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Social Media – all fun and games until someone loses an eye

March 12, 2009


Corporate Social Media can be a lot like Ralfie’s trusty Red Ryder BB gun- all fun and games until someone loses an eye.   

It’s a lot of fun to talk about  “best practices” while tossing around cliche’s like “transparency” and “authenticity”.   One can analyze the tactics,  tools,  relationships of other players – dissecting their content and scrutinizing the reactionary customer comments.  

 How smart we feel diagramming out the flow of the conversation, tagging the key influencers and talking engagement strategy from the safety of the bleachers.   These things are safe because they aren’t about you.  There is no risk – nothing to be won or lost.

Once your content and issues get introduced, it starts to feel decidedly less like fun and games.  Wade into the angry mob of customers who are unhappy with the latest policy change, product glitch, or service gaffe and that reality is easily understood.  It’s powerful stuff, and feels weighty at times. What you write in public can potentially establish course and policy for your company, setting customer expectations while often simultaneously creating both internal supporters and  snarky critics. 

There are a lot of  seemingly ‘safe’ plays in social media – lots of campaigns to design a new drink bottle, choose a new candy flavor, or post pictures from your favorite travel destination booked through one of the bid travel sites.   Marketers might reasonably argue these are smart things to do – they generate buzz, clicks, brand awareness, and cultivate positive interaction by current and potential customers.    These are probably more fun social projects to be involved in.

My beat seems more about listening to the detractors, mitigating the circumstances, and creating positive change in the minds of customers, while fostering transformation within the business.  I’ve previously likened monitoring and proactive engagement – defensive customer service practices, to virtual lifeguarding in the vast ocean of the blogosphere.  

Eighteen months into life as a community manager has found me wearing many hats.   I’m part coach, part technician, part therapist, part statesman, part magician.  I’m not sure it’s working out exactly as I envisioned it was going to be, but I can say that I’m getting all the exposure and experience I can handle.   A clear case of be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it – it’s been just over two years since I sought permission to take this journey.  I wanted to be a part, to make a difference, to do something significant.

These days,  I’m thrilled and terrified in equal parts when internal notes are passed around with some of my public quotes pasted squarely in evidence.   Clearly it’s the universal sign of influence – concentric circles of alternating color.    My confidence to hit the post button has improved over the last 18 months, but it still feels a bit like a high wire act – delivering answers with enough conviction and detail to be credible and accepted without creating potential liability.  In some circles they still shoot the messenger.

Over the next six months I’m going to shake up my game a bit, becoming more proactive on content,  relationships, and sphere of influence.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2009 5:00 am

    it’s kinda like shooting a gun for the first time.   the first shots will be intimidating but eventually this wears off and one’s skill and confidence improves.   some grow to be decent shots, others to be marksman.

    in the online world, however, even the most accurate shot can miss the target.   unfortunately it’s just part of the ‘sphere.   sometimes the right answer isn’t what people want to hear.   it’s a tough balance.

    here’s looking forward to the “shake and bake” session.   just don’t shoot your eye out. 😉

  2. March 15, 2009 5:02 am

    whoops… that should be marksmen.   typo.

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