365 Days of Social Media: How I Learned by Shutting My Mouth

One year ago today I traded in my brand consulting hat for a full-time gig as head of social media for RadioShack Corporation.  RadioShack (aka “The Shack”) was an iconic retail brand in the middle of an immense push to amplify their voice and give consumers a compelling reason to tune back in.  And there I was, a guy who made a living showing, telling and selling others on how to make their marketing work smarter. A love affair ensued.

Of course, as with interpersonal relationships, there were strings attached. To be quite transparent, though I was blessed with a career working with some really great brands and people, I was not a social media guru (imagine the shame). To effectively embrace the shift from employer to employee, marketing generalist to social specialist and agency to client, I decided to do something I’ve never done before. I shut up.

Why? After years of always having the answers, it was nice to listen, learn, unlearn and focus on asking the right questions.  Focus is a fruit of priorities so I chose to do a little self-pruning in order to make social media a professional priority, not just a personal hobby.

I went radio silent on my own social branding efforts. No more personal blogging. No more consulting sessions. Tweeting was sporadic at best. Though I love speaking at conferences and swapping ideas, you couldn’t find me on any panel. Equipped with only a handful of questions and a good attitude, I jumped head first into this space, determined to understand both social media and The Shack from the inside out.

There’s a material reason practically every business planning process begins with the same first step, research.  Afterall, being understood as a problem-solver requires that you first understand the problem. The not-so-obvious challenge to many in interactive marketing and emerging media, especially on the brand side, is we oftentimes must construct our own research through experience.  This isn’t research in the traditional sense of analytics, insights, segmentation and data mining, though that’s critically important too. The experiences required to birth and grow a sustainable social media presence on the enterprise level involve an additional layer of education.

I like to call it a Social Media Learning Plan. Essentially, it’s a hands-on approach to figuring out what to do while testing how to do it.  Mine consisted of 3 related, yet discreet, phases:

Phase 1: Identify and understand your audience from the outside in.

Phase 2: Transform social media goals into enterprise-wide objectives.

Phase 3: Test, learn and implement the strategy while building the tools to support.

It begins and ends with doing, learning is the hard earned by-product. A learning plan means making a deliberate effort not to pull the trigger and, instead, opting to educate yourself about your weapon, the ammunition and, most importantly, the target.  While considered table stakes in some industries, planning for interactive learning is a luxury in retail that often decays under tremendous pressure to perform, exceed and adjust simultaneously.

Over the next several days, I’d like to remove the virtual duct tape from my mouth and share this learning plan along with the fruits of my 365 days of social learning. From missteps and milestones to failures and discoveries, experience has been a great teacher. Of course, I’d love to swap learnings, resources and perspectives on interactive marketing with you. It’s also an exciting time to be in the Consumer Electronics and Mobility sector – I’ll discuss tech info when I can.

As always, feedback is a gift.

Thx for taking the time to read and feel free to connect with me on Twitter at @adriandparker.


25 thoughts on “365 Days of Social Media: How I Learned by Shutting My Mouth

  1. I’m curious as to what made you make that switch from consultant to a full time gig. Both have pros and cons, but not sure what the exact reasoning was behind your choice.

  2. Good Q Jason. I actually started my career in marketing with Foot Locker, Liz Claiborne and others – all on the client side. After 3 years and 40+ clients I really did miss the simple aspects of being an employee (e.g., dedicated resources, teams, quasi-predictable time requirements, etc.)
    … and yes, I grew up making my Christmas wishlist using the RadioShack catalog. 🙂

  3. Very good post. Often our want to speak comes from the need to be affirmed – a pride issue. My father told me those situations to “keep your mouth shut, so as not to remove all doubt.” In a world that is new and uncharted like social media – this timeless wisdom applies.

  4. Awesome. In an age of experts and advice buzzing from every corner of twitter, it took some good old fashioned wisdom to shut up and listen….thanks for a great post


  5. E. Parker Bennett January 12, 2011 — 9:36 pm

    Now that your sabbatical is over. It will be interesting to see how you toss that duct tape aside and position yourself like you know how.

  6. WOW! how awsome, to here your story. The decision must have been an agonizing one I know it meant leaving some…..disappointing others……leaving a gap in services. But:) the decisions were made, and somehow the gaps were filled. Laura Beth Jones the author of “Jesus Life Coach” puts it like this “Planned abandonment means choosing between good and great, between better and best. “Planned abandonment means you are able to say no to all that glitters and discern what truly shines. I to am practicing planned abandonment and I’m not doing to bad. Must success!

  7. First and foremost, thanks so much for being willing to share your story. It seems there are a lot of us in the same boat lately, making the move from agency to client, taking on roles that are being defined day-by-day as we perform them. The world of social media as an employee is SO much different than as an outside consultant, but I think it’s also a lot more rewarding. Rather than being involved in social media for show or impressing early adopters, we’re digging in and making a difference for major brands and corporations, putting social media to work to create real business.

    I’m looking forward to reading about your experiences in the first 365 days on the job. Best of luck and continued success!

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