Social Media has gone to the dogs. After training, showing, handling, and judging dogs for eight years, social media and dogs have their similarities in concepts and behaviors. *Note: This post is mostly intended to be humorous. Don't be too offended. Also, Happy 8th Birthday to @Mousethedog!
1. Classical conditioning is an old dog training principle. Classical conditioning is simply the pairing and associating of two things. In Pavlov's case, his dog associated a bell with dog food which lead to drooling. Eventually, the dog would begin to drool with sound of the bell even in the absence of food. In dog training, the trainer should always be in a cheerful mood regardless of what the dog is doing (much easier said than done). The dog will associate the trainer with cheerfulness and other good things. If the trainer is always angry and upset, the dog will begin to associate the trainer with angry and upset feelings. It isn't hard to figure out why some dogs avoid their owners in this case.
If your Twitter voice and Facebook posts are always unhappy and angry, people will stop following you. You are a debbie downer, a stick in the mud, an angry cloud on a sunshiny day. On the other hand, if your Twitter voice and Facebook posts are always cheerful and happy, people might start to associate you with positive emotions, engage with you more, and tend to follow you. Classically condition people to like you, not to run away from you.
2. Everyone wants to chew on the new toys until it is broken. Dogs love to play with new toys until they are un-stuffed and shredded. Just give a group of dogs a fuzzy stuffed toy and check back in a few weeks to see if you can find the parts of the stuffed toy. This is the same thing with social media tools. Today, Twitter is big. It is so popular that it fail whales frequently. Everyone wants to play with Twitter, and now we've broken it. Tweets have gone missing. Twitter search is a joke. While the Twitter toy has lasted a couple of years so far, how much longer under social media gets a new toy? Other examples of broken toys include the iphone. AT&T's network (especially in San Francisco and Austin) just can't support iphone users anymore. Looks like the HTC Evo 4G is the new toy.
3. In dog training, like social media, there's not only one single right way to do things (many wrongs as well). There's countless numbers of dog training methods, and there are also countless numbers of social media strategies and tactics. Different methods for different dogs. My big dog doesn't respond well to repetition methods. He gets bored. However, my little dog loves doing the same exercise over and over again, especially when she is very confident about her performance. Different social media strategies for different audiences. In social media, hard selling or spamming on Twitter usually get you a kick in the pants. You'll probably also get blocked. However, hard selling or spamming in the adult website industry probably works considering how many wind up in my spam box.
4. In dogs, they all want to sniff the newbie's butt. Who's that new dog at the park? What's his story? Should I pee on him? In social media, we all tend to google and search for dirt on new users. Who's that new blogger? Has anyone ever met that newbie with only 3 followers? Before you get started in social media, be sure that you clean up your Facebook and Myspace (may it rest in peace) accounts. No one needs to find that photo of you doing a keg stand in your sister's bikini and high heels when sniffing your online butt.
5. Dogs breeds were developed with certain innate characteristics over hundreds of years. Border collies love to chase moving objects. Daschunds love to dig. Huskies love to pull. You can try to train them to not engage in those behaviors, but the dogs like to do what they like to do. Your audience has innate characteristics. They like what they like, and you can try to change it, but good luck. If psychologists knew how to consistently and reliably invoke attitude and behavior change, we would have put an end to drug abuse, unsafe sex practices, and unhealthy eating habits. We're still working on those.
6. Motivation. Dogs wake up in the morning wanting to pee on things, eat cat poop, slobber on the couch, and hump stuffed animals (maybe not in that order). They are dogs after all, and that's what they are motivated to do. Users wake up in the morning and look for interesting news, follow new users, and play Farmville. Face it. They don't wake up saying, "I would LOVE to spend my time writing a blog post about your product!" Dogs have different motivations than their handlers. Consumers have different motivations than businesses. While your business might have fans who like your products, they aren't as motivated as you are to stay afloat.
7. Be genuine. Dogs can smell a fake from a mile away. They can read your body language much better than humans can. Users can also smell a fake on social media as well. You can't put up a fake front for long. We'll call you out!
8. Dog training and social media never ends. I get asked frequently how long it took to train my dogs. My reply is, "It never ends." The notion that one can take a dog through few obedience courses and get a well-behaved dog is pretty far from the truth. Training a dog happens is a never ending process, especially if they are trained for performance activities. Training lasts a lifetime. Successful social media also never ends. I've been asked "How long do we have to use Twitter? When do we are we finished with social media?" The answer is: Unless your business or your internet presence ceases to exists, social media should not end. Social media tools may come and go, but hopefully the social part never ends.