One of the biggest fears of social media marketing comes in the form of one of the following questions, which i frequently hear, in some form, from people considering the use of social media within an organization:
“What if one of my employees posts the wrong thing?”
“What if a customer starts a rumor that i can’t control?”
“Should we be completely transparent with the public?”
“Should i keep a separate business and private identity?”
“Do i want my employees to know my personal business?”
My answer is simple, straightforward, imminently practical, and almost completely universal.
When using social media as part of an organization, pretend you’re doing business in Mayberry (a really small town), and you’ll do just fine.
If you lived in a small, highly-connected town like Mayberry, you would probably follow three very simple rules when doing business:
- Be polite to and honest with everyone – especially when everyone is highly-connected. One good interaction could turn into months of good word-of-mouth in the local town rumor mill. One bad interaction could go the complete opposite way. The Mayberrys of the world are highly-connected, as is the social media world.
- Remember that there is no difference between your public and private identity, whether you like it or not. The same person who enters your store is also likely a neighbor. Instead of lamenting this, use it to your advantage. Personal trust does translate into business trust in places like Mayberry. The same is true online.
- Remember that what you say could be around for a while. In Mayberry what you say could follow you around for a generation. On the Internet it could follow you until the server where your message is stored finally goes kaput.
- Make sure people within your organization are well-trained to understand rules 1-3.
These same rules apply when using social media. While at first glance this statement might seem a bit surprising, after a second glance it should make sense, since both are highly social, highly-connected contexts, and therefore possess similar dynamics. Many make the understandable mistake of assuming that all of these new technologies bring with them new social or organizational dynamics, when in actuality many of them are enabling a return to much older ones.*
(In case you didn’t recognize it, the title of this article refers to Mayberry – the fictitious small town setting for the 1960′s Andy Griffith Show.)
*For more on the ways in which electronic technologies might be enabling a return to older means of social interactions, check out The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (1962) or Understanding Media (1964) by Marshall McLuhan. For a half-decent quicker exploration, have a gander at the Wikipedia entry on “The Global Village.”
Photo by: Natalie Maynor