Ignoring Social Media Makes You Mute, Not Invisible

August 4, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

social media fireI realized that a lot of yesterday’s post about being provocative really had to do with fear. It was about the actions companies take because they’re afraid of upsetting the status quo, they’re afraid to be different, and most of all, they’re afraid of being called out and attacked. And to lots of companies, that’s what social media is– taking your precious brand and throwing it to the wolves.

If there’s one thing I wish every company would realize, it’s this:

Brand and public relation disasters are not CAUSED by social media. Social media is what lets you SURVIVE them unscathed and better for the wear.

It’s amazing how your perspective changes based on which side of the table you’re sitting on. For consumers and social media fanatics, situations like what arose with United Airlines and Dominos Pizza are exciting. They represent a win because they’re the perfect exercise in David vs Goliath. But for brands, the mere thought of allowing what happened to Dominos to happen to them…well, screw that. Social media is dangerous. If you need them, they’ll be rocking back and forth under their desk where it’s safe.

But closing your eyes and ears does not make you safe. It makes you vulnerable.

I don’t think most brands want to hear this, but that myth that told you you’re “safe” if you don’t get involved? That no one will notice you if you stay out view and ignore the conversations happening around your brand? It’s bullshit.

Totally and completely bullshit.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter if you’re a big Fortune 500 or if you instead sell flowers in a small shop on Main Street. Your customers are still talking about you. The only thing avoiding social media does for you is it takes your voice entirely out of the conversation. It doesn’t make you invisible, it makes you mute.

Social media isn’t Twitter. It’s not blog posts. It’s not Facebook or MySpace or LinkedIn. Social media is your customers and your prospective customers. Social media is people. And I wish more companies got that.

Whatever fear is keeping you from talking to your customers and making your voice part of what’s happening – Get Over It . Your customers don’t care why you’re afraid. All they see is that you don’t want to talk to them.

Take the time to create your social media plan. Use it as a way to encourage engagement, to provide value, and to offer a safe outlet for disgruntled customers to contact you and vent frustrations. Because if they’re not venting to you, they’re going to vent somewhere else. And that’s how you become the next United Airlines. When your lack of listening and pretending you don’t see what’s going on in front of you forces customers to make you take notice.

I don’t know how to drive the point home to companies that social media isn’t the enemy, but I do know this. The best way to conquer your fear is to be pro-active. Don’t want to see your brand become the next negative viral sensation? Then do something about it. Create alliances with your customers now and invest in real friendships. Go out of your way for your customers and inspire them to go out of their way for you. Don’t waste time with fake relationships. Use social media to create real ones.

Whether or not you decide to enter your voice into the world of social media, your brand is already there and there’s no take backs. You can either take control or you can hide under your desk. However, the only way to be “safe” in social media is to be “in” social media.  Claim your voice.

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