Listen To This: We All See The Board, But What Game Are You Playing?
Listen To This: We All See The Board, But What Game Are You Playing?
Listen To This: We All See The Board, But What Game Are You Playing?

As you can tell from my first six installments of the “Listen To This” series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), I listen to a lot of podcasts. Most of the time, I’m into industry shows (Marketing, Design, Leadership, etc.), but I’ll admit that this week’s inspiration surprised me. I subscribe to a handful of podcasts that I would categorize as Entertainment. I love them, but I love them for being ear candy; their great for making me laugh or think about something other than work. Jay Mohr’s Mohr Stories is one of those shows. With guests that range from musicians to comedians, I often cherish this show for its escape and belly laughs. But inspiration? It happened.

Earlier this week, Jay’s guest J.B. Smoove made me laugh, rewind (several times), and think. He was all over the map, and it was an hour of beautiful chaos. But the moment that stuck with me…in his words:

“Here’s where my rational comes with chess and checkers.
Is it a different board? No.”

Now, there is a world of hilarious confusion preceding this gem (seriously do yourself a favor and start listening at 9:00), and I’m still not quite sure how Jay and JB got there, but the moment was brilliance.

Checkers or Chess

mohrstoriesOn the same board, you could play checkers, or you could play chess. Honestly, you could play tic-tac-toe or even the squares game. If you really got basic, you could even simply teach colors and patterns. The game pieces change, the players change, the rules change, but the board is the same for everyone.

The board, the foundation of the game, the most visible piece of the game, the entity around which everything else is decided, it’s the same board for all of us. Which kinda feels like an important analogy for all things digital.

The Social Game

Why? Let’s take a real-life example, SME Digital has four primary social properties that we have established and that we work to maintain: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and G+. For those who follow any or all of these outposts, you’ll have noticed a marked difference over the past several weeks. We’re changing up frequency, content types, timing, etc. It’s been a fun process, but it’s not without a purpose.

Our social strategy in 2015 is heavy on testing. We’re using strict methodology and variable isolation to discover what game we should actually be playing. In social, the players change constantly and so do the rules. When we sit at the digital table with our audience, it’s our priority to engage in the healthiest, most beneficial activity possible.

In other words, if we are playing checkers, but our audience is playing chess…no one is getting any value out of the exchange. Everyone involved is wasting their time. And no one wants to play that game.

If we’re playing tic-tac-toe, but our network really wants to play Connect Four, then we have a problem. And that tension and friction will negatively manifest itself in all sorts of ways: awareness, engagement, consideration, and ultimately, customer acquisition and conversion.

Are You Playing The Right Game?

So ask yourself, do you know the rules, which pieces to use, or even the game you should be playing? You can do all sorts of interesting things with the game board that is Facebook or Twitter. But do you know the rules that those on the other side of the table are playing by?

It doesn’t really matter what game you are playing; what matters is the game that your audience is playing. Or at least, what game they want you to play.

Now is a good time to start figuring out whether or not you are even playing by the right rules. All of the best practices, tips, and tricks in the world won’t help you if you show up with the wrong pieces.

So test, ask, isolate, and start mixing things up. In the end, you might just find out you’ve been playing chess with checker pieces. And that is a game that is just crazy hard to win.

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About the Author

Matt Hollowell
Matt is a lifelong student of design, marketing, publishing, and content creation. His passion sits at the intersection of content and design; in fact, you can often find him there with a cup of coffee in one hand and a notepad in the other. As SME's Creative Director, he supports both the brand and clients, which helps to satisfy his lifelong love of never knowing what's coming next. When not at his desk, you'll find Matt serenading his two amazing daughters, reading gritty British poetry, or obsessively listening to podcasts. Send him your podcast reccs here: @mhollowell.

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