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It’s Not a Hall of Shame: Embracing Failure in Social Media


We’ve all been there. You had carefully laid out plans, meticulously crafted posts, and curated a trove of museum-quality images. Your social media campaign was going to set the Internet ablaze and had all the potential in the world to be the next big viral phenomenon.

Except it wasn’t the next big thing, because it crashed and burned before it even had a chance to leave your social media runway. Not one retweet. Not one response. You checked the analytics to make sure you weren’t missing any interaction and, indeed, you were the only one in the world talking about your social media campaign.

Instead of #NailedIt, you #FailedIt. And now all your hard work heads to the Hall of Shame.

But not all is lost. Certainly a failed social media plan needs a good post-mortem examination to determine what went wrong. Was the audience not considered enough? Could the execution have been better? The Hall of Shame is a lonely place where people certainly don’t want to hang around, discussing what ifs. But there is still value there.

Turn That Hall into the “Pantheon of Failed Ideas”

The Pantheon of Failed Ideas is a place where you can revisit past failure without a stinging feeling of shame. It’s OK to have a failure because risking failure is the only way to achieve progress.

Strategic innovation helps bring new about the new ideas and new mindsets needed to inspire the next great idea, and this principal can be easily applied to social media. It’s not going to help your brand to be constantly chasing the latest social media trends without trying out at least a few original ideas.

Think of the rise and fall of the Harlem Shake, or the prolific remakes of “Call Me Maybe” videos. These social media phenomena started with a good idea that millions eventually copied. The glut of these videos collectively washed out the effectiveness and conspired to steal the originality of your brand.

Be ambitious enough to break away from the competition and create new spaces where you can find success. To do this, you should look to the left and look to the right in your next social media meeting. Do you have diversity (men, women, people of different ethnicity, etc.)? The best innovation comes from diverse thinking. Homogeneity will get out some great ideas that appeal to people just like you. A heterogeneous team is more likely come up with new ideas to tackle old problems.

You also need to take a gut check on your risk tolerance. Are you working on crucial announcement that needs to be framed just right, or do you have some freedom of how it can be presented?  Ask yourself how spectacular of a failure you are willing to tolerate, and let that willingness be a part of your decision-making process.

Controlled Failure

Finally, you should be aware that you consciously or unconsciously decide how you are going to fail. Make sure your failure came about for the right reasons, such as missing the mark on intended engagement with the audience. Don’t let a bad joke or sloppy execution become the reason for your idea not being a success. Make sure your posts are mistake free.

At CSU, we’ve had our fair share of failed ideas. But it is those failed ideas that taught a few lessons and helped lead us to new ways to be successful. It’s OK to fail and learn from that failure.  Think of your Pantheon of Failed Ideas as a trove of used parts that can be refigured.

Failure, on the right terms, can be very useful.

Nik Olsen

About Nik Olsen

I came to CSU to study journalism and never left. In fact I’ve been here so long, I used to drive down Meridian Avenue. I currently serve as the Assistant Director for Presidential and Administrative Communications at CSU and have the chance to be part of the social media community here. When I am not on campus, I’m probably trying to convince my two sons to eat their veggies.