When we talk to potential clients about social media and interactive marketing campaigns, the most common question we’re asked is “How do I convince our CEO/CMO/my boss/people in my organization to do this?” When we ask the customer why that person needs convincing the most common answer is “They know social media (and these other marketing tools) are important but they’re afraid?
At this point we normally reassure the potential customer and suggest ways to assuage their higher-ups’ concerns. But maybe we’re taking the wrong approach. Maybe instead of singing the benefits of our digital arsenal we should be asking a question. What are they afraid of?
Seriously, what do big companies have to lose by being involved in social media? What company has gone out of business because of a bad employee tweet? Or a poorly designed Facebook page? Or a badly written blog post. Can these do short term damage to a company’s brand equity. Maybe (and I would even argue that point). But no more so than those goofy Microsoft ads with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld. And like TV, the internet gives you lots of chances to try again and get it right. And unlike TV, those do overs are instantaneous and inexpensive.
Is it their customers these businesses are afraid of? Are they worried that if they give them the tools customers will complain about their products or recount a bad experience with the company? If so, their concerns are a lot bigger than how to take full advantage of social media. Ignoring their customers is a good way for any company to put itself out of business. And if a customer is disgruntled in this day and age, they have plenty of outlets for expressing their anger. When companies aren’t participating in those same outlets then they lose the chance to turn a rant in to a conversation (and the opportunity to put right whatever has gone wrong.)
Remember when companies were afraid to give their employees e-mail? Or cel phones? or Internet access at work? All of these things are now standard and many of us couldn’t do our jobs without them. In time, social media will become just as an accepted a part of the business toolbox. But in the meantime, executives and managers need to come up with a better excuse for not participating than “we’re afraid”. The famous quote from FDR is “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” An even older saying is “Fortune favors the bold’.
What type of organization do you work for? Are they fearlessly embracing these new technologies and maintaining their place as industry pioneers? Or are they taking a “wait and see” attitude and letting others take the leadership position in their business?