Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Two Sides of Social Media

Did you hear the story about the extremly paranoid guy who can no longer go to football games because he can’t stand the thought of the players talking about him in the huddle? In the new world of social media, this kind of paranoia may not be as extreme as this old joke would have you believe. That’s because pleople are talking about you. They are talking about your business, your brands and your products, too. What’s more, you can’t stop them. In fact, there are thousands of social media tools and more on the way – that enable conversation among the masses of humanity with internet access who may want to talk about you.

So be careful of what you do and of what you say and whom you say it to. Learn to live with the idea that it’s nearly impossible to hide from friends, employees, customers and others who are motivated to talk about you. People are going to talk and gossip and complain. This behavior is human nature and in the new world of social media, you have virtually no control.

Now let’s consider the bright side of social media. If you’ve got a great product or service in search of more customers, you want people talking about you. There’s nothing like word-of-mouth to take your business to the next level. If your company has won an industry award or enjoys a reputation as a great place to work, you want people talking about you. In other words, conversation about you, your business or your brand is not inherently a bad thing.

You may not have control over these conversations, but if you have a social media strategy and can get comfortable with some basic tools and tactics, you can use social media to your advantage. Really. You won’t have total control, but you can have considerable influence and influence is the foundation of successful relationships with customers, employees, vendors, family and friends.

You have just learned the first three rules of social media for business:

  • Social media is all about enabling conversation
  • You cannot control conversations, but you can influence them
  • Influence is the bedrock upon which all economically viable relationships are built

To this list, you could perhaps add a fourth rule:

  • Paranoia has a purpose

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