When people share how they are using social media (or NOT!) for their organizations, I hear everything from sheer anxiety to pure delight. Using social media is

open door leading to a question mark

  1. Fun
  2. Exciting and energizing
  3. Engaging
  4. A great way to share information and ideas
  5. An opportunity to hear what customers, members, and constituents are thinking
  6. A very effective, free promotional tool
  7. Intimidating
  8. A waste of time or at the least too time consuming
  9. A privacy nightmare and intrusion into people’s private lives
  10. A risk mitigation waiting to happen
  11. An opportunity to listen to your customers’ conversations and feedback
  12. A tool to be used to help meet your organization’s goals and enhance your mission
  13. It all depends on your perspective.

Even the most hesitant recognize the wild popularity of social media, but worry about the time and energy it would take, are skeptical about how effective it would be, or are anxious about privacy, risk, and control. But take this into account — social media is more than a tool or trend, it has become the fabric of community, collaboration, and interactive communication.

While social media is constantly evolving, it is not going away, and it is imperative to be part of the conversation to stay current and position yourself and your organization for the future.

Whether you choose to engage or not, people ARE most likely talking about your business, your products, your competitors, and your industry in social media. What is the risk impact of your not being there? Are you leaving business on the table?

It can be nerve wracking to consider not having control of the message or the medium. But the days of being in control as we did in traditional marketing, communications, and PR are over. You have to be willing to not be in control, or as social media leadership expert Charlene Li coaches, to set parameters for an area to serve as a sandbox in which you will be comfortable experimenting.

The point is to get started, it doesn’t have to be huge and overwhelming. A good place to begin is to listen. Listen to the conversations your customers and clients are probably already having about your brand, your organization, and products and services. Check out what your competitors and partners are doing with social media and monitor what people are saying about them.  Try to figure out which social media sites your key segments and potential customers use most so you can make the best investment of your time.

Then pick one or two things to test, such as promoting a product, event, or program on facebook, setting up your organization’s facebook page, or launching a LinkedIn group or profile for your organization.

Think creatively and innovatively, take some risks, and experiment. Play in the sandbox, and watch for the results and what you might try next based on what you see. Longer term, be strategic and develop a social media plan based on your organization’s mission and goals.

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