I often see "loss of control of the message" cited as a barrier to entry into social media for companies. Today, I'm here to say that loss of control is a myth.
Traditionally, communications has always been about message control:
- Carefully crafted soundbites
- Carefully staged events
- Carefully choreographed photo-ops.
All of these aim to keep close control of the message.
Organizations looking at involvement in social media can fear losing that control.
Here's the truth: you lose control by not participating.
If you work for an organization that has any relevance nowadays, people talk about you. Whether you participate or not.
In the past, people talked offline. You couldn't do much about it. Nowadays, much of it may be online.
You have a choice whether to participate or not. Whether to try to influence the discussion or not.
Given that, you have three options:
Put your head in the sand. Ignore the conversation. After all, if you can't hear it, it's not happening, right?
You don't silence discussions by ignoring them. They will happen anyway.
The only positive that can come from this is that you can report that you haven't seen any bad coverage. It's not the truth, but maybe you'll sleep better for it.
The Tentative Approach: Listen
Maybe you know the conversation's happening, but you're not ready to get involved yet.
Listening is a key step on the road towards participation. In fact, if you're new to this, listening is probably better than launching head-long into using social media tools where you'll probably get crucified if you use traditional approaches.
Take your time. Find out where your customers are. Who's talking about you? Where?
The up-side of this is that you can tune in to these conversations and see how people perceive your organization.
You may even want to make changes based on what you hear.
Here's the thing, though... you still don't have any input.
The Engaged Approach: Participate
The common thread in the last two approaches is a complete lack of control of the conversation about your organization.
The only way you can directly influence the dialogue is by participating in it.
Note: I didn't say you can control it.
It doesn't matter whether you engage in social media or not, you can't control the conversation.
However, you can influence conversations if you go about it the right way:
- By listening and responding appropriately
- By using the right tools in the right way
- By genuinely engaging and participating.
So Who Does Lose Control?
You can't engage people using corporate-speak. There's no room for ten layers of approval on blog comments. Don't even try to produce a podcast through a committee.
Give your people the ball. Train them. Give them the rules. Let them run with it.
What's the real fear here?
Maybe it is loss of control, but not by the organization.
This doesn't mean companies should rush in to using social media tools. However, it does mean you should re-examine your concerns rather than blindly accepting cliched misperceptions.
You don't lose control by participating; you gain influence.
(Photo credit: Spartacus007)
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