After a particularly tough winter, spring cleaning has hit our neighborhood hard, and we recently received a bag of old electronics for the kids. Buried underneath a phone and handheld organizer were three versions of portable CD players. My 7-year-old daughter became fascinated with these devices. A CD player may seem to be old technology to someone who grew up in the ’80s. But to a first grader, these arcane devices looked similar to intergalactic transponders. She would open and close the lid, power up the device, spin the leftover CD inside like a DJ scratching a record, and watch the small liquid-crystal display (LCD) light up. She can fire up the Roku box, search Netflix for episodes of How It’s Made, and operate every remote in the house better than I can, but this was new territory for her.
Watching her reminded me of what it feels like to wake up every morning in this age of information. We are all strangers in a new land of technology and content. Every day, we are faced with a new bag of tools, apps, tricks, and devices that land on our doorstep. As content creators, storytellers, marketers, businesses, and brands, we can choose to dig into these foreign items and figure them out with childlike delight. Or we can continue to stick with the status quo and watch the world grow up around us. It’s not easy to maintain a healthy approach toward innovation, and it takes time and energy to find the gems. These real-time decisions about which social network to embrace or where your content should be hosted can affect the bottom line in any business. So what can we learn from my daughter’s discovery of a 30-year-old Discman? Try to embrace your inner child, and let’s look at two ways to approach the technology of content with a fresh perspective.
Press buttons, ask questions-“Daddy, what happens when you press this button?” No question strikes more fear or delight in my heart. The fear of what could happen holds up more innovation that anything else. What might go wrong or what could go right are killers of the curious. Those who are pressing buttons first and asking questions second will almost always find a reward or a lesson.
In honor of its eighth birthday, Twitter launched a tool that will let you view any public account’s first tweet. You should take a few moments to play around with it and see the first button-pressing experiments of your friends and favorite brands. The global eyewear brand Oakley has an interesting exchange as its first tweet. In February 2009, a fan asked, “How come you guys haven’t tweeted at all? You are missing out on a great marketing opportunity here.” The response from @oakley was, “We will be tweeting soon. ;).” In retrospect, the company would probably have liked to push a few more buttons a little earlier. But one of the first big brands on Twitter was ESPN in 2007, and its first tweet is halfway cut off text about an athlete injury. Pressing buttons early may yield mistakes, but it can eventually lead to something great.
Experiment early-As soon as our neighbor’s bag hit the floor in our foyer, my daughter was in it, pulling stuff out and going over each piece as if it was a relic from a pharaoh’s tomb. The curiosity of children is often lost on adults, and it’s a shame. We can learn so much from just being open. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream has always been open to new things, and it was one of the first big brands to jump on Instagram in February 2011. Being early has its advantages and that shows with more than 380,000 followers on its @benandjerrys Instagram account. The company handles all its content creation of photos and videos for social media in-house, but early adoption has also built up a following with an interesting side effect. More than half of the content Ben & Jerry’s posts on Instagram is generated by its fans. Early experimentation has paid off, and it attributes part of the social success to being on the platform well ahead of anyone else.
Keeping perspective on the flood of new content-sharing tools can be tough. But remember to press lots of buttons, ask more questions, and experiment early and often. Your curiosity will be rewarded. The smile on my daughter’s face is proof of that fact.