Ours is one of the nearly 73 million American households that own a dog. Lucy, who is six, is of indeterminate lineage but can pass for a golden retriever if you don’t look too closely.
Although I’ve had numerous dogs during my life, I’ll admit to still being a bit unclear about the real purpose they serve. Of course I know some breeds are used for hunting and others for herding. I also understand that dogs can provide protection and companionship. But most of those uses for a dog, save perhaps the last, don’t really apply to the typical American dog, or to its utility in a typical American household.
The fact is, dogs chew things up (especially when they are young), go to the bathroom wherever they want (until you teach them otherwise) and cost money throughout their lifespan. So why do people have them? After giving it a lot of thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that the main reason people have dogs is because puppies are cute.
I’ll admit even I am not immune from the inherent cuteness of puppies. Plus they’re playful and happy and cuddly – who wouldn’t want to take one home? And if you’ve ever had a child who fell in love with a puppy, you probably found you had no choice but to take them both home.
Eventually of course, the puppy gets house trained, stops chewing things, learns your routines and grows up. It’s not quite as cute, but you’ve grown attached (or used to having it around in any case) – and there you are, you have a dog.
But while a dog is easier, less stressful and yes, less fun, than a puppy, a dog still requires you to take care of it. It kind of reminds me of social media.
Let’s face it, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and countless other means of online interaction have become the puppies of the corporate communication world. They’re cute – if you will – fun, playful and people like them. Sitting around the company conference table as you plan to embark on a social media program likely (or hopefully) engenders as much enthusiasm among employees as sitting around the kitchen table planning to get a puppy sparks among children.
But those same children who promised, promised, to take care of a puppy are quick to find out just how much work a puppy really is, just as those charged with maintaining a social media program quickly find it requires a good deal of care and feeding as well – something that can be quite a burden if it’s in addition to an employee’s regular job responsibilities.
Like training a dog, a successful social media program requires commitment, consistency and routine. And a good social media program can even do some of the same things as a dog: hunting (for clients and employees), protection (your brand and reputation), and companionship (helping your customers interact with your company).
Still, if you’re not sure, perhaps its best to turn to a professional: a blog or Twitter feed that hasn’t been updated in months looks as bad as an underfed, untrained dog – and can come back to bite its owner where it hurts – right in the bottom line.