Social Media: We’re Not Enriching Uranium


One of my favorite expressions when it comes to social media is, “we’re not enriching uranium.” 



This insight was taught to me by Chicago political messaging guru Todd Stump, who was quoting his friend Karl Roth.

The two were in line at a coffee chain that will remain nameless. The barista was unusually patronizing and officious, and rolled his eyes at the so-called stupidity of his customers who didn’t understand their corporate lingo.

Karl pointed out (and I paraphrase): “We’re not enriching uranium here; we’re pouring hot water over beans.”

So much of what we do in social media is no more complicated than making fancy coffee. We have a strategy, we create content that meets that strategy, we take steps to build the audience around it, and we encourage them to take an offline action.

The tactics may be different for each platform, but it’s all really just following a playbook. A lot of thought goes into the playbook, but then it’s just doing those tactics correctly every day.

Too many people try to make social media complicated. It’s not. Social media is about creating something distinctive, putting it in front of the right audience, and getting them to take an offline action.

It’s difficult, (as in rigorous and demanding) but that is not to be confused with complicated. It’s also storytelling, and storytelling is another deceptively simple craft.

Bill Wren defines this well when he says, “A story is people involved in events told by people to people.” Stories should be about people [don’t talk about features, talk about the lives you change], told by people [have an editorial point of view], and told to people [respect your audience]; very simple, but very hard.

A great example is this infograph from computersherpa at TVTropes.org. It outlines all of the ingredients that you can plug into a work of fiction.

As you can see, there are a lot of choices, but it’s fairly simple to put them together. Whether you’re writing an episode of Modern Family or a blog about manufacturing, it requires having a strategy, putting simple elements together, and executing with precision.

Making coffee isn’t that hard, but when it’s made with hard work and focus, you can definitely tell. The same goes for all your storytelling. It’s not complicated. But it’s never easy. As Dr. Johnson said, “What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.”

Social Media isn’t about complexity. It’s about telling stories well. And if you do it right, it’s hard. But trust us–it’s worth it.

Reprinted with permission.

Image credit: Tom

About the author: Adrian Blake

Adrian began his career in the television industry, leading the international growth of Saturday Night Live and Comedy Central. Adrian has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an A.B. from Harvard.

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