Would you steal from a dog for your social media clients?
The question is only half serious. If you haven’t heard the term “dog robber,” it is “American military slang, dating back to the US Civil War, for an enlisted man who acts as an orderly, valet and all-around facilitator for an officer.” (http://www.word-detective.com/101404.html)
It’s not an especially flattering term, despite James Garner’s portrayal of one in the The Americanization of Emily. It carries a connotation of desperation, an implicit pejorative. On the other hand, it also represents a kind of deep resourcefulness, an ability to solve unexpected problems, an ability to keep a sense of humor in adversity and chaotic environments. It requires a pretty tough character.
Business has often been compared to war, and with good reason. It’s a long strategic slog (see The Art of War, a perennial business favorite) , equal parts preparation and bravery. Carrying it forward to the dog robber metaphor is only a small step.
My point is that clients don’t want what you’ve done for others–they want what you can for them. You have to be a problem-solver. You have to have a framework that will let you figure out things that no one has ever seen before. That’s where value is created–not safely behind the lines, but at the front, where life is messy, trying, dangerous. Clients want dog-robbers.
Lots of people these days say they have the answers. They wrap things up into nice charts with color-coded sections and give you easy-to-follow lists of steps. Social media is still a new world, though, one that rarely holds steady from one day to the next. As Guy Kawasaki noted recently:
We’re still in the Wild West, a long way from science, when it comes to social media. I was reminded of this by a question I was asked as part of a panel at a state economic development summit. One of the young entrepreneurs asked if “going viral” wasn’t a strategy. I tried to explain that the proportion of people who set out to go viral to those who actually do is pretty darned low, so it may be a strategy, but it’s one with a lot of risk. Social media marketing is quickly becoming no different from any other marketing: Always unique, always new, always demanding serious scrap and creativity.
None of this is to suggest that marketing should be anything less than completely, even heroically, ethical. It’s just to say that social media success demands people with a high tolerance for VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity), people whose energy for problems exceeds, in many cases, their common sense. You need fighters in the ring with you. Business isn’t about puppies and rainbows.
Pride gets in the way for many of us. We think that job’s beneath us. We don’t want to get our hands dirty, spend hours sorting through statistics, weeks formulating plans that might or might not work. We want to be stars. Clients don’t need stars, though–they need teammates who will learn their issues and do what it takes to get results.
Who are your favorite dog-robbers? How do you go the extra mile for your clients? How do you keep from bringing too much of your own “experience” to the issues of those you’re working for?