Social Media – Why Companies Fear It…

November 10, 2009 3:46 pm

…and why yours should embrace it.

Evolution. It’s a fact of life for you and for your brand, whether a company, product, service, person or place. Brands have always evolved, perhaps at a slower pace 15 years ago. The big change, and the aspect of branding in today’s environment that has caught many CEOs flat-footed, is that we’re playing a much more dynamic game. Not only are brands evolving at a faster pace, but so are the many ways that brands can now communicate. Add in the fact that the customer has an equal and active voice in what is said about brands, and we have a whole new dimension to consider.If 1995 was “the dawn of mainstream surf” and 2000 “the dawn of mainstream search,” 2009 will go down in the history books (actually more like a Wikipedia post) as “the dawn of mainstream social.”

But despite the explosion in use that we’ve witnessed in the past year, despite the increased interest among most CEOs I’ve met with over the past few months, despite the fact that virtually every prediction for 2010 indicates increase usage of social media among corporate brands, there is still tremendous fear and hesitation on the street.

The following is a summary of the top six most common push-backs from CEOs I’ve talked to about incorporating a Social Media Strategy into their brand communications program, and how I’ve responded:

1. “There are network security risks.”
This is true to an extent, and a comment likely driven by your IT department. Rightly so. It’s their job to ensure that you not only have a well running technology infrastructure, but one that is also secure. Consider this: You don’t have to host your social media platform on your corporate network. You can set up a separate network used exclusively for social media, thereby not compromising security on your business network (provided users are not accessing the social media network via the corporate network). By establishing best practices, training, and monitoring, you can have both a secure corporate network, and an effective social media presence.
2. Our customers aren’t ‘there’ yet.”
About five years ago, we advised a client to quickly engage in organic online search as their category was essentially an open frontier, a wide open opportunity to quickly and easily take a leadership position online. They elected to wait, and then five years later when the market was crowded with competition, they finally gave the “go.” We had to work twice as hard to establish positioning that we could have won and been maintaining all along. If that’s not enough, remember what the pundits initially said about the web: that the internet was going to be used strictly for entertainment, with little or no business value. Well, we see where that excuse went. Right in the “The Earth is Flat” bin.
3. “I don’t see how this will lead to new business opportunities.”
The greatest gift that online communications has given to companies is the ability to track – in real time – what is happening with their brands online. The same is true for social media. All the tracking features are there to determine when a viewer migrated from spectator, to participant, to prospect, and ultimately to customer status.
4. “We’re not sure where to begin, let alone how to manage a social media program.”
The main reason why there is apprehension over social media is because it’s new, and we human beings sometimes have a funny reaction to change. Remember that the internet imitates life, not the other way around. So you engage social media in much the same manner that you would evaluate any other form of marketing activity:
    • Do your homework. Research the social media platforms that your customers are already using, or would be most inclined to use if given a little motivation to do so.
    • Be selective. Don’t try to cover the entire social media spectrum. You’ll go crazy and broke, in that order. Pick one, two or at most three social media formats. Your selection should be based on two factors: 1) The social media platforms are most relevant to your customers (results of your research); and 2) The platforms that you have the most comfort level with. Don’t engage in video content if the thought of being filmed makes you want to jump out of your skin.
    • Have a focused content development plan. Determine what content you can and will communicate in a focused, consistent manner. Content must be relevant to audiences, authentic, and regular. Determine who your spokesperson(s) will be, establish frequency guidelines for interaction (daily, weekly, random). If there will be multiple spokespersons, set up guidelines for usage, explaining what’s OK, what’s not OK, and how to respond to comments, whether positive or negative.
    • Create content that engages. Unless every word you utter is pure brilliance, don’t just do random brain dumps on your audience. Offer engaging content that is: 1) Consumable; 2) Interactive; 3) Relevant; 4) Timely; and 5) Sharable.
5. “What if somebody says something bad about us?”
I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but they already are. The only difference now is that instead of whispers in the dark that you can’t respond to and have to live with, now you can have a decisive response to comments, both good and bad. View any negative commentary as an opportunity to take corrective action, be transparent, show audiences that you are after all human, and capable of making mistakes. Remember that the measure of a company’s greatness is not when and if they fall down. It’s how they get up in response to adversity. Good companies perform well under good circumstances, but awesome companies perform well under all circumstances. Take every negative as an opportunity to show all that is positive, authentic, and awesome about your brand.
6. “We need to update our website first.”
Oh, come on. That excuse is so 2001! If you are truly struggling with website redevelopment, our web design specialists can give you a hand.
In the simplest terms, social media is all about creating opportunities for two-way communication with customers, influencers, and future customers and influencers. While the CEO’s I’ve talked to may be apprehensive about social media, they all relish the opportunity to be in front of their customers, no matter what their size. Think of social media as a whole new opportunity to talk to more customers, with more speed and less logistical challenges of actually being there. Like all things in life, the road to a successful social media experience for your brand begins with the first step.

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About The Author

We specialize in b2b, supporting the clients who are the "The Brands Behind the Brands." These are the supply chain partners of brands, either in Tier 1 or Tier 2 positions, who drive value through the delivery of goods, services and technologies. We enjoy blogging about all things related to Branding, Marketing, Inbound, Tradeshows, etc... And we're always happy to talk about any ideas you may have that might Get You To Your NEXT!