Roger Ebert ~ Twitter Rockstar or Just Plain Smart?

Could social media be a reason to find your voice?

He’s the only film critic to have won a Pulitzer Prize – and the first critic to earn his own star in Hollywood. His career has spanned more than 4 decades. He’s written 15 books and has received numerous honorary degrees from a range of American universities. You’d think that when his professional partner, Gene Siskel, passed away and then cancer claimed his voice it would be a sign to take it easy, retire.

Roger EbertEbert may have lost his speaking voice but instead of giving up, he harnessed the tools of blogging and twitter to be his new voice, continuing to spread his movie perspectives.

Roger Ebert, 70 this year, has almost 600,000 Twitter followers. His career has not only survived the ravages of time but thrives in a highly competitive and cutthroat market. What’s his secret?

Let’s get one thing straight, it’s NOT social media…

Reinvention & staying relevant

The recession has made our new online social world both terrifying and invigorating at the same time for struggling companies. But let’s be honest. Aren’t navigating through tumultuous landscapes and new developments the norm for businesses?

Ebert’s movie critic career and the irony of losing his voice (and re-finding it thorough social media) is an example of how to look beyond the hurdles in front of you and focus on the end goal. Social media was his tool of choice, but it’s more about being agile.

What’s your perspective?

  • There’s too much to learn OR forward facing and focused?
  • It’s too hard to keep up OR time to get new running shoes?
  • What’s the ROI? ~ Or can we learn to measure differently?

There’s too much to learn OR forward facing and focused

Leslie HaskinAt a WithIt Leadership Conference a couple of years ago, Leslie Haskin strode up on stage and assumed a surfer pose. Leslie was on the 36th floor of Tower One on September 11, 2001 when a plane slammed into it. She told the audience she learned nothing on the morning of 9/11 – her journey started afterward. Everything afterward taught her how to be forward facing and focused – just like a surfer.

Sounds like what Ebert did, right?

Social media didn’t save Ebert. And it certainly didn’t save Leslie.

I have no doubt of their overwhelming feelings of being lost, of feeling like they’d landed in a foreign country where everyone spoke another language. But both found a way to see past the moment and explore a new way to live.

Isn’t a brand using social media the same thing – but on a non-life-threatening scale? Being willing to try something new is often the only thing standing extinction and reinvention.

Tell me again why social media is so scary for your company?

It’s too hard to keep up OR get better sneakers

There’s no arguing that social media changes faster than a Kardashian can discard a spouse. But that’s marketing, right? Think about your marketing department for a second and who mans the front lines. I’m guessing that person is creative, energetic and quick to build, plan and execute strategies, right?

Social media is a toolSocial media is a tool. It doesn’t actually shake anyone’s hand for you or create business opportunities. It’s a place to make new friends and build relationships – that’s all. How it’s used is more important than which channel is used.

While it’s tempting to think anyone can lead your social media initiative, it’s simply not true. While some people will excel at it, others will slow you down and make it impossible for you to break free and lead the charge. Social media is an opportunity but you need the right person who’s got the intelligence to survey the landscape, map out a strategy and just go.

Ebert spent years sculpting his brand voice and when he lost the ability to speak, he used different tools to communicate. Leslie lost everything but something in her refused to give up.

Start looking at the new social landscape as an opportunity rather than a hurdle and I guarantee the path (and your end goals) will change immediately.

Can we talk about ROI for a second?

Remember when fax machines were invented? Sounded like a great idea except for the fact that if you wanted to send one, the receiver had to have one too. Imagine trying to have that ROI conversation with a skeptical boss?

Isn’t social media the same thing?

Social media is a tool – it’s not a strategy. Understand the difference and you’re miles ahead of other companies wasting precious resources dabbling in the space. If you’re going to invest in the tool, invest in training how to use it properly.

Although Ebert had a brand, a strong voice and a will to survive, he still had to learn how to use new tools to communicate. You might agree Ebert’s a Twitter Rockstar, but I also think he’s a really smart guy who refused to give up.

Stop struggling with social media and start looking at what your company needs to survive and then find the tools and the people to get you there. It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to work overnight. But if you learn how to use the tools properly, it will be sustainable.

Who knows, your company might be the next Ebert…

Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn – I’m always on.



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