Social Media: Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone - InformationWeek

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12/18/2012
01:19 PM
Matt Ridings
Matt Ridings
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Social Media: Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Before you get too deep into social business strategy, look at how comfortable your organization and its leaders are with the world of social media.

The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012
The BrainYard's 7 Social Business Leaders Of 2012
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Does social media make your uncomfortable? If so, that's a good start.

I often write about some of the more complex, nuanced aspects of becoming a social business -- not because that's how everyone should try and frame it, but because when you've been in it for long enough, you start pushing over the dominos of social media implications and eventually end up at some pretty high-level topics around the very structure of business itself.

That said, since I'm a consultant and not just an academic theorist, I also have to be able to simplify these discussions down into easily absorbed chunks for various audiences and turn them into actionable plans. I'd like to say that most companies are proactive -- predicting coming market shifts and adjusting accordingly -- but we all know that's not true.

Usually what drives change is a reaction, not a prediction. A feeling of discomfort is what tends to start the ball rolling. For some, that discomfort is a slight itch between the shoulder blades. For others, it's stark raving fear. Some pay attention early; others ignore it for as long as humanly possible.

[ For more on how to develop a winning social strategy, see In Search Of Social Business Excellence. ]

So when an executive asks me, "Should I become a social business?" one of my frequent starting points is to ask, "Does social media make you uncomfortable?" Everyone in social business, including my company, preaches the benefits of bringing the concepts of social inside the corporate walls. These benefits are all proven at this point, and I'm lucky I get to work with the more progressive organizations who understand that. But it wouldn't be truthful to say that's representative of the masses.

The raw truth? Most executives are investigating social business, or at least putting their toes into the water for those forward-looking reasons. But the real action is being taken by those who are feeling more discomfort than opportunity.

Between the cloud, mobile, and social media, the command and control model over technology and communications is being completely disrupted. That's a lot of control to lose over a relatively short period of time.

These can be scary times when you want to control the brand message, limit liability, and mitigate risk. Established firms must compete with new players who have cheap access to powerful technology -- and less to lose. So rather than a complex dissertation on all the implications, frameworks, and organizational models of social business, I'd like to pose a simple question: Does social media make you uncomfortable? If so, what are you going to do about it?

The way to turn that discomfort into an opportunity cuts across a lot of departments beyond just marketing.

Social business isn't about being in social media, but exposure to social media does help an organization deal with the implications. You have to start somewhere, and it's better to start from a place of discomfort than to not start at all.

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