Why You SHOULD Be Afraid of Social Media

Posted filed under Media Relations.

Mark Twain once said, “Everybody complains about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” The same might be said of social media in 2009.

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Plenty of companies are looking into it, or inquiring about it, but far too few are taking decisive action. Others are simply afraid of it, but they, too, aren’t doing anything to allay their fears or to address what negativity could arise in the social media realm. Those people and companies SHOULD be afraid, and here’s why:

1.) Like a bad story in the press, it’s happening with or without you. Your employees are using social media…get used to it. Even if you block access at the office, every company has employees on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. Whether they do it from the office, from home, or on their mobile devices, they’re finding it…and engaging in it. Wouldn’t you like to have some level of control, or provide some direction or strategy?

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2.) You’re not monitoring it. Do you have any idea what these employees are saying about your company online? Do you have any idea how they are representing you, as ambassadors to your brand? By simply listing employment in their social media profiles, employees are exposing your brand with every action they take, every comment they post, and every photo/video they upload.

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3.) You still haven’t written your social media policy. Your company has an e-mail and Internet usage policy to curb unseemly behavior. The problem is, none of your employees use e-mail to interact socially anymore. They’re on blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other social media conducting their business. Yet you have given them no parameters within which to operate.

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4.) You don’t want to be social. Sure, your competitors are doing it, but you don’t want to follow, right? You don’t yet understand it, and you don’t yet grasp what can be gained from exposing your company to the public. Too late. It already is.

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5.) You don’t have a strategy. Many companies are jumping in feet first, setting up Twitter accounts, Facebook fan pages and LinkedIn profiles, with zero purpose nor objectives they wish to accomplish. They read Time Magazine or watch the Today Show and see that everyone and every company is joining Twitter so they figure, “Me, too!” One of two things will result: you will give up or will you see absolutely no results…or both. After all, how can you measure success if you haven’t defined metrics for gauging it?

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6.) You don’t have the resources. Effective social media initiatives are work. Honestly, you probably don’t have the man hours to devote to something completely new and misunderstood. Tweeting out “status updates” is not a corporate Twtitter strategy. Engagement is. Presence management is. Relationship mining and building is. All of which takes time. And you need someone to dedicate their time to it. If someone already wearing three hats is your go-to person, you will have difficulty sustaining any meaningful effort.

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7.) No one is minding the store. You have the grandest plans to establish a series of outposts—YouTube, Facebook, Twitter—all driving traffic back to….where, exactly? Your site hasn’t been updated in years, your blog is non-existent, and you have no compelling presence on the Web to direct traffic back to. What you own on the Web is what you can control, and ultimately where you will move constituents from the relationship-building phase to the sales cycle. Social media is not a hunting realm; it could be better defined as gathering. Gathering information, feedback, discussion, brand trust, forging new relationships and fostering existing ones.

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8. Someone might say the wrong thing. You may have a negative comment on your blog. Your employee may post something online you’d prefer not to have published. You may find out that your customers are unhappy. If all of this scares you, stay put. Avoid social media. But if that excites you—the opportunity to respond directly to negative feedback, the chance to publicly correct misconceptions, the idea of creating a hub for such activity, so you can be an active participant in the discussion, the notion of discovering, real time, where your brand stacks up and how you can improve relationships with constituents—then social media is for you.

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9. Your CEO is boring. Good. Then keep him out of it. Many assume that it is corporate leadership who should be the faces and voices of the company online. In fact, this is rarely the case. For one, they don’t have the time. Two, someone is usually telling them they have to do it, and they aren’t truly all that engaged. There are quite often far more more passionate personalities elsewhere in the organization. They should be your social brand ambassadors.

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10. It’s a fad. Social media will be here today, gone tomorrow, right? Well, take a look around you. Ask your 20-something employees what they are doing online. They are the decision makers of tomorrow.  Take a look at traditional media’s presences online, with their comments sections, media-rich storytelling, and story sharing capabilities. All media is social media…now (to a degree) and in the future.

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It’s true: social media is not for everyone, or for every company. Make sure you’ve thought about all of the above before diving in. And be sure to do it for all of the right reasons and with all of the proper strategy, personnel, metrics and tools in place.

This wonderful post was written by

Andrea Bogos Trapani is partner at Identity, responsible for the growth and management of the firm’s media relations and marketing practice area. Andrea specializes in public relations, media relations and marketing strategies.

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