The Susan Boyle performance that took the world by storm last week (topping 36 million views today) has an important lesson to teach us about Social Media fundamentals, a lesson Domino's Pizza also learned last week, the hard way.
It's easy to call Susan Boyle an ugly duckling who blossomed into a swan, but that's where a lot of commentators are getting it wrong. Susan Boyle did not "transform" on stage; it was we -- her audience -- who transformed and, most importantly, engaged.
We all felt we knew something in advance about how talented she would turn out to be. The Britain's Got Talent judges rolled their eyes; the studio audience snickered; and I watched the YouTube video, I admit, with trepidation. But Susan Boyle stood there confidently, "cheekily," and held her ground. She represented herself truthfully and had presence. She engaged us and showed us her strengths. We dabbed our eyes and tipped our hat (or our computer mouse) to her. We let go of preconceptions based on her lack of polish and youth and gave her the credit she deserved. We met her halfway and we changed, hopefully for the better.
Expectation > Surprise> Engagement
The two other most talked about videos of the week were the "Disgusting Domino's People" video and the response by the CEO of Domino's, Patrick Doyle.
Our reactions to the "disgusting" video by two malicious employees was based, in part, on a confirmation of our fears about fast food -- that uncaring employees make our food unsafe. The "Ewww... I knew it!" factor. But our reaction to Domino's President Patrick Doyle's well-crafted message was surprisingly similar to our reaction to Susan Boyle and followed a similar pattern:
1) We were initially distrustful about what we were about to see: "This is going to be painful."
2) We were wary: "If you're good, why did you wait this long to come forward?"
3) We were begrudgingly tolerant: "Okay, let's see what you've got."
4) Then, surprisingly, we were engaged, because Doyle, like Boyle, showed up, held his ground unflinchingly, told us what he stood for, defied our expectations, and had presence.
He took charge of the conversation with his audience -- like Susan Boyle did with her unwavering voice -- and transformed the conversation.
Presence > Voice
When judge Simon Cowell asked why she hadn't achieved success yet, Susan Boyle said, "I've never been given the chance before but here's hoping it will change." Reality shows, like Web 2.0 and Social Media have given us all a chance to have a "voice" and to share that voice with exponentially more listeners than was possible just a short time ago. We can waste that chance like the Domino's Duo did and end up with arrest warrants (and poor career options!), or we can craft that voice and engage with our audiences.
Now clearly, somebody already knew Susan Boyle could sing; she had auditioned with the show's producers, who were savvy enough to leave the schmaltzy music swelling as she stood there before the judges. But the audience didn't know and the audience was moved, uplifted, and transformed. And clearly Patrick Doyle has a crack team that helped him word his statement carefully, but he delivered it with heartfelt resolve and class (note to crack team: add President to your YouTube tags). And while Domino's is using the clunky @dpzinfo on Twitter, at least they now have a presence on Twitter which is an important next step (2nd note to crack team: @P_Doyle is available!) The next step now, for Domino's, is to craft an engaging voice, not unlike other marketers have done or are in the process of doing.
Judge Amanda Holden got it right when she told Susan Boyle, "I honestly think we were all being very cynical and I think that's the biggest wake-up call ever." Perhaps it's not the biggest wake-up call ever (the current economic crisis, anyone?), but it is an important one.
We all have expectations based on preconceptions. Sometimes all it takes to help us evolve as audiences and consumers, though, is someone coming out, center stage, to let us hear their voice.
Presence and voice: brava Susan Boyle and bravo Patrick Doyle.
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