I do understand that this post seems highly gimmicky. But this is something I prepared as a presentation for a friend who wanted to teach the basics and sanitize one of her client teams. I knew for a fact that the team appreciates and loves Seinfeld and assumed that using analogies from the incredibly funny show may help them understand some of social mediaâ??s basics in a considerably better way than just listing them plainly. The fact that I happen to be a long-time Seinfeld fan helped too! Hereâ??s the altered (top 20, instead of the original top 5), plain text version.

1. Season 1: The Stakeout

Jerry and George discussing on how they’ll start the discussion with Vanessa, the woman Jerry met at a birthday party earlier and doesnâ??t know the name of yet. George ‘wants’ to be introduced as an architect named Art Vandelay! I love the discussion on why George should/ should not be an architect and dig that name, Art Vandelay. The subsequent discussion on import/ export is awesome too!

Social media lesson!
No alter-egos in social media. If you’re bent on using one, please include a disclosure statement explaining your true identity. If your brand has online presence, make it easier for people to have a conversation with a set of people who manage the discussion on behalf of the brand – akin to a voice of the brand. In Facebook, for instance, you could assign a few people as moderators of a fan group. Twitter profiles could sure do with some personalization too. Social media is about people and while brands do have a fabulous role to play, my opinion is that making a brand personal by having a human interact on behalf of the brand works significantly better.

2. Season 2: The Pony Remark

Jerry and Elaine attend a dinner where his observation on children having pet ponies goes completely wrong and offends the guest of honor! Seinfeld’s remark on children owning ponies is typical Seinfeld, over the top, hilarious observation!

Social media lesson!
Honestly, itâ??s far more easier to offend huge groups of people in social media! Online etiquette, beyond all caps and smileys, are not that prevalent. ‘Have opinion, will air’ is the mantra for the social media generation. As an owner of a brand, you may perhaps offend a group of people inadvertently, but what is important is how you pick up the pieces and behave, post that situation. More than an offensive (or inappropriate) remark, your/ your brand’s long term intention will be judged based on what you say after that remark.

3. Season 2: The Phone Message

George goofs on an invitation by his girlfriend and makes things progressively worse by leaving abrasive messages. He gets a chance to prevent her from reading it, by getting Jerry to replace the tape! The actual messages George leaves in a completely warped assumption and the scene at the girlfriend’s apartment where George distracts her while Jerry replaces the tape, and the subsequent revelation is a classic!

Social media lesson!
Itâ??s quite difficult to remove your online traces. The same applies to conversations others have about your brand. So, no point in fretting over a particularly abusive post/ comment/ tweet. But guess what? The person who is likely to see that particular post also has a chance to read the other side of the story – in all probabilities, yours! So, you do have an opportunity to balance things out by posting, in a sane, neutral tone, about why you felt that the post was wrong. Internet is indeed the great leveler! You need to be very careful about the content of your follow-up post though.

4. Season 2: The Heart Attack

George assumes he has had a heart attack while all he needs is a tonsils removal procedure. He listens to Kramer and goes to a holistic healer. The healer and his antics are incredibly funny, and the concoction he gives George turns him purple!

Social media lesson!
The social media world is full of holistic consultants! And there are tons of opinions on how you should engage your brand in the social media. But…before you hire/ talk to any one of them, try a simple 10 day listening program all by yourself. Use a combination of Google alerts, RSS feeds and Twitter RSS streams to understand who/ what is being discussed about your brand and its universe/ vertical. This will help you sound knowledgeable in front of the consultant and will work as a fantastic negotiating tool too! You’ll also know if you should be drinking the green juice the consultant (healer!) gives you!

5. Season 3: The Cafe

Jerry tries to be nice to Babu Bhatt, a Pakistani cafe owner, down the street. The idea completely backfires and Babu is sent back to his country! Brian George plays Babu Bhatt and trumps Jerry in many scenes – super funny, despite typically silly racial stereotypes.

Social media lesson!
You may be behind a big, well-known brand but when you enter the social media sphere you are not helping anybody. Itâ??s a conversational stream and you’re merely yet another participant. What you offer, in terms of an opinion or a deal, is not a favor – it becomes a social transaction and may result in a business transaction to the benefit of your brand. Your arrival in the social media conversation is as important as what you say – your mere presence is not important. You need to be helpful and add value in the participants’ life – else, instead of Babu, you’ll be back in your country of origin!

6. Season 3: The Alternate Side

The line, ‘These pretzels are making me thirsty’ should say it all! Kramer gets a small role in a Woody Allen film and this is his line. Everyone tries their hand at how this line should be delivered and end up delivering it as an adjective for various other situations!

Social media lesson!
Right now, there’s no defined right way to start engaging with the social media on behalf of your brand. Seriously! What seems to work, is indeed the right way. You created a Facebook fan page and not many seem to be joining? Don’t fret. Take a look at answering the ‘what’s in it for me’ question from the point of view of users. We’re talking real people here and to get their time and attention, your brand better have something arresting in the Facebook group. Try offering the audience what you think they need – try different things. The one that works is perhaps the right thing to offer. You donâ??t need Woody to teach you how to enact ‘These pretzels are making me thirsty’!

7. Season 3: The Suicide

A psychic (a pregnant one, at that!) warns George that he should go on his vacation to the Cayman Islands but doesnâ??t tell him the reason! George is so paranoid that he follows her through the pregnancy and child birth and almost helps her deliver the child!

Social media lesson!
If you have someone with the tag, ‘social media consultant’ he/ she better explain what they’re doing and why. If the advice is to start speaking to a particular blogger, you must insist on knowing, ‘why that blog/ blogger’ and ‘why not x, y or z?’. The consultant better have a logical answer. If they donâ??t, you know what they’re worth. Do not go by the ‘trust me, I know what I’m doing’ line. Social media engagement is not rocket science – the consultants can and should explain their methodology and the rationale behind all decisions.

8. Season 3: The Boyfriend (Part 1)

This is my all-time favorite Seinfeld episode. The part where Jerry explains the Keith Hernandez-Kramer-Newman spit story with the JFK twist is a classic. Even more hilarious is the ending when George runs out of the loo, pants down, pleading Kramer to answer the phone as ‘Vandelay Industries’. Jerry’s follow-up line, ‘And he wanted me to hire him as my latex salesman’ is very Jerry!

Social media lesson!
There’s absolutely no harm in referring to social media case studies and adopting an existing idea for your own brand – almost all brands are relatively new in the social media spectrum. We’re here to learn – from others’ experiences and mistakes. So, go ahead and read as much as possible about other brands and how they engage with the social media.

The second part is about having your social media team in sync. Like in PR, where you have a central message that is spoken by as many spokespeople as possible for better recall and reiteration, the social media team definitely needs a larger set of goals and messages that it should speak out, in unison. Having different people in the team utter differing messages (about your brand – not personal opinions) or speak in different tones dilutes your brand’s image within the social media.

9. Season 4: The Ticket (Part 2)

Newman gets Kramer to be his alibi to avoid a speeding ticket and coaches him on what to tell the court. Kramer goes haywire, obviously! Newman’s coaching is the highlight, and the court scenes where Kramer responds to a question from Newman with a ‘Yo yo ma’ is howlarious!

Social media lesson!
You cannot buy your way into social media love. It may work initially, but youâ??ll be caught soon! If you want people to vouch for your product or service, you better offer a decent and worthy product/ service â?? there is just no shortcut. Giving bloggers freebies is not sure-shot way to gain positive word of mouth either â?? they will write what they experience, unless youâ??ve paid them enough to write only good things. But, that would also show how genuine the blogger himself (herself) is. He/ she stands to lose his credibility and hence would not prefer doing your thing, despite big bucks. So, simply put, earn your respect â?? not buy it.

10. Season 4: The Bubble Boy

The entire Bubble Boy saga, though crass, is incredibly laugh-worthy! The intentionally malevolent tone the Bubble Boy takes and his game of trivial pursuit with George is a killer!

Social media lesson!
Your bosses may be sitting inside a huge bubble, but that doesnâ??t mean they’ll not buy your social media story – as long as you propose the whole thing like a fully researched package, including ROI. Yes, calculating ROI in your social media spend is very feasible and any social media consultant worth his name would be able to help you with this – just ask for it! This is all the more relevant when you’re planning to use social media for marketing, over mere PR.

11. Season 4: The Contest

This Emmy winning episode is one of the best in the 4th season! Jerry challenges the other three in a contest of self-denial (the George’sque “you know”) and Jerry dating a virgin (Marla) only makes things worse!

Social media lesson!
Stop living in denial. You and your brand need social media. Forget statistics about how the internet penetration is low in India and how very few people have access to social media. This is the time for you to start building an online presence for your brand and create an online persona by speaking to your target audiences. Start small, but surely start now. The era of top-down communication is almost over – you need to adapt to the period of conversational communication.

12. Season 4: The Old Man

Another brilliant episode! The old man Jerry gets to spend time with, is a cracker and George having a fling with his African housekeeper, besides the Newman-Kramer part on getting his old records for a sale are amazingly funny side tracks!

Social media lesson!
The importance of listening – spend as much time as humanly possible on listening to the conversation about your brand. This is the most important investment, before you begin. In PR circles, we explain this with the parallel of a media list – in PR terms, we have built a rapport with journalists over time and can confidently prepare a media list relevant to a client’s brand/ requirement. A listening program helps us do precisely that, in the social media world. There are just way too many outlets in the social media world that may be talking about your brand or topics that are relevant to your brand – a listening program will help a social media consultant to identify the best ones based on relevance and offer you a list that you can ideally start talking to. Never rush into engagement without a thorough listening phase.

13. Season 5: The Conversion

This is my second all-time favorite episode! The whole facade of George trying to convert to Latvian Orthodox is so incredibly silly and funny! Kramer’s ‘Kavorka’ is an added bonus!

Social media lesson!
Yes, social media looks imposing but itâ??s really very simple. The conversion from conventional PR to conversational PR takes very limited time as long as you set your expectations right after a session with an informed consultant. In this context, it would help if you start small on your own – just go ahead and try your hand. This experience will be of immense help in creating deliverables and expectations from a consultant.

14. Season 5: The Marine Biologist

My single-most favorite scene in any Seinfeld episode – the look on Kramer’s face (lasts almost 30-40 seconds amidst squeals of canned laughter!) when George takes out the golf ball that Kramer had hit into the ocean and the one that was blocking the whale’s breathing 🙂 I ROTFL invariably all the time I watch this scene!

Social media lesson!
When you remove the plug from your communications boombox, you’re likely to be inundated with information/ comments from all sources. Think about it – you were all along communicating, mostly one-way, through controlled media – TV, Radio, print media (via PR) and so on. Now, you’ve literally removed an obstacle that lets people talk back to you and your brand. You’re actually getting real feedback from real people – no marketing segmentation statistics, on which group feels what! Be prepared for this information overload. Any good social media consultant would help you choose a listening tool – paid or free, or can even start building you a customized dashboard that can help you start small and cheap. You could always move to paid, better tools later, based on your requirements.

15. Season 5: The Hamptons

‘You gotto see the baby’ is a refrain heard often on Seinfeld. This episode, they do see the baby in question and its supposedly hideous! The other track on everyone, except George getting a dekko of George’s current girlfriend topless and the subsequent outburst of George on ‘shrinkage’ is a complete cracker!

Social media lesson!
So you have a new blog post and you want people to see it. Please don’t go around posting the link to the new post with the, ‘You gotto see the baby’ tone. That’s the online equivalent of literally shouting at people’s faces in a social gathering. Find out relevant forums which you assume may be interested in your post and plug the post carefully. Add something else that may be of use to that group and add your link as a useful add-on…the point is not to thrust the link on people, but make it seem friendly and useful.

16. Season 6: The Face Painter

Kramer has a face-off with a chimpanzee at the zoo. When the animal refuses to eat, the zoo guys ask Kramer to apologize to him with, “Well, frankly we’d like you to apologize”. Kramer’s is a classic quip, “Yeah, well he started it”. The zoo guy says, “Mr. Kramer, he is an innocent primate”. And the best from Kramer, “So am I. What about my feelings?”! Brilliant!

Social media lesson!
Being indignant doesnâ??t help. Hear others’ opinion, agree to disagree and move on. Social media is full of conflicting and contradicting opinion – itâ??s almost as if people suddenly found a way to talk back to a TV or a radio – so, the explosion of opinions. As a brand owner, be prepared for tons of negative and not so charitable remarks. As always, itâ??s how you react that matters. You can fret and sit in a corner – or you can come to a middle point and work towards taking the feedback in the right light and improve.

17. Season 7: Soup Nazi

My 3rd most favorite episode! The Soup Nazi script is TV legend…itâ??s that brilliant! The Soup Nazi’s mannerisms and the way he runs his business is phenomenal imagination!

Social media lesson!
You better behave in the social media world! In the social media, true democracy exists at least in the form of allowing talk backs. You own a powerful, successful brand? It may not be as powerful in the social media world – itâ??s called peer media sometimes, remember? Itâ??s a place where big brands come down to the level of normal users and start talking in a friendly, non-imposing tone. If you order things around, you’ll be thrown out, collectively.

18. Season 8: Bizarro Jerry

Kramer goes for a 2.0 and joins a company, almost by accident. Of course, he sucks, completely and the side track of him and Jerry behaving like a couple is as awesome! When the company finds that Kramer’s work is terrible, they fire him. Kramer responds with the now-famous, ‘But, I don’t even work here’. The repartee the company’s head is a cult classic that has me thinking on the thought and implications for long…”Thatâ??s what makes it all the more difficult!”

Social media lesson!
Don’t fake your association with any cause or community – can’t do it for long. In fact, don’t fake anything online, because it is simply not sustainable. There are just way too many people looking at you online and the results of exposing a fake by you/ your brand are way too expensive.

19. Season 9: The Strongbox

Kramer and Jerry desecrate a pet cemetery for the keys of Kramer’s strongbox. Enough said! George casually opening the unlocked strongbox in the end is a killer!

Social media lesson!
Sometimes you would have missed the most obvious activity in your social media plan. You may be planning a multi-platform presence for your brand and the easiest and obvious thing could be to just blog. Or, Twitter would do, since yours’ is a time-bound campaign/ activity…but you may have gone all over the web creating entries and posts. Think about what you want to achieve and plan accordingly. More is not better in social media – a carefully planned single mode engagement is sometimes more than adequate.

20. Season 9: The Burning

Kramer and his vertically-challenged friend get to enact ailments in a med school. Kramer does a super gonorrhea act and actually gets typecast! Do I need to say anything more?

Social media lesson!
Getting typecast is good – be known for at least one thing really well. It takes time and effort to be known for one thing in the social media, but it pays off really well. Narrow down all your interests and focus on one – itâ??s the equivalent of a brand promise. Or the first page of the briefing material your PR folks give you with a, ‘If you forget everything else, remember this’! Be a master of that one thing – itâ??s considerably better than knowing many things in smaller quantities. Itâ??s a simple result of social media being social…think about it. We’ve a lot of people and all of them are known for one particular thing – they all fit in the large piece that makes up social media and come together to collaborate and share knowledge. So, find your niche and be an expert!

Key takeaways!

  1. Social media is about people
  2. Be sensitive about what you say
  3. Social media is the great leveler!
  4. Try your hand at social media – yourself
  5. Be genuinely helpful – not imposing
  6. There’s no hard-bound manual – don’t look for it
  7. Seek all possible details from your consultant
  8. Learn from others + Unify all your communications
  9. Earn your respect – you cannot afford to buy it
  10. Get your bosses out of the bubble
  11. Do not underestimate the power of social media
  12. Listening is the most critical activity
  13. Set your own expectations right
  14. Get ready for an information overload
  15. Don’t thrust your point of view
  16. Agree to disagree. And, move on.
  17. Respect your audience – they’re your peers now!
  18. Don’t. Fake. Anything. Ever.
  19. Don’t go overboard – the obvious may be the best
  20. Be really well known for at least one thing

Seinfeld photo courtesy: My Fox Austin



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