Doug Schumacher has a good piece on iMediaConnection that showcases how valuable social media can be. He wraps it in the context that social media is safer than you think. I am not so sure that safe is a word I would use for social media, although he does make a good point about it.
Social media provides your organization with the opportunity to engage people that are interested in your brand, your services, your products, and in what you do for your community. It can create a solid support system from your followers and fans, but these are people with opinions and ideas that might not necessarily mesh with yours. Doug writes from an advertising/marketing viewpoint, so perhaps this is where we view the meaning of “safe” differently.
From a communicator’s perspective, social media provides exceptional opportunities for an organization because you can connect directly with your target market, your tribe – your community, but they aren’t always going to agree with you. I know that for many CEOs and senior executive, there is fear around that. It’s not easy being criticized in public and quite often the discussion that happens online may be ill informed or have erroneous information. This is where the opportunity comes in. You can be a part of this conversation, if you bring value to it. You can’t just jump in and tell people what to think, but if there is misinformation or miscommunication, you can clarify. If your organization has made a mistake, you can acknowledge it and show what you are doing to make things right.
In his post, Doug explains that people have taken the time to friend you, follow you or become a fan, and that means they are interested in your brand. That people have taken the time to connect with you is one of the great benefits of social media. Just don’t take them for granted. They are there because it matters to them and your organization needs to take their attention seriously. You have a responsibility to your stakeholders and the actions your organization takes are reported on, discussed and often critiqued. Individuals and groups now have a voice and they are using it to hold organizations accountable, to provide honest feedback, and to spread the word if you provide a good product, service or are positively contributing to your community.
There is no “behind closed doors” anymore; social media has broken down those barriers and put it all up on the wall for everyone to see. For many organizations, this is downright scary, not because they are doing anything wrong but it’s a new way of doing business. It’s a new world where the individual has the balance of power. I can’t imagine that right now, it feels safe for many organizations. I hope that there is a glimmer of excitement though. The online world has helped to level the playing field. A good organization can find their community now, no matter how big or small they are.
There are conversations going on out there right now about your brand – don’t you want to join them?