Why Seinfeld’s ‘do the opposite’ theory works in social media

Should companies follow in George Costanza’s footsteps and do the opposite? Would the result be even better? Here’s a look.


You remember that “Seinfeld” episode? The one where George lands the job with the New York Yankees? Remember how he got the job? By doing the opposite.

For George, his life had been a series of bad decisions. By simply flipping his thinking and doing the opposite, he had to be right, right?

Real life’s not that easy, obviously. And, in the communications world, life is certainly more complex. But, let’s think about this opposite theory for a minute.

Let’s look at a few approaches to social media tools and strategies, and what would happen if companies did the opposite, just like George:

Initial approach: Let’s write a blog post about the cool new project our engineering department is putting together.

Do the opposite: Write a blog post about the problems this new project solves for your customers from their perspective. In fact, why not give a customer (maybe one who interacts with you regularly on Twitter) an opportunity to interview one of your team members and ask that customer to write a blog post?

Initial approach: Let’s tweet the event one of our partner organizations is facilitating.

Do the opposite: I’d actually go a different direction with this one—maybe not the opposite direction, but stick with me. I’d live tweet the event from your perspective. Put some personality behind it, get some photos at the event, and share some “overheard” quips. By live tweeting the event, you’ll give those who don’t have a chance to attend a glimpse from afar.

Initial approach: Let’s share the viral video our marketing department created on Facebook.

Do the opposite: Viral videos don’t exist. If it really was “viral” you’d have little reason to share it on your Facebook page. Instead, look for the discussion topics your Facebook community actually cares about and play to those. Don’t know what those are? Just ask them! Create content your customers value.

Initial approach: We should share this great research report with our Facebook community.

Do the opposite: Your Facebook community is typically made up of your biggest supporters. In many cases, you don’t have to “convert” them. Instead, create content with that lens on (they’re your biggest fans). For example, one of my clients is a bike advocacy group. On its Facebook page, we typically don’t try to persuade these people to bike more—we assume they already do. Instead, we play to that pride factor-that they are huge bike proponents and want to help us spread the message.

Arik Hanson is principal of ACH Communications. A version of this article originally ran on his blog, Communications Conversations.

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