Getting Started in Social Media and Overcoming Fears

Excuses. Excuses. Excuses!

People and companies are constantly coming up with reasons why they aren’t using Twitter or Facebook, LinkedIn or other sites and why they aren’t blogging.

“It’s a fad”

“I don’t get it”

“No one is following me”

“No one cares what I have to say”

“I have nothing worth saying”

“I’d have to check the legalities” (really?!)

“It could hurt our business”

“What if people say something bad about us?”

“I don’t know how to use it”

“It won’t do anything for me or my business”

“I tried it, but it didn’t do anything”

“It’s too much work”

“It’s too time consuming”

“It’s a waste of time”

“It will decrease productivity in my company”

Honestly, that is only the tip of the iceberg,  I have heard many more excuses for the resistance to social media.

First off let me say this, Social Media and Digital Communications is not a fad, it is here to stay, so either get with it, or be left behind. I know that is kind of harsh, but really, at this point, it is the truth. If you aren’t using social media and your competition is, odds are they are going to generate more new business than you are and they may even tap into your existing business.

One statistic I found said that 77% of the Canadian population is online. Presumably in areas with a higher population density (like London) that number increases. Based on another statistic I found a lot of those 77% of people are spending a fair chunk of their time on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. If a minimum of 77% of you clients are online spending most of their time on social networking sites, how can you possibly argue that social media isn’t for your business?

These are some of the tips that I have for people who aren’t yet using Social Media, or who are just starting out.

1) Start small. Sometimes companies will jump in both feet first creating accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr and WordPress and who knows what else and then it becomes too much to handle and accounts go idle. Social Media is a use it or lose it medium. If you create a social media account you need to use it and keep it up to date and active. A dead or stale account can do more harm to a business or a brand than not having one at all (and no that is not an argument to not have a presence at all). Start with one or two accounts and learn how to manage them and then expand from there when you are ready and able to manage more.

2) Don’t worry so much. People seem completely preoccupied with all of the bad things that could happen in social media. One business I talked to said “What if I create a Facebook Page and people write negative or untrue comments?” I understand that this is a concern and a valid one, but you need to have more faith in people. Faith that there are a lot more people out there that want build you up, than those who want to tear you down. Also faith that if you’ve built a strong brand and someone says something negative, the people who know your brand aren’t going to buy into it and they will likely defend it for you.  Also in any business there will occasionally be unsatisfied customers, social media allows companies the opportunity to address those comments and exercise some customer services. If you aren’t online to defend your brand, then negative comments are left to interpretation. If you are online you can address issues and even if you cannot please that customer, making the effort to do so will show others how much you value your customers and what you will do to make sure that they have a positive experience.

3) People do business with people they know and trust. Social Media offers the opportunity for businesses to put a human voice (or several) to a corporate image. Sharing conversations with people who are following you, or who like your page helps build relationships. Blogging about something that is meaningful to you on your company website, even if it doesn’t necessarily relate to your business, offers people reading something human to connect with. If you blog about your kids, your pets, your hobbies, or a charity that is important to you, you are offering people access to you as a person. From there relationships can be built and sometimes those relationships can translate to business.  My philosophy on this is “build it and they will come” build the relationships first and when there is a need for the business, it will come.

4) Use tools and settings that make it easy for you to manage social media. Programs and sites like TweetDeck, Hootsuite and Seesmic allow you to bring together a number of your social media platforms in one place. You can watch feeds from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare and more all from one place, without having to sign into half a dozen different accounts and remember what the passwords are. Also take time to go through the settings for each of your social media accounts, it may take a bit of time, but it will save a lot of headaches in the future. Use the tools available, for example, Lists on Twitter are a great thing that few people use. Lists can be Public or Private and they allow you to stream the Tweets from the people that you follow into more manageable feeds. This can also be done in Facebook (Accounts) by creating Lists for your friends; you can stream your feed to view updates by certain groups only. There are many tools like this throughout social media, look for them, if you set them once, they can be really helpful.

5) Create a Social Media Policy for your company. Make it clear the expectation that you have for the members of your company regarding their use of social media. Make it clear who is responsible for what aspects of company Social Media. Create outline for acceptable content and behaviour. If you provide the people in your company with an organized structure for social media it will create cleaner more concise messaging for your company.

6) Have Fun! Enjoy the time you spend using social media. Get to know other people. Learn from other people or teach other people. Share interests. Talk, laugh and share memories or experiences. If you are enjoying yourself and what you are saying online (as long as it isn’t offensive), people will be drawn to you. It is like real life, if you are in a room with people, who are you going to go towards, the group of people laughing and enjoying their conversation, or the people standing stiffly in a corner barely carrying a conversation? If you are having fun, other people will have fun with you; a positive attitude goes a long way.

7) Turn virtual connections into real life connections when possible. Social Media is a great way to get to know people and create the opportunity to interact with them in real life. There several people now who I have followed on Twitter who I have since met in real life and I feel like I have created solid relationships with these people. There is now a person that they can attach to the virtual identity, which in my opinion adds more value to my personal brand both online and in real life. Conversations in social media can create relationships without a doubt, but there is still something to be said for human connection, it can strengthen the bonds and relationships that you have already built online. Being active in social media gives you a constant presence in the lives of the people who are connected to you, as opposed to real life connections that may only generate contact once or twice a year. Combine the two to create stronger bonds.

8 ) Say something. I think one of the biggest concerns I’ve heard, and one I’ve had myself is that I wouldn’t have anything to say that would add value. That was my reason for not starting a blog, or for starting it and stopping half a dozen times. I didn’t think I had anything to contribute, because there are many people out there smarter than I am and I didn’t think I had anything to offer that hadn’t already been offered. I realized though that I just needed to dive in and say something. It didn’t need to be world-changing writing, but it needed to be something meaningful or interesting to me. While we are all unique individuals, there are people out there who share our interests who will be interested in what we have to say or even if they aren’t they may care enough about us to want read it anyways. We all just need to have the courage to say something and not be afraid that the world is going to reject us, because not matter what some people may tell us, everyone has something to offer.


Past Projects – Part 2

This goes back to 2008 and yet again another post-secondary story, this time from Fanshawe

CC&PR Orientation via Social Media

Every year the Corporate Communication and Public Relations class (or half of it) at Fanshawe runs a program orientation for prospective students. I attended it the year before I entered the program and was lucky enough to be on the project the following year.

The summer before I started the program I created a Facebook Group for the 2007-2008 CC&PR class and sought out other people who were starting in the program. I was a bit of a social media nerd, so I used that to my advantage to get to know some of the people in my program before the first day of class. This kind of through the faculty off when we got to Fall Program Orientation and most of us already knew each other, which had never happened to them before. The Facebook Group was a great tool for us throughout the year. We used to it track what projects were due when, set up social outings, joke around or help each other.

So when I got put on the spring orientation project for the class of 2008-2009 I immediately thought to create a Facebook Group for them, like I had for my class. I figured it would be a great tool for those of us running orientation, for prospective students and for the actual class of 2008-2009. When I set up the group for orientation I invited current students, alumni I had connected with and Faculty. All of which were given titles in the group so prospective students would know who was faculty, who was alumni, who was a current student and who was a prospective student like themselves.

When we were drafting the invitation for the orientation we made sure to include a the name of the group and how to find it on Facebook. A number of prospective students joined the group and asked questions of the faculty, alumni and current students. It gave prospective students a real opportunity to connect with people who’d already gone through the program to get the best idea of what to expect. It also gave them an idea of the type of people they would be experiencing the program with.

When I created the group I thought it would be a great addition to the actual orientation that we were holding at the college. I figured that we’d probably have a couple join before orientation, but that many would join the group after the orientation to connect with the people they had met there.  ( I know I’d wanted to connect with people after my orientation the previous year).

This was not the case at all though. The Facebook Group I created as an ‘extra’ to orientation became the orientation after London was hit with a massive snowstorm the day of the orientation. The day of the orientation the area got nailed with the worth snowstorm of the year. It took me 3 hours to drive from my house 20 minutes west of London to Fanshawe College. When I came out of the college I had to kick a path out of the snow so I could drive out of the parking lot, I drove 20km the entire way home and still ended up in the ditch.

Anyways, the day of orientation a large part of my orientation team was not able to make it through the snow and only 5 or so prospective students made it through the weather to orientation, a far cry from the 40-ish we were expecting might attend.

My team had worked so hard to put together orientation and we were upset that only 5 or so of the prospective students were able to reap the benefits of our hard work.

That’s when I really made a push for the Facebook Group I’d created. Another message was sent out to prospective students and I had the chair of our department direct potential students to the Facebook Group if they contacted her. 

I spent a fair amount of time on that Facebook Group answering questions of potential students. I also discovered Slideshare during this project. Slideshare is a web-based site that allows you to upload Powerpoint presentations or PDFs for people to view (in case you are unfamiliar with it). I uploaded all of the materials my team had created for orientation to SlideShare and posted the links to the Facebook Group for people who weren’t able to make it through the snow to orientation. 

I kept control of the page until the following school year started and then gave it the class of 2008-2009 to do with as they wished.

It seems like a really simple idea, and truth is it was. Levering social media, really what could be easier, but it impressed my teachers and helped the prospective students. I’ve had a couple people from the 2008-2009 class who commented on it when I met them, which was awesome.

I have recycled the idea as an alumni. I created a group on LinkedIn from Alumni from the CC&PR program. The CC&PR program is more than a decade old now and has a diverse group of alumni working in various jobs in various locations. The group hasn’t reached it’s full potential yet, but it is a great collective of alumni from the program, that I now feel like I have some form of connection to, even if it is only through LinkedIn. Hopefully once I have more stable job and feel like I have some wisdom to offer I’ll be able to spark some more conversations and really tap into the knowledge of the talented CC&PR alumni, which will hopefully help all of the alumni to keep learning and growing in our chosen profession.