5 Social Media Lessons Learned from Buddy the Elf

by Monday, December 5, 2011
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UPDATE: At the time of my recent update to my website, I was scrolling through my blog posts and stumbled across this one. Many social media articles have expiration dates… after all, the landscape is constantly changing. Nonetheless, this one still makes me laugh, and is still amazingly relevant today, even 7 years after it was written. So take a moment to learn, and of course enjoy these hilarious clips of Will Ferrell playing Buddy the Elf.

December 5, 2011: I have 3 favorite holiday movies: “Miracle on 34th Street”, “A Christmas Story”, and “Elf”. I especially love “Elf”… really, how quotable is that movie?  I’ve seen it so many times with my kids, and I laugh every time.  However, with the holidays approaching, I realized that even with his simplistic ways, Buddy the Elf can actually teach us quite a few things about social media:

(1)  Be friendly.

“Does someone needs a hug!”  Who can forget the scene between Buddy and the rabid raccoon?

Actually, Buddy’s friendliness is a great value in social media.  Because it’s so easy for somebody to bad mouth you/your company and really hurt your reputation, Buddy reminds us to be nice.  Mari Smith recently taught us (during her excellent webinar) that the sweetest sounding word in any person’s vocabulary is their own name, so you should use it often. And she also reminded us that it’s a good idea to thank your fans.  Buddy would probably really like Mari!   And don’t forget to smile.  “Smiling’s my favorite!”

(2)  Numbered lists.

I love the way Buddy classifies the four main food groups commonly eaten at the North Pole by elves. Actually, Buddy does something that I see in a lot of articles about social media… he provides a numbered list!  When I go on Twitter, the posts that get the most clicks are those that have numbered lists in the title.  For some reason, we all like these articles… we know exactly what we’re getting and how long they will probably last.

(3)  Consistency is Important.

“This is the North Pole.”  “No it’s not.”  “Yes it is.”  “No it’s not.”  “Yes it is.”  “No it isn’t.” Of course, this exchange goes on for quite a while, and probably if I had been Buddy’s boss at Gimbel’s, I would have wanted to give this guy the boot (even though he didn’t actually work there).  But Buddy has a consistent message and he sticks to it.  In social media, it’s important for customers to know they can rely upon businesses to treat them in a certain way.  People can be confused by a brand’s message if the message isn’t consistent.

(4)  Authenticity Counts.

Santa tells Buddy that in New York, there’s like 30 places calling themselves Ray’s Pizza, but the one that’s real is on 11th Street. Another similar moment happens when Gimbel’s brings out their store Santa Claus, and Buddy realizes he isn’t the real Santa.

“You sit on a throne of lies.”  This reminds me that in social media, we need to be transparent and genuine.  Don’t pretend to be something that you’re not. Don’t call yourself something that you’re not! Oh yes, and another moment that reflects that sentiment… when Buddy excitedly walks into a restaurant and congratulates them for having the world’s greatest cup of coffee (after all, it said so on the sign outside the shop)! Who says stuff like that about themselves? Oh wait, let’s not go there. (Speaking of which, I hate it when people call themselves social media experts.  I tell my clients, “We are all students here.” Frankly, there’s very few of us out there who truly are experts!)  People will see right through you and let others know that you’re not the real McCoy.

(5)  Think before you speak.

My first exposure to Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister, my favorite character in HBO’s “Game of Throne” series (for which he won an Emmy) came in the movie “Elf.”  I also loved him in both the British and American versions of “Death at a Funeral.”  This is a guy who knows he is vertically challenged and allows people to laugh along with him.

Except not in “Elf”, when he plays a powerful children’s author named Miles.  When Buddy sees him, he mistakes Miles for one of Santa’s elves and asks why he’s not at the North Pole.  Miles takes umbrage at the comments, causing Buddy to call him “an angry elf.” Apparently, this is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  Likely, Buddy is just too simple to realize the implications of his comments.  Nonetheless, Buddy teaches us to think before speaking… once you say (or send) something in social media, it’s out there forever (just ask Anthony Weiner). Here’s the full “Angry Elf” clip for your viewing pleasure.

3 Responses
  • Al Eddy
    December 5, 2011

    Great post we can really learn from anything if we keep our eyes open and most important thing is to DO not just learn them.

    • ProjectSocial
      December 5, 2011

      Thank you Al, you’re right… we can always learn something from any situation!

  • Jim Dougherty (@leaderswest)
    December 9, 2011

    YES! 5 Social Media Lessons Learned from Buddy the Elf via @projsocial http://t.co/bUH3oxcO

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