“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown" H.P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature
It’s time to talk about something scary.
For many companies, the most spine-tingling, frightening aspect of communications right now is social media.
Leaders fear many things: making mistakes, off-the-wall comments, an inability to create valuable content and wasting company resources on a strategy they worry can’t be proven. They also dread the technology of social media and the perceived complexity of its platforms.
But the greatest fear around social media is the fear of the unknown.
There is no way to control what is being said on social media, nor who will say it. It opens your company to criticism in infinite ways.
My job exists because of the basic human desire to be able to communicate to others. Specifically, to refine and channel communications so they accurately reflect a company, a situation, or evoke a desired response.
For many companies, that communication goal breaks down to this: control.
Companies want to control the message, who shares it, when and where. Companies that work under strict regulations, like publicly traded companies, or those in the finance and healthcare sectors, especially value control.
We are frequently asked by current or potential clients if they should be on social media at all. That questions implies there is a choice, and sometimes demonstrates a gap in understanding the reach and impact of social media.
Your publicly traded healthcare company may never set up or authorize a social media account. No Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – nothing. But it doesn’t matter. Your company is still on social media. Every time an employee puts your company’s name on their profile, a consumer writes a review online, or an armchair analyst tweets about your stock, a communicator is sharing a version of your message, your brand. And audiences are receiving that message.
In fact, you don’t even get to decide if you want a Facebook page. Facebook will create one for you. When an employee puts down your company as their workplace in their profile, if a page doesn’t exist, one will be created. It is difficult for consumers to differentiate between an auto-generated Facebook page, and an official one. You are already losing control.
Which brings me to answer the question of whether your company should have a presence on social media.
Leaders must face their fear of the social media unknown and do something about it. After all, pretending scary things don’t exist doesn’t make them go away.
See where you already have a presence on social media, and look at the effectiveness of it. Determine who your audience is and where they go. Work with partners who understand the technology, platforms and analytics. Make sure they understand your company’s brand and strategic goals for social media.
Then be prepared for the reality that is social media. Every company should have a social media policy for its employees, that each employee acknowledges and signs. According to the Institute for Health, only 31 percent of health care organizations have specific social media guidelines in writing. This policy should cover not only company-sponsored social media content, but acceptable behavior on personal social media accounts – employees are after all ambassadors for your brand.
By learning more about social media, and defining your company’s strategy and policies, you will alleviate some of the fear of the unknown, and make social media a little less scary for your organization.
*Photo from Disney Pixar's Inside Out. Fear, from the movie Inside Out, is one of the five primary emotions that run our lives.
Melissa Wyllie is a Senior Account Supervisor at Lovell Communications. Connect with Melissa at Melissa@Lovell.com or @MSWyllie.
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