Calm on the Surface

By Kyle Hickman

Let’s start with the Analogy of the Duck…

When you see a duck paddling along, all seems calm on the surface. Even if there is a large group of ducks floating along, if you catch them on a quiet morning, it can be a very peaceful viewing experience. Yet, most of us know that ducks are paddling ferociously underneath the water to keep moving. If you were to poke your head underneath the water, you would see a commotion unlike anythingseen on the surface. In my experience, this analogy has been used over and over again for programs of all varieties (leadership programs, student activities, banquets, conferences, etc.). Basically, any event planner knows full well that the Analogy of the Duck corresponds perfectly to their efforts: when you spend weeks, months or even years planning an event, there is always going to be work/chaos behind the scenes, but the folks benefiting from the program do not necessarily need to see it. Therefore, event staff does their best to make sure that everything seems calm on the surface; despite what is going on underneath the water. This ensures that everyone involved has a great experience withoutpotential distractions.

The Duck and Social Media
I recently read an article about social media marketing that raised an important point concerning increased audience engagement. Essentially, when it comes to your audience/followers, it pays to give special access. What do I mean by “special access?” For example, if you are planning a program of some kind, it never hurts to snap a photo of the leadership team working hard behind the scenes. Perhaps you can catch one of your team members putting together a gift package or another while they are moving some staging to prepare for a dinner banquet. This simple notion sends the message to your followers that since they are a part of your network, they will receive special privileges and view what no one else can see.

Notice that I didn’t say a full video/photo perspective of things going on behind the scenes. Social media marketing is no different than what participants in your programs see (or lack thereof). If we consider the Analogy of the Duck, then it is highly beneficial to allow others to see that those ducks leg are churning underneath the water. In an attempt to appear as authentic as possible, giving your followers that admittance makes a big difference. Yet, we all know that the behind-the-scenes planning of events is not necessarily a collection of smooth operations. Many times, emotions get revved up, plans don’t go as intended, and things can get a little out of hand. Your audience does not need to see that; it can take away from the purpose of the experience.

Most groups, organizations, and companies only show half of their duck (the calm half). Everyone has the other half but most choose not to advertise it. However, people are curious beings and they love to see the bottom half of the duck whenever possible. Giving periodic glimpses to the magic behind-the-scenes develops trust and loyalty in a fan base. It says to your followers: “…we don’t have anything to hide. Here is a sneak peek of our operations.” Plus, it gives a more authentic look at that group, organization or company. Obviously, you need to be careful about what you post on social media. On the other hand, for any group trying to become a force in social media, understanding and utilizing the Analogy of the Duck can lead to a deeper level of audience engagement and a heightened sense of trust and authenticity.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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