Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Companies, don't fall for social media's 'fear factor'

In the last 2-3 months I have enjoyed a big spike in the number of companies reaching out to me about my helping them with social media. The majority of these companies tell me the same thing; 'we don't know what we need to be doing with social media, but we know we need to be doing something'.

As the conversation goes on and I ask questions like 'well how do you know you need to be using social media?', or 'do you know if your customers are using social media?', I can sense the fear. The fear that tells them that they have to do something.

And honestly, can you blame them? Even show is suddenly talking about how to contact the hosts on Twitter, or read their blog. It's easy for a company to feel like they've missed the boat.

But 'doing something' isn't the proper response. If these tools are important enough for your company to be using, it's also important enough for you to make sure that you get it right.

So if your company is concerned that you need to do something with social media, pause, take a deep breath, then ask these questions:

1 - Why do you want to use social media? Is it because you've identified an unmet business need that social media helps correct, or because you feel like you HAVE to 'do something'?

2 - Do your customers use social media? If not, that's often a big hint that maybe you shouldn't be either.

3 - Do you have time to devote to social media? Not just today, but from now on? And how many people can work on social media? The amount of time you can devote to social media also influences which tool(s) you should be using.

But the main point is, don't let fear be what prompts you to jump into the social media waters. Even if Oprah and Ashton are on Twitter, that doesn't mean you have to be. Just because Facebook is adding 500K members a day, doesn't mean you have to be one of them.

And if you aren't sure if you need to be using social media or not, feel free to email me and we'll see if we can figure it out together. Deal?

Pic via Flickr user Doug88888


Steve Woodruff said...

Spot on. The other fear factor we encounter her in pharma world, is the constant fear of regulatory transgression, blinding people to the potential opportunities and benefits. In 4-5 years or so, we won't need to have the discussion anymore...

Marcy said...

Good point! Haven't we all said "I have to do something about it - anything" about the newest trends at one point in our life? I guess this goes with social networking/media and companies as well. Since it's all over the place (commercials, talk shows, even your kids talking about it), we tend to feel the need to be involved in it just because everyone is. But this article is great since it talks about KNOWING before hand if it is a NEED or just a want.

C.H. Low said...

Wonderful advice.

But I'd also add that best way to be able to answer these questions is also to at least participate and use lower cost and start with smaller projects to learn.

Doing beats talking in Social media learning curve, I think.

Peter Korchnak said...

Right on, Mack. I've had the same experience with organizations feeling like they're missing the social media boat. It seems some action, whether effective or counter-productive, wins over inaction. How many posts warning against the shiny object syndrome will it take for the tendency to end? Yes, social media is about doing, but having an idea and plan about what you're doing helps.

Mark said...

Phew...took me a bit to figure out why my name wasn't displaying...

Mack...you...and almost every other person who writes about social media has been guilty of promoting this fear of which you speak.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of social media blogs that say something like "if you're not engaging your customers with social media, you're missing out on an opportunity."

Or, "other people in your space are doing it, so you better do it too." Or "if you're not engaging, you're missing the boat."

That's fear-mongering.

As a collective "we", folks in social media have stoked that fear for the past two year like any other marketer because we know that fear in advertising works.

And lo and behold, over the past two years, the use of social media as a marketing venue has skyrocketed.

NOT because of the amazing success stories people have had, because the 800 lb gorilla that social media insiders are all struggling with is how exactly DO you show ROI?

Yes, there have been many fine articles written with some good tips on creative measurement of ROI or RO Value (because we can't quantify the actual benefit),

Unlike traditional marketing techniques, there are no obvious metrics that point to success. And THAT is why business has been slow to adopt.

We, as an industry, have been saying "we know this works, but can't exactly prove it to you, but it's the new, best way to market and if you don't jump in NOW, you're missing out."

Now, enough brands are doing it, so the herd mentality kicks in, so brands DON'T feel like they are missing out.

So....yes. No brand should get involved in social media marketing/ engagement unless they have a plan for what they want to accomplish.

Agree totally.

Let's start telling fewer "how to use social media" stories, MORE stories of actual social media successes.

Let's have more case studies where there was a strategy, an implementation and a win.

Let's have data that shows why it was a win and what it contributed to the bottom line.

To keep it positive, and away from fear, let's see more stories where we can show how to replicate success.

Mack Collier said...

"Mack...you...and almost every other person who writes about social media has been guilty of promoting this fear of which you speak.

There are hundreds, if not thousands of social media blogs that say something like "if you're not engaging your customers with social media, you're missing out on an opportunity."

Mark if you've read my blog posts for any amount of time, you know that I always stress that companies should CONSIDER if social media is try for them, but that should NOT use social media UNLESS it's right for them. In fact I often talk myself OUT of business because companies contact me wanting to 'do something' with social media, and I ask them to back up and make SURE that social media is right for them, before they move forward.

Sorry, you'll never see me say that a company SHOULD be using social media. Check to see if social media is right for them? Absolutely. Do I see some people saying that EVERY company should be using social media, yeah I do, but I see far more people saying they should CHECK to see if social media is right for them.

Allen MacCannell said...

My first advice to any company with such a fear that they should be doing "something" would be the obvious:

"Did you secure your company name yet?"

Because that is where being slow can be really bad.

Unknown said...

The fear factor in social media should really be how to protect yourself from: 1) a social media mishap and 2) from the "dark side" of social media.

We have all heard of the big brand companies who have recently been hit with bad PR due to a youtube video country singer blaming the airline for breaking his guitar or for pizza makers spitting on food in the kitchen. So the fear should not lie in engaging in social media in general, the fear should be of not having a solid "social media engagement team" who has a clear flow chart of steps that they will take if a social media mishap occurs.

Secondly, the other fear factor should be protecting yourself and your employees from the "dark side" of social media. Phishing, Malware etc are all becoming too prevelant on social networking sites.


Krista Goon said...

Hi Mack: You are right. I've seen friends get super scared about not being on facebook or twitter and then getting super excited about starting/signing up and then their accounts fizzle away. Reason? It's too tough to do! Committing to social media means being able to take time to participate. For most people, their day is taken up with everything and anything. Participate? Forget it. They're just happy they have a twitter and facebook account. Then again, for serious folks who are looking for a way to get 'out there', social media can give them that opportunity. But all said and done, it's the DOING that matters. Starting? Everyone can start but sustaining the energy - now that's a totally different matter!

Lee McKnight Jr. said...

This post couldn't be more timely-it's exactly the conversation we're having now with our agency clients and strangely have been discussing similar themes on our blog this week in regards to agency new business. Some great points.

Mike Marn said...

Good discussion, although lots of back-and-forth about the difference between "you should use it" vs. "you should consider using it." Naturally every situation is different, and in my opinion there is certainly room for divergent opinions as to the importance of social media in each case.

But I think there is one thing we can all agree on, and it addresses that "fear factor." In order to make a decision that is NOT based on fear and naivete, potential business users need to develop a comfort zone. That means learning about social media, playing with it, and getting as savvy as possible about how it works and what it can accomplish. It's the only way to ultimately MAKE an informed decision.

So, even while you are deciding whether or not your business should jump in, get yourself involved, at least on a personal level. DO what you're talking about, so that you'll KNOW what you're talking about.

If you've formed your opinion about Twitter, etc.,from hearsay and distant observation, it's not worth a thing. Change that!

Krista Goon said...

Yes, I agree! There's nothing worse than hearsay and "Someone told me about...." and then make a decision based on what others have done or worse, have NOT done. The best way to learn is to jump in and have a bit of fun. I never recommend clients to use software or ideas that I've never implemented. I like to be my own guinea pig ;-) but it is always more comforting when I can speak with authority when I've tried it as opposed to preaching without substance. Thanks for putting this out in the open!

Dave Haber said...

There's a great Dilbert cartoon from yesterday that satirizes this corporate fear of social media situation. Check it out on my blog, Interactive Objectives - Dave Haber - Digital Marketing Strategy and Consulting Services.

Keep up the great work!