On Social Media Marketing and Lessons Learned from Alice in Wonderland

Once upon a time, there was a business named Alice. Alice had lots of marketing avenues to explore, and one day, while Alice was pondering her next marketing move, she saw a White Rabbit. The White Rabbit was talking to her, but much of it was non-nonsensical, Alice was intrigued, so she began to follow the talking White Rabbit, until she found herself falling into an endless, cavernous rabbit hole, when she finally stopped falling, she found herself in another world.Wonderland, also known as Social Media.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how social media compares to Alice in Wonderland. If you’re up for a journey – join me on the exploration of Alice, the business, in the Wonderland of Social Media and what we can learn from Alice’s experience.

The White Rabbit:

In our story, the White Rabbit is the elusive and often confusing customer; yet the White Rabbit is the key to much of our story. Alice followed the White Rabbit into the rabbit hole without knowing where she would land or whether the White Rabbit wanted her there.Further, she wasn’t even sure it was a rabbit!

The Moral of the Story:

Before you follow the White Rabbit, talk with him some more. Yes, your customers are PROBABLY using social media platforms everyday, but before you follow them into the rabbit hole, find out which platforms they are using and how.  Determine who you’ll be talking to in social media; current customers, potential customers, people who don’t know you? Once you know WHO, then you can decide HOW (platform) and WHY (content) you’ll be conversing with them. Be prepared to test the market, and don’t be afraid to fail. Even when you fail, you’ll learn something: just like Alice in Wonderland.

Be Prepared to LISTEN to the White Rabbit: The White Rabbit isn’t all jibberish, in fact, if you listen closely and ask some questions, your White Rabbit customer will tell you exactly what they think and feel. Unlike the White Rabbit, your customers are NEVER late, in fact, they are right on time. While the White Rabbit can sometimes be perceived as rude, this is often because he feels threatened. If your customers are rude to you in the social sphere, as why.

Eat Me/Drink Me:

Alice finds herself in a room. There is a cake that implores her “EAT ME” and a small bottle that instructs her to “DRINK ME”. Alice does both. When she eats the cake, she grows so huge that her head hits the ceiling. When she drinks the elixir in the bottle, she grows too small.

The Morals of the Story:

Be prepared for unintended results and stay flexible and dynamic within your social media program.  EAT ME and DRINK ME have similar if opposite effects (that Lewis Carroll guy was a wiley one), much like the cake and the elixir (hence forth known as the kool aid). In Alice in Wonderland, Alice learns the effects of shrinking and growing over and over, its a regular ground-hog day experience. Instead of rushing into it, learn to embrace measured, strategic social media maturity rather than explosive growth.

Tactics vs. Strategy: Simply following directions (EAT ME/DRINK ME) means you are employing tactics in Wonderland (Social Media), but you haven’t mapped out your plan. Strategies are created with tactical ingredients. Don’t drink the kool aid until you know the ingredients – got it?

The EAT ME Conundrum: Occasionally, a company who is jumping into social media will get lucky and land in the viral vortex. Viral is good. But without a strategy, there’s no second chapter and you won’t be prepared to capitalize on the opportunities of getting lucky right off the bat. Getting too big before your ready is in many ways worse than starting small.

The DRINK ME Reality:  More often than not though, businesses feel frustrated by how small they feel when they drink the social media kool-aid and aren’t flooded with fans and followers. Building up your social media presence will almost definitely take time. Allow yourself time to grow.

The Cheshire Cat:

Truly a character this one. All smiles and teeth and gums with no body to show for it..until he wants you to see him, yet he seems practically omniscient.

The Moral of the Story: The Cheshire Cat is like a social media program without human characteristics, except a cheesy smile. Who can trust that crazy cat? That’s how PEOPLE view MARKETERS. Let your community see the whole Alice, even with your idiosyncrasies (how DO you keep your hair perfect on this grand adventure?). Tell your story. As your community learns to trust YOU, they’ll see that you’re real and no Cheshire Cat, this will make relationships easier to develop. Real is better. The real real, not the real you’re used to polishing, brushing and over airbrushing…leave that “real” in the advertising world where it belongs.

The Mad Hatter Tea Party:

Alice stumbles upon a tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter and a range of other curious characters. All of the characters are very sure of themselves and quiz Alice with nonsensical riddles. Alice gets frustrated and leaves, saying it was the stupidest tea part she’d ever attended.

The Moral of the Story:


The Tea Party Culture: No, I am not talking about the political movement – I am talking about the distinctive styles with which social media uses communicate; this can be abbreviations, shortened links or simply expectations. The social media sphere is a culture onto its own, with mores and expectations, moreover, each platforms users have unique expectations and communication styles. These communication styles make perfect sense to the users, but if you’re new to the social media sphere, it can seem baffling and create the very frustration Alice experienced. Before stomping off from the “stupidest tea party ever”, be sure to ask yourself if you are making the most of the communities in which are participating; for that matter, ask yourself what you are CONTRIBUTING that is of value.

The Mad Hatter: This guy has a tea party all day, every day because its perpetually tea time in his non-time world. Confused? Yep. But the Mad Hatter is sort of like lots of so-called social media experts who are experts because it is the thing to be. These same people were mortgage brokers 8 years ago. Ask your social media consultant to speaker YOUR language and help you interpret the social media’s language. And, ask your social media expert to be a professional, not just the one wearing the biggest hat.

The Queen of Hearts:

The Queen of Hearts likes croquet, but only played her way: with hedge hogs and flamingos.Quick to solve problems through her favorite order: “Off with their heads!”

The Moral of the Story:

Slow to change and stuck in her ways, the Queen of Hearts represents those who are unwilling or unable to rule Wonderland without screaming “off with their heads!”. When social media platforms or communities don’t behave the way marketers expect or want, its easy to call it quits. Instead, this should represent Alice’s opportunity to consider her presence in Wonderland and the curious White Rabbits that she’s reaching.  Ironically, the Queen of Hearts has a hard time actually executing the Cheshire Cat because she can’t find the body, only the head. Alot of marketing is this way – its hard to make heads or tails of it – but social media is a continuum and if your real and strategic, you’ll be able to find both the head AND the tail.

Sometimes the Queen of Hearts is an angry customer, taking out their frustrations in the social media sphere. When the Queen is venting, sometimes you have to address it, sometimes you don’t. But what ever you choose, remember, the Queen isn’t likely to stop screaming unless you give her a head, or at least a nod.

So – what do you think? Do you agree or disagree with this comparison?