What Don Draper Can Teach You About Social Media

Warning: Mad Men season four spoiler alert ~ In the season four premiere of Mad Men, Don Draper puts the new agency in jeopardy when he refuses to open up during an interview with Ad Age. His lack of candour gives the reporter nothing to work with. This leads to a bland article that fails to distinguish Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce from every other agency and causes a falling out with a key client.

Although Don is forward-thinking in his campaigns, he failed to recognize the importance of the interview and how the PR could affect the agency. He put his need to guard himself ahead of the needs of his colleagues, his clients and even the Ad Age readers.

Don’s reluctance to be transparent reminds me of today’s executives who are still hesitant to adopt social media.

Perhaps these executives are used to having tight control over their brands and are reluctant to make themselves open for public critique. However, the critiques will happen – regardless of whether you’re using social media or not. Consider how you will look if people talk about your company on the social web and you have no way to respond.

Here are three things Don Draper can teach you about social media:

  1. Transparency is key – Don learned a big lesson about transparency in the season four opener. To save his image, he had to overcome his desire to remain aloof and open up to the public. The importance of transparency also applies to social media today. People will relate to you better if they get to know you as a person – not just as a brand or logo. Social media allows you to build your reputation by engaging in public conversations with your audience.
  2. You can get a second chance – Although Don mangled his interview with Ad Age, he had the opportunity to redeem himself during an interview with The Wall Street Journal. When you’re active on social media, you can also create your own second chances. You can immediately respond to criticism and turn negative publicity into something positive.
  3. Tell a good story – Don’s first interview bombed because it wasn’t memorable. During his second interview, Don changed tactics and told a compelling story that would get everyone talking about his agency. He recognized that people remember and share good stories. Today, you can tell your stories through social media. The more compelling the story, the more word-of-mouth you will generate.

What do you think? Is Don’s experience in the season four premiere relevant to marketing professionals today? If Mad Men took place in 2010, would Don blog and tweet?

Rachel Foster

7 thoughts on “What Don Draper Can Teach You About Social Media

  1. In 2010, Don Draper would be an avid twitter user and would leverage his extraordinary talents to draw followers to his agency. Memorable stories and tweets would give SCDP an edge in a very crowded marketplace. Agree that ‘transparency’ is key and Don missed an ideal interview opportunity with the leading industry trade publication of its time: Ad Age. Of course, Ad Age is still very relevant today (particularly adage.com). Don would find that Twitter would be an invaluable new business tool.

    Mark Burgess

  2. Great post, Rachel!

    I believe the one threat to social media being holistically embraced is insecurity. There has never been so much of it floating around the higher echelons of corporations.

    C-suites are flooded with egos finessed only on hollow promises and track records based on yesterday achievements. This is the problem.

    When few CEOs and CMOs are willing to take risks for the future of the enterprises they serve, it is little surprise to me that they have a hostile tendency towards things that could potential compromise their wafer-thin reputations.

    Yet industry today more than ever needs visionaries and strategists with a proclivity for change.

    Let’s hope Don Draper can inspire those of his ilk in the real world with his new-found adaptability and agility to evolve.

  3. Hi Mark – Yes, I can see Don on Twitter. He’d make SCDP a social media legend.

    Hi Dave – Thanks for the feedback. Perhaps the insecurity is also fear of letting the public have more control over their brands.

    Hi Aaron – Thanks! I’m glad you liked the post.

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