Dear Entrepreneur: Forget Social Media, Just Tell the Damn Story

Dear Entrepreneur,

Congratulations, you have just launched your social media campaign. Now, that’s something to be ecstatic about. But it’s something to worry about, as well, and I don’t mind telling you that I am damn worried for you!

I’m worried that you’re going to fall into the trap of ‘metrics’, that you’re going to worship ‘numbers’ (likes, tweets, fans, followers, sentiment analysis, engagement quotients, etc.) without obsessing about telling the story, that you are going to follow bad advice and random people instead of trying to become an influencer yourself( about your category, your product), that you’re going to be drowned by superficialities ( gimmicks, contests, trivial updates) instead of ‘listening first’ and later surprising  everyone up by telling how your brand, company or ‘you’ will change things for the better. Do not follow the herd. Do not, I repeat be the prisoner of numbers and metrics.

There are a lot of gurus and experts in social media. They say even I am one. But don’t believe the gurus. Definitely not me. Use your brain, stay simple and start exploring the changing consumer media landscape. It’s your company and story. Don’t let anyone else be the storyteller. 

Gurus are happy increasing the size of their own followership. They know all the ‘Rules’ of engagement . They can tell you 56 different ways to engage on facebook (replace facebook with twitter, youtube, pinterest, ‘the new shiny SM platform to be launched in 2015) to increase follower count.  They know. Period.

They can tell you that an update should be between 112 & 133 words long. They can tell you that pictures of a pug poo get more likes than elephant poo, on weekends between 8-10 pm. They can give you rule after rule after rule. They are the scientists of social media.

But there’s one little rub. Social media is fundamentally social storytelling and happens to be not a science but an art. Are you shocked? Indeed it is 80% social and a mere 20% media (that’s the only number I use. And even this is a made-up statistic!)

Social business (definitely holds true for small business and small entrepreneurs) is led primarily by creativity and not just numbers and rules. You don’t need more technology, more social media metrics or more reports to get it right. You perhaps can even save on community managers. You don’t need ‘SM evangelists’ who  know all the right jokes and all the useless information in the world.

You just need your core team, passionate about your product and company to share relevant, informative, FUN and inspiring things with people.

Every day.

For the next 5 years! So what you really need most dear entrepreneur is discipline and creative time management.

Just like many consultants, may I request you have a high disdain for the usual social media expert. They don’t understand your product and story as well as you do. What’s worse, they might not even care! Sure, they have social media know-how. Yes, they can mouth click-through rates, Radian 6, jabber about Hootsuite vs Tweetdeck, etc.

But look beneath the jargon and what did you find? The same-old-sh**t, and a paucity of ideas. But they have 43456 tweets to their name and have criticized every  Bollywood star, politician, industrialist and have a POV on every single issue under the sun, most importantly iOS vs android!

Jokes aside, all this is not to say that ‘expertise and metrics’ are unimportant. Superior metrics and their proper understanding will make a good social media campaign shine. But the danger is a preoccupation with SM metrics or the mistaking of inane activity for authentic and interesting storytelling about your company and your product.

The danger lies in the temptation to out-source (in case you have the money)  routinized ‘gurus’ who have a formula for social media. The danger lies in feeling under-confident, not knowing the ‘rules of engagement’ and therefore not starting on your own!

If you are to have a distinct brand presence on social media,  you must have a  distinctive personality – whether you are a small travel startup or a bookseller or a local soap brand out of Rishikesh. You must develop your own philosophy and ethos and not have the ‘social media rules made by experts’  imposed on you.

So, dear entrepreneur, blaze new trails. Make mistakes. Tell and share the true stories of entrepreneurship challenges, life at a startup, hiring and firing, the small victories, how you handled customer complaints, even the goof-ups (yes, don’t be paranoid about hiding them. Even God and Google goof up!)

Let us prove to the world that good entrepreneurs with bad English, an inexpensive but good smartphone(regardless of iOS or android) and an open and authentic voice can be good selling.



Not a SM Guru by a mile. Just a creative entrepreneur who beliefs in his story:-)

*Disclosure . I have shamelessly copied the template of this letter from the great advertising genius Bill Bernbach’s resignation letter that he wrote in 1947 to his colleagues at Grey before he started DDB.

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