Cast of Downton Abbey

Four Social Media Lessons According To Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess Of Grantham

By Staff Writer
In January 22, 2013
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I have always been a sucker for any period movie, book, or play. So naturally when I happened upon the new PBS Masterpiece Classic hit, Downton Abbey, I was instantly hooked. Downton Abbey has won over many viewers’ hearts and peers’ approval, winning 6 Emmys in 2011 and receiving 16 nominations in three major categories at the 64th annual Primetime Emmy Awards in 2012. PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger attributes the rapid-fire success of Downton Abbey to social media, which has helped the show become one of — if not PBS’s most successful — series. Even Lady Mary’s Eyebrows are tweeting. According to PBS, 7.9 million people tuned in to watch the Season 3 premier of Downton Abbey on January 6th, quadrupling the average PBS primetime rating and blowing the Season 2 premier of 5.4 million viewers out of the water.

One woman in particular who has captured and intrigued viewers everywhere is none other than Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess of Grantham, played by the great Maggie Smith. Old Lady Grantham’s wittiness in which she advises her granddaughters, her humorous approach to conflict and utter disdain for Isobel Crawley and Martha Levinson makes her one fabulous countess. Paula Kerger shares my sentiments as well, rhetorically asking in a recent interview “Can you imagine Downton Abbey without Maggie Smith?” No, me neither.

I have always felt I was born in the wrong era. There is something so charming about this time period. The simplicity and way in which these privileged women carried on may seem frivolous to some, but they took their roles as socialites very seriously and did it with class (well, sometimes). Lady Mary, Lady Edith and Lady Sybil are growing up as privileged young women in an era that is evolving quickly around them, whether they are ready for that change or not. They all may still have their Gossip Girl moments, but Lady Grantham is always there to put them back in their place. Quite similarly, we as marketers are like the Grantham ladies working in the early era of social media as it aggressively progresses itself into the framework of today’s complex marketing structure, changing day by day.

Some marketers are handling it with poise like the countess, while others are making rash decisions in the wake of change, like Lady Sybil (spoiler alert) and her secret plan to elope with the chauffeur. Scandalous! I think we can all take a few lessons from the witty Old Lady Grantham on how to keep it classy as we integrate these new social media tactics into our marketing initiatives.

Just ask yourself, “What Would the Dowager Countess Do?”

What Would The Dowager Countess Do

4 social media lessons according to the Dowager Countess:

Lady Mary and The Dowager Countess

Lady Mary: “Sybil is entitled to her opinions.”
Dowager Countess: “No. She isn’t until she is married. Then her husband will tell her what her opinions are.”

Sounds a bit harsh on the Countess’ behalf, but makes sense when viewed through the social media lens. The Dowager Countess may be the earliest form of a community manager representing her family’s brand name. As the elder in the family, Old Lady Grantham is working to make sure her family’s heritage is upheld and their identity as a whole at Downton Abbey remains in good standing with their relations. She may have her blunt opinions, but she always does what is best for her family to help ease the blow of scandal, rumors and dissension that threatens their family name despite what her actual opinion of the situation may be. This is a great lesson for social media community managers. One key thing community managers need to understand is that while you are a voice of the brand, your personal opinions are not what’s important. It is not about you. It is about the company and its shareholders whom you are representing with each post, like, pin or tweet on the brand’s behalf. You may disagree with your customers’ opinions, political views, or even choice of words, but you need to keep that to yourself. As the keeper of the keys to a brand’s digital identity, you need to check yourself to make sure you are keeping your personal preferences out of the equation. What is best for your brand and your customers comes first. Every community manager has their own digital identity, as well. And protecting your own digital identity — your own brand — is just as important.

Cora and Dowager Countess Allies

Cora: “Are we to be friends then?”
Dowager Countess: “We are allies, my dear, which can be a good deal more effective.”

Cora and Violet (The Dowager Countess), the two matriarchs of Downton Abbey, have always had their differences. But when a sticky situation forces them to work together, they realize that their strengths can be an asset to one another rather than an annoyance. When they work together, you find Downton Abbey runs much more smoothly. Similarly, social media has been seen as an enemy to many other traditional marketing platforms that have refused to accept and incorporate it, Newsweek being a prime example. This invisible struggle has hindered both media from reaching their full potential. Marketers need to strike an even balance that allows social media to enhance traditional efforts — and vice versa — to give brands the best opportunity for success. We need to view social media as an ally to our traditional efforts and put it to work for us in a way that creates synergy. Some use the 80/20 rule, but I think finding the right mix of tactics really depends on your product and industry. Social media is not a silver bullet. Marketers need to test, measure, adjust and repeat to reap its reward. Identify your audience, their habits and needs and create a strategy that reaches them where it counts, with both the right message and the right medium.

What is a Weekend

Dowager Countess: “What Is a Weekend?”

What’s 9-5? As a lady of privilege the Dowager Countess’s responsibilities are constant. She has an image to uphold around the clock. As a social media marketer, when you pack up your bags and shut your computer down, most of your customers are logging into their mobile devices or home computers to check in to their dinner location, tweet about their day, do a little Pinterest browsing and catch up on what they may have missed during the work day. The reality of working in social media is that your customers’ most active times may be your “chill time.” Customer activity peak-times vary from brand to brand (you should learn yours). As a social media practitioner, you need to be prepared at all times. Social networks do not sleep nor care about your hair appointment this Friday at 7 p.m. This is extremely important as social media customer service continues to evolve and become a standard that customers in every industry are beginning to expect on a more immediate basis. So really, what is a weekend when you work in social media? It is a break from the office, perhaps, a Sunday brunch or even a little time to squeeze in a much needed workout. But let’s not kid ourselves — our jobs as community managers mean that our minds are always somewhere with our brands social media accounts, no matter what day or time it is.

Lady Grantham, Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawley

Dowager Countess: “You are quite wonderful the way you see room for improvement wherever you look. I never knew such reforming zeal.”
Mrs. Crawley: “I take that as a compliment.”
Dowager Countess: “I must’ve said it wrong.”

The Dowager Countess and Isobel Crawly have never really seen eye to eye on things. Mrs. Crawley has a knack with sticking her nose in everyone’s business, especially Old Lady Grantham’s. And the Dowager Countess is sure to let her know how annoying it is each time it happens. Often, we as marketers get distracted by what other tactics people are doing, shiny objects and buzz words our industry constantly produces. If you follow any leading digital and social media publications, you know that our industry changes on a daily basis (sometimes hourly when it comes to Facebook). We need to remember to stay grounded and get the basics down pat before we start entertaining all of the bells and whistles. There will always be room for improvement in our industry and the learning will never stop. If we fail to get a solid framework in place, our attention to detail and results will end up suffering. This does not mean we should ever stop staying abreast of what is going on in the industry; that is required. But what you do need to do is pick and choose your battles wisely. Some things need to be improved right away while other things can simmer on the backburner. Our time as digital marketers is very precious and we need to know how to manage it efficiently. There will always be room for improvement; the key is to know what should be a priority.

Social media and the way in which it integrates with traditional marketing will continue to evolve. The evolution is less important compared to how we as marketing professionals deal with it. Will we conduct ourselves with poise like The Dowager Countess or will we make rash decisions that make us look as immature as the other three women of Grantham?

Remember to ask yourself, WWTDCD – “What Would The Dowager Countess Do?”

Staff Writer

So who is this mysterious staff writer? Could be anyone really, as long as they meet our very strict criteria. 1) Worked with us in one capacity or another. 2) Have something pretty interesting to say. 3) Want to use our blog to say it. See? Told ya they were strict!