What Ron Washington, Yogi Berra and ‘Fargo’ Can Teach Us About Social Media
‘That’s the way baseball go.’ ‘It ain’t over ’til it’s over.’
Ron Washington, the Texas Rangers Manager, and Yogi Berra, respectively, play with words to inform while keeping their teams engaged. Wash’s succinct English transformation is a ‘rallying cry’ for the Texas Rangers as they take on the San Francisco Giants in the World Series.
Wash’s quote has become wildly successful viral, if unintentional, exercise in marketing that companies are always looking for to drive brand awareness, engagement or whatever social media buzz word they are watching. He has even spawned the obligatory listing of Wash-isms here.
Literati Get It Wrong, Yet Again
During different times for the Rangers, however, the grammarians of the Dallas area have criticized Wash’s diction, summed up in a Cowboy’s blog that the Cowboys are now slightly more likely to play a home Super Bowl than:
. . Texas Rangers’ skipper Ron Washington speaking the King’s English in a post-game press conference.
Saying You Are Right Doesn’t Make You Right
Social Media is generally thought of as a conversational media; therefore effective communication is only enabled by the ability to process and then respond such that the coding matches the intended audience.
Being a ‘know nothing know it all’ only proves that you are just what you are to your customers.
What the learned critics of Wash’s elocution miss are two key points:
The events of July 4, 1776:
. . .That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; . . .
Here in Real America we don’t care what the king, or any other monarch for that matter, has,is, or ever will be thinking about the way any of us speak.
Perhaps is is British red, white and blue that Texans bleed?
Spanish has the Real Academia Española, an official body to regulate what they consider standard Spanish; the members of the French L’Académie française even have uniforms. Mandarin Chinese, German and other linguistic regulators are available here.
English? American English?
No Central Authority
Numerous Regional Dialects
English, particularly American English, is a template for Social Media. We don’t prescribe a particular manner of speech, rather we describe and at times celebrate those differences. The advent of Television was thought to endanger regional or dialectical differences in America . . . yeah, that didn’t happen.
Social Media Enables Transformation
Are those pronounced the same to you?
Used to be for most of America, however not so much anymore.
The largest change in the English language since moving from Middle to Modern English, yes pre-1750 England, is still taking place after the advent of TV right here in America. The Northern Cities Vowel Shift in the Upper Midwest of the US is an incredible phenomena dramatically changing spoken English in that area. Think ‘Fargo’ and you have the idea.
Expecting your customers to tweet or share on Facebook in Standard American English, or even worse correcting them because they use a dialect, is not listening to what they are saying. It is listening to what they are saying if you like the way they say it.
Tom Brokaw may be a a good example of a Standard American English speaker, but the region inclusive of that dialect is not large or largely populated.
Get ready for the different dialects of American English by reviewing the list here.
An excellent introduction into the regional dialects of America is the documentary ‘Do You Speak American?’. Taking from the documentary, for example, the use of Instant Messaging by African American teens in North Carolina:
MHSballa: well im gonna go so i’ll talk to u lata
A Recent Tweet:
_andBeautyKills: – after tonight, don’t leave your boy roun’ me, umma #true playa fareal.
Imagining the IM’s or tweet spoken by Wash in enables instantaneous comprehension of the tweet; the ability to seamlessly code switch is something that you should require from social media experts. If you aren’t getting it, imagine what you could be missing . . .
‘Social Media Metrics’ by Jim Sterne, an overview of the current Social Media landscape, mentions the ‘Evolution: The Eight Stages Of Listening’ blog post in which Jeremiah Owyang lays out the Social Media listening maturity model.
Implicit throughout Jeremiah’s model is having the ability to code-switch, ultimately on the fly. My initial review of the tools has not proven this ability.
If your goals include things like improved customer satisfaction and sales growth it is critical to be able to communicate with them in a productive manner that values them as individuals. Without the ability, Social Media efforts may prove difficult and even be misconstrued.
The Future Of History Past
What was the first American government document translated from English into another language?
Declaration of Independence, German, July 9, 1776
Translated and published for the benefit of the German speaking community living in Philadelphia at the time of the Revolution, America has been multi-lingual since 1776.
If your firm is undertaking Social Media, planning for engagement with regional dialects opens a host of problems from the tools used to team members and potentially even corporate buy in.
Things to think about are:
- Does my Social Media team include people who can code switch?
- Do I have an understanding what dialectical segments make up my customers and potential customers?
- Have I defined target segments in terms of the dialect which they would use to describe themselves?
- Have I done the same for how they would describe my company?
- Does my current tool only capture Standard American English?
- Am I missing my target audience because my tool is improperly implemented?
- Any questions, email me.
Look for an update with data shortly.