Curb the negativity or you’ll suck at social media
Troy Media – by Doug Lacombe
Success in social media is, in large part, about attitude. To grossly oversimplify, if you have a negative attitude about social media and/or you are wildly introverted, there’s a good chance you’ll suck at social media. Which means your organization will either suck at social media under your guidance, or, at a minimum, will not benefit from the positive interactions social media can engender.
This is because, as Bradley and McDonald wrote in the October 2011 Harvard Business Review, “Social media is about people, not technology. Its business value does not come from social software or a snazzy website, even one with 800 million users. Its value stems from how business leaders, from senior executives to managers, use it to foster new collaborative behaviors that materially improve business performance.”
Get rid of the bad attitude
Occasionally I run into executives with bad attitudes about social media. Thankfully that happens less and less. Usually they frown, grimace, make a bad joke about how they don’t care what someone had for breakfast and then challenge me to “convince them to care about social media.”
No thanks. I’m happy to answer questions and provide guidance and insight, but I’m definitely not out to convert anyone. Talking someone into “doing” social media just results in more bad practitioners and spammy, anti-social feeds spewing forth onto the Internet.
Conversely, when an executive asks what the opportunities, risks, and best practices are to employ social media, I light up like a social media beacon. With that attitude, I can show someone the way, easily.
Bradley and McDonald identified six attitudes execs often have about social media:
Folly – seeing social media as entertainment only with no business application
Fearful – seeing social media as a threat to productivity, intellectual property and so on
Flippant – seeing social media as insignificant or not to be taken seriously
Formulating – seeing the value or potential of social media as well as the need to be methodical in its application
Forging – representing the early adopters of social media who are driving use and skills development at a rapid pace
Fusing – seeing social media as integral to all facets of communications and weaving it into the fabric of the organization (so called “social business”) at every level
Obviously the first three attitudes are the most difficult to deal with, but if an exec has an open mind and is prepared to listen, even these myths can be dispelled. To me the “formulating exec” is a responsible manager looking to balance risk and reward. That’s good business and good communications. In my experience the “formulating exec” is the most common, which is a great starting point, although Bradley and McDonald claim the formulating exec is rare which they say accounts for the high social media failure rate in corporations.
As to the more advanced attitudinal levels, forging and fusing seems remarkably rare to me, but that may just be my experience.
Rewards don’t come without risk
In the end, if you approach social media as an opportunity with some risks to be mitigated, you will reap the rewards. If you approach it as a naysayer, you will be proven right; it won’t work, mainly because you and your company will be seen to be anti-social.
As David Edelman wrote recently on Forbes.com: “Yes, the risks of social media for company leaders can be high, and the legal team may get nervous. But the risks of not engaging are likely to be even higher. Conversations are happening about your brand, company, and offerings all the time. Social media is an executive suite issue. Those executives who are more comfortable with it can better shape their brand’s future.”
What’s your attitude?
Doug Lacombe is a social media speaker and strategist with social media agency communicatto. Find him on Twitter at @dblacombe.