality. Because, if it’s perfectly rational it becomes like water, entirely lacking in flavour”

Social media is there to pick up your passengers through compelling stories and by being interested in your audience. Without it, what’s the point of having social media? In the same way there’s no point in having a sidecar for a bike with no passengers.

Why Is This Important?

Social media is referred to as a marketing tool. Sure, it’s one of the benefits of it, but social media isn’t owned by the marketing team.

Social media is, however, a concept that you can integrate into the multi-function requirements of a business. It can truly have a positive impact on research, customer support, marketing, and more, and for some businesses, it’ll have more of an impact in one area than it would in another business.

Either way, it has to compliment successful systems and processes already in place. It can’t do any of these jobs on its own. It isn’t a bike.

Action Point

How does social media work for you? How are you telling the stories of the whole business? I’d love to hear your thoughts here or here: I’d love to hear your thoughts here or here: @edagoodman.

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