Lessons from Antarctica

My recent vacation to Antarctica was an incredible trip that I will keep with me forever. Recently, I have been reflecting on the trip and the clear analogies between the world of social media and the world of ice and penguins. Here are a few lessons that community managers can enjoy without a trip to the far south:

  • Wild Terrain: Antarctica is a land of extremes: it’s the windiest, driest, highest, and coldest continent on the planet – and there is still much that is unknown about it. Traveling to Antarctica requires planning, preparing for the unexpected and continuing to adjust plans. Similarly social media is the extreme of marketing: the newest, most technical, and most rapidly changing – and we are still trying to understand how to optimize these social experiences. The successful communities we have worked with, like successful Antarctic voyages, focus on planning, preparing for change, and adjusting plans to continually improve conditions.
  • Depth of Experience: Throughout my trip there were an array of experiences that I enjoyed including kayaking, hiking, enjoying the view from the ship, listening and naturalist presentations. Not everyone enjoyed the same things, but everyone had a great time. Successful communities deploy a wide variety of technologies and features to interact and engage with audiences – recognizing that every person reacts differently and that everyone enjoys variety. ABC does a great job of usingquizzesratingcomments, and message boards to engage as many members of their audience as possible.
  • A Rhythm: As I approached the south pole, the days got pretty long with sunset approaching midnight and sunrise at roughly 4am (so I heard). It was important to establish a routine which for us evolved around meals, a daily recap and for a few of us a evening photo review. In a land where much was unexpected, unfamiliar, and changing it was good to rely on a regular schedule. Similarly in social media, so much does change and is unfamiliar, it is critically important to maintain those regular blog posts, newsletter updates and update daily polls, and weekly quizzes. These will become the rhythm of your site that visitors will expect and will keep them coming back.
  • Great Leaders: I have been reading a lot about Shackleton and Scott lately. These were tremendous leaders and their tales of courage and endurance are incredible. What really impressed me, most notably about Shackleton, is how much he valued every member of his team and what everyone had to contribute to their overall success of the trip. Similarly, in our new world of social media, we have individuals that are helping to show us the way by pointing out the daily successes and lessons of others and adding their own shrewd insight and wit. My social media Shackleton list includes: Peter KimJeremiah OwyangRobert ScobleCharlene LiPete Cashmore, and Josh Bernoff. Reading their posts every day is a new adventure in the new landscape of social media.

So I am now hoping that I can expense my vacation. 😉

-Colin

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