Fear Factor

S-s-social m-media?  Gulp!

"S-s-social m-media? Gulp!"

“(The) only thing we have to fear is fear itself”

– Franklin D. Roosevelt

Corporations are still afraid of social media.

Most of them won’t admit it, so they start talking about the cost benefit analysis, metrics and measurement and value propositions.  While measurement and benefits are important – they should not be the overriding reasons on whether or not to use social media.

There are exceptions, of course.  Not every company is afraid.  And it isn’t as if the fear is completely ungrounded.  Corporations are all to aware of what happened to United Airlines and Domino’s Pizza.  But they also tend to look at the negative rather than the positive.  There are many companies that have used social media for incredible results, including Burger King, Starbucks, Zappos, IBM, and Sun Microsystems.

Corporate fear of social media fall into two primary camps.

First are those who dismiss the social media as a movement happening on the fringe – or elsewhere.  This is the camp that pretend as if their own customers and prospects live inside a walled castle protected by a deep, shark-infested moat completely devoid of social networking sites.

They say things like: “Our customers don’t Twitter.”

Until, of course, you show them that they do.

The second camp is in the grip of analysis paralysis.  They know they should be doing something in social media, but they don’t know where to start.  Their companies are so enormous that the idea of trying to get buy in from everyone and develop an overarching social media strategy seems daunting – if not down right impossible

These are the people who know they are walking on a tightrope and are terrified that while they dawdle something will break on a social media channel and they’ll be left holding the bag.

Not a good feeling.

So what can these two camps do to overcome the fear?  Here are three suggestions.

1. Listen

Start monitoring social media channels.  Start with the most common and popular networks – YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.  See what people are saying about your brand and products.  You’ll be surprised at the level of passion – on both sides of the aisle (negative and positive).  And here’s the great part: you can’t get in trouble for listening.  When you’re ready you can start to really analyze and measure the conversations that are happening.  There are plenty of free tools to do so and many really great and more in-depth products as well.

2. Get Educated

There are more social media blogs, online publications and books that you can shake a stick at.  Find and read them.  There are lots of good ones.  Try Chris Brogan or Social Media Explorer.  Read one of Paul Gillin’s books.  The more you understand – the less daunting and complicated social media becomes.  In fact, the smarter you get about it, the more excited you become about the potential it has.

3. Start Slow

Create a pilot program around a specific campaign.  Start an evangelist program on Twitter.  Start a blog commenting program.  Create a Flickr page for you company.  Write a social media press release.  There are literally dozens of ways to begin using social media that doesn’t encompassing convincing the entire company to get on board first.  But be flexible.  Realize that you are experimenting and that mistakes are natural – and easily corrected.

There’s nothing to be afraid of!  Come on in.  The water is fine.

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