On the heels of this morning's article about the need to inject a little humanity into your small business marketing, I ran across a great post by Mike Moran over at Biznology that asks if you can handle a little professional embarrassment. After all, if you're going to inject humanity via social media experimentation, there's a good chance you're going to make a fool of yourself.

Mike sets up his post by sharing a story about a friend who was taking an early morning flight to meet with a client in another city. During the course of the flight, the baby sitting next to him threw up on his suit. The friend was then faced with the decision of whether to cancel the meeting, try to get cleaned up, or simply accept the professional embarrassment and keep the appointment.

Mike explains:

...Internet marketing is forcing us to do things that might seem uncomfortable. We need to try things that we are not sure of. We need to be willing to be wrong on a regular basis. We must even live with the idea that occasionally we'll be very embarrassed over a particular dumb idea.

None of this is comfortable.

But so long as we keep reaching for our own comfort, and avoiding the experimentation we need to do, we'll never learn how to succeed at this newfangled Internet marketing. We'll never get past the embarrassment of not knowing what to do, or of doing it wrong. We'll never get to the benefits that come from getting feedback from our customers on what's working and what's not.

It's easy to let fear hold you back when you're a small company trying to make a name for yourself online. We all know a good move can land you some great coverage and set the web buzzing with warm fuzzies about your site...but we also know the "other" possibility. We know there's the risk you'll screw up and end up looking horrible.

To the small businesses that are letting this hold them back from testing the waters of social media, I can only say this.

There's a good chance you WILL screw up.

Then again, you won't be alone. We've all had our share of embarrassments. I crashed and burned in a social media experiment last year. Dell, Sony and Wal Mart have all experienced massive social media missteps. The truth is social media is like anything else in life; you'll experience both success and failures. You'll see amazing results sometimes and you'll badly embarrass yourself at other times. On the bright side, it's usually pretty easy to recover from a social media disaster. You just need to be honest and sincere as you work to fix things. It worked for me. It worked for Dell.

Just as the potential for embarrassment shouldn't keep you from taking chances and growing your business in other areas, neither should it keep you from exploring new marketing realms as they come to light.

Maybe you would have cancelled that meeting if you'd been the fellow on the plane. Maybe you would have gone. Maybe you would have lost the account. Or maybe...the meeting would have been with a new mom or dad who valued your willingness to push through despite being on the receiving end of baby target practice. You never know unless you try..

April 8, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


Yes, obviously correct that as we keep reaching for our own comfort, and avoiding the experimentation we need to do, we'll never learn how to succeed at this newfangled internet marketing .

The best way to bounce back up again after a little embarrassment is to simply laugh at yourself and carry on. When others see that you can take yourself both seriously and unseriously, they will be more apt to respect you - thrown up on or not thrown up on! :)

Baby target practice! I hate when someone writes my post better than me. :-)

Great line!

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Search Engine Guide > Jennifer Laycock > Social Media + Humanity = Embarrassment (But That's Ok!)