Freedom to fail

Idealist.org has a great blog post this week about facing failure in order to move your organization forward. Nowhere is this advice more needed than in marketing, where risk is vital to success. If your marketing is safe, it’s also boring, which is a sure way to lose the never-ending battle for your audience’s attention.

Yet failure is scary, and with the pervasiveness of social media failure becomes an even scarier prospect–your failures are on display for the entire web-using world to see. Surely that’s reason to play it safe, right? Wrong. Social media makes it even more important to take risks, and, yes, fail regularly.

As James Joyce once said, mistakes are the portals of discovery. In social media, you learn just as much from an unpopular post as you do from a successful one. The real-time feedback you receive gives your the opportunity to tweak an unsuccessful campaign within days of its launch, saving you weeks of time, effort and money spent on unproductive advertising. 

Failure also gives your brand a person touch–to err is human, right? Making missteps from time to time pulls back the veneer a bit and lets your audience know that you don’t always know what’s going on…just like them. With some exceptions (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for the CIA, for example), this openness can engender more trust than a false bravado of claiming universal knowledge and truth.

Of course, there are failures and then there are failures. A little common sense goes a long way.  But as long as your audience can see that you’re giving it the ol’ college try and not completely clueless, they will forgive your faux pas, and many will eagerly volunteer to set you back on the right track. Trust your audience to stick it out with you, and they’ll end up trusting you.

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