5 Ways To Reduce the Risk of Engaging in Social Media


Last week I was invited to talk with my good friend Paul Chaney from Bizzuka on his very popular show User Friendly Thinking on Blog Talk Radio. Paul and I got to talk about the risk of engaging in social media on a corporate level and from that conversation bubbled up this post.

In the age of the social web, companies can no longer afford to delay their response to the conversation taking place. They need guidance, structure and security when embarking down the road of social media and how to use it. Companies need a “risk aversion process” for learning social media. So here are 5 ways that a company can reduce that risk.

1) First,  approach it like a product launch in other words, you need to assign one or more resources and make them accountable. It’s amazing what happens when more people or departments have ownership, or “skin in the game”, of a project or task.  So for instance typically IT initiates or has ownership of most web 2.0 projects, and thus a lot of the heat falls on them, right?

But what if marketing, PR and IT all had ownership of the success of a social media initiative? And what if the word came down from the top first?  Typically when employees know that their president or CEO is supporting it, they’re more apt to embrace it.  The point is, if you engage the right internal resources that will need to be involved (legal, marketing, corporate communications., executive leadership, IT, and product management)…and do it early on, AND let them have input and belief that they have influence, and ownership as well?… You have a much better chance to succeed in the long run.

2) Second, you can reduce the risk by reviewing the corporate goals / objectives in three month increments and APPLY or review the social media strategies that are complimenting the overall corporate strategies. Make sure the strategies mesh-the same way your marketing materials and their messaging is consistent.

Obviously you need to know the social media objectives first before you can apply the strategies, but the key is to weave them into the rest of the mix. This way they are as relevant, and as high priority and as funded(hopefully) as everything else on the table. And keep the social media goals reachable.

I like to use the analogy of the team that is getting ready to start their season: a) Lets have a winning season b) Lets win x amount of games c) Lets make the playoffs d) Lets win the division etc etc.. I think a lot of people or companies think that social media is this cure-all elixir that happens over night and it’s just not so.

By periodically reviewing the goals, this allows you to see progress and to tweak where appropriate.

3) Next you need to map the results back to either making  money, building equity or reducing costs. This is your mantra!

This ensures longevity and value to the company. CEO’s and business owners can wrap their arms around that. We all know that a lot of people and organizations are currently hung up on the ROI of social media and rightly so; because that really does track back nicely to the risk argument and the reasons NOT to do social media… but that’s why we like to look at the results from the 3 goals mentioned above. Those are tangible and measurable.  I’ll say it again…You need to make money, save money or build equity.

4) Let’s make sure there are guardrails.  Companies will not move forward if they feel there is no control.  As well, companies do not like to operate without nets.. (For example a bad product goes out, or gets released. There is a process there to Recall, Refund, and service those affected customers- there’s a process.  There has to be some semblance of a crisis management plan where it’s… If this happens, then we will do this….If this happens, so and so will handle this etc etc..

5) Lastly, let’s have a road map with intervals where you can Test, Measure and Adapt-TMA. In social media, one of the great things about the space, is that you have the ability to test and measure certain things and adapt fairly quickly because the results are so real time, and so immediate.  So yes, Analytics are key and I love them, but let’s make sure we’re measuring the right things in social media. Because it’s easy to think you are being social, if you’re measuring the wrong thing.

Lastly I was asked about instituting corporate social media policies and if I had any resources to suggest and at the time, I did not have my resources readily available, So here are 2 great links to some sources for (1) Corp. Social Media Policies. and (2) Social Media Policies

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20 reasons why social media is such a popular subject…


Below is my tongue in cheek look at why social media is such a popular subject to talk and write about. Feel free to add yours to the bottom of the list.

  1. Because it seemed like a good way to make new friends
  2. Because bloggers see the traffic that comes to their sites every time they write about it, so it must be good.
  3. Seems like a good way to drum up more business for the agency
  4. The content is always fresh because no one has a clue as to what they are talking about
  5. You can be vague and  no one knows it, including yourself and your clients
  6. It’s a good way to become an authority on something in less than a month and then let lots of people know it.
  7. You have a more open forum to complain about things that are free
  8. No one has a clue to what you’re talking about, so you can bullshit your way through lots of  client meetings!
  9. You can become an expert in a little over a week
  10. You  get to use your i-phone
  11. You can let  more people know that you are also a “life coach”
  12. You can waste weeks doing it and still bill the client for the Facebook fan page you built that has 12 fans
  13. You can wax poetic about it on Twitter and get lots and lots of followers
  14. The conferences look like fun
  15. Because though it’s not dead yet, it still has a pulse
  16. Bloggers and spammers smell the link juice in the water
  17. Because there are still a lot of people out there that ask, “Is it like Myspace?”
  18. Because you can measure ROI so clearly
  19. Oh.. and it because it’s easy.
  20. * Seriously * Because collectively we made it that way.

Brands: You can’t hide and then expect to participate in social media


So I’m late. There’s a killer pick up game of basketball going on down  at the park.  I know they play every Monday , Wednesday and Friday at 5pm. For weeks I sit and watch them. This time I’m gonna play. There’s 11 guys including me. They pick up teams and I don’t get picked. WTF? I know I can play with these guys, their games are weak. Yet, I still don’t get picked. Why is that?

Because they don’t know me. Even though I’ve been watching them for weeks, they don’t know me. I could have easily played dozens of times over that span of time and yet I chose not to. Now when I want to, they don’t want to let me, because they don’t know me or anything about me. I’m not even a  familiar stranger to them.

All I had to do was take that first step and become part of their little community. I don’t even rise up when they needed a 10th guy so they could run. Benny, Joe, Arnold, Rambis, Chris D, BV, California, Stick, Coach, and Jackie, could have used me but I stayed passive and quiet. Just watching.  All it would have required was an occasional appearance in one of their games, and I could have played any time I wanted. Minimal effort on my part to get the ball rolling.

You’re a brand, thinking about social media. Thinking about community, about your customers, about growing your reach and your depth. Thinking about getting in. What should you do? How would you do it?

Don’t learn social media at the expense of your client


You have a client that trusts you. You have been tasked with handling some aspect of their marcom endeavor and you are kicking ass. They ask you about this social media thing.  You tell them what you know. But it’s not what you “do”.  Then it happens.

They ask you if they should “do ” it and whether you could do it for them. You say yes to the first question, and to the second you say…

Don’t do it. You’ll earn more respect for saying that you are not qualified then you would for muddling and scuffling through something that on the surface would seem somewhat basic and rudimentary. You have earned their trust. Trust is gold.

I could change the starter in my car, but it would take maybe 8 hours, maybe 2 days, maybe longer, and there is no guarantee that it will be done correctly. Or, I could go to my friend Curt’s house, he has a ton of tools, some books, and though he’s not a mechanic, he’s done some stuff with his car in the past. He has some faint knowledge of what’s under the hood. How hard could it be? Shouldn’t take TOO long.

Or I could go to the mechanic who works on nothing but my type of vehicle and he could do it before lunch. Might take him 2 hours tops. It’s done and done right. I know exactly what I’m going to get. My expectations are in line with my mechanics goals. He does what he does best.

Makes sense to me.

If it’s not what you do, just say it!

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7 use cases for social media? or not.


Is social media right for everyone?

According to Wikipedia (which is a site created by “the people”) Social media is content created by people using highly accessible and scalable publishing technologies. At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content…

So that’s cool. I get that.  But as I was sitting here thinking about how “social” my middle class Naples, Florida neighborhood was, I had trouble envisioning some of them using any social tools. If I were to take a random sampling of the people in the neighborhood,  of how social media might be construed or used, the results might surprise you. But lets look at as well, how social media might be utilized to make their businesses better. I’m not sure this is a cautionary tale or if this bodes well or what. What it does tell me is that we need to start thinking a bit more about B2B applications of social media on a lower or more SMB type of level, instead of writing about all of the enterprise and corporate examples, so lets get to it.

The Landscaper

Scott the landscaper spends the majority of his time outside, though he runs his business. He’s a hands on type of guy and thus the extent of his computer usage consists of probably printing invoices, maybe the occasional email, possibly ordering supplies, but not much more. So how could he use social media? What tools make sense? What is going to make Scott do what he does better, drive business and create relationships? What specific tools? Does Scott have time to be “social”? Does he even care about social media and what it might be able to “do” for his business?

The Insurance Guy

Bill, the insurance guy is a partner in an insurance agency. They do “risk management”. I’m not completely familiar with that but the bottom line is that Bill spends the majority of his time using the tools that an office environment provides. i.e., phone, fax, email, copier, etc. His job requires an inordinate amount of communicating. He also is always on the lookout for new business. Be it referral or otherwise. Bill and his business, would seem to be an ideal candidate for social media and the tools that go with it. But does Bill use it for lead sourcing? Customer service? Both? What might work best for Bill? Insurance is boring right? Social media and insurance? Strange bedfellows?

The Gift Store Owner

Roberta has a local gift store, she sells knick-knacks and the typical gift store “stuff”. She caters to the tourist business in South West Florida to a certain degree. She is the classic retail store owner. The SMB scratching and clawing to keep her business going in a space that can easily get swallowed up by online competition. Her business is all about traffic into the store. She relies on word of mouth, and typical “old-school” methods. What can she do? She has to run her business, stock the shelves, order product, balance the books, hire and train employees. There is a lot on her plate. When would she have time to be “social” and have it pay off for her?  In what form would social media be most effective for her small business? We say all the time, that social media does not happen over night and that you have to be patient and persistent. Does Roberta have that luxury?

The Real Estate Agent

Naples real estate agents are like actors in Hollywood. Everyone sells real estate in Naples, even if they have a real job.  Ann, sells real estate. She is really good, really smart, savvy, and personable. So she would appear to be, on the surface, a really good candidate for using social media effectively because of the nature of her job. She can find houses, find buyers and find sellers online. 3 channels that can be, and are augmented by the very nature of what makes the interwebs valuable-Speed. The ability to communicate on a massive scale and the chance to reach a lot of people at once are what give real estate agents a fighting chance in a very crowded Naples space. They use the power of the web to list homes, email buyers and sellers, and look for leads. So does social media make sense? At it’s core and by definition yes. However, real estate agents at their core and by their nature, are very pushy, aggressive and demonstrative. How does that play in social media circles? Does the old school, push mentality of marketing and selling work for most real estate agents? Would it work for them in social media? What tools should Ann use and how should she use them?

The Manager of a Cadillac Dealership

Mark has a tough road ahead of him and has had a tough road behind him. He’s tasked every day with selling cars and getting his sales people to sell cars. He sells a high end product and thus his demographic is also high end. For the car sales person they must utilize their network of old buyers or existing customers for referrals.  If they have been in the business for any amount of time that might work, if not they must resort to what? Buying lists of email addresses? Selling used cars, relying on the newspapers and their classified? banking on the up system? Car dealership people spend a ridiculous amount of time at the dealership. They must know their product inside and out, and the majority of their time is spent on their feet and “waiting”. Could Mark and his sales people benefit from using social media? Could they use it for lead generation? That would assume that their customers or prospects are using social media, right? The pressure right now in the car business is at an all time high and probably has never been more competitive. How could they use the power of conversations to drive sales? What tools or platform make the most sense? When could they use them? How do they fold that into the marketing mix?

The Medical Sales Guy

Steve spends the majority of his time in surgery. He sells spinal surgical devices and thus he spends a lot of time with doctors either in surgery or in face to face meetings. Steve utilizes all that technology can offer for his job. He has a laptop, a Blackberry, special software for tracking, for sales and for ordering. His company is cutting edge. He probably works close to 60 hours a week and could work more if he wanted. He could use an assistant and or his company could easily hire another sales rep. For Steve, social media would be more of a marketing assistant. or perhaps more of a conduit for sales support. Maybe it could be a way to stay in better contact with the Docs and or his company? But when does he do it? What might work best? More importantly, you can see how Steve might use it effectively, but there is the assumption that the Docs and or his clients are “already” using social media, and that might be overestimating things. If Steve uses it, and he wants his customers and Docs to use it, does he now have to sell the Docs on social media? Is that part of Steve’s  job description? Why does he have to? Would it lessen the hours that he already puts in?

The Builder

John is under the gun. Real estate in Naples sucks right now.  He is a great builder but he he has to worry not only about the typical things that a builder must worry about i.e., labor costs, labor, materials, material costs, but also whether someone is going to buy his houses once he’s done building them. John is a hands on guy too. He is on the job site from dawn until dusk. What social media tools might John use? Does it make sense?  How could they benefit him? Does social media even matter to him? John might use email, he might order products or materials online, but chances are he knows where to get his supplies and materials and chances are they have a physical location and there are existing relationships. That works just fine for him. Would social media make John’s life easier? Would he even care? Is there a place for social media in construction?


In these 7 real world examples I just provided, you now see the challenges and opportunities that social media can provide. In some cases it might make perfect sense to incorporate them and in others, the number one question would be, Why? But in each and every case, though there might be an argument as to why social media should be used, but there is also an argument of “What for”?

It’s not as easy a sale as you think. We talk all the time about how you “start” using social media, but for a lot of SMB’s that are stretched to the extremes as it is, maybe listening is enough.  So for the marketers, consultants, or companies that are praising its virtues, you need to take a step back and really look at it from the perspective of the SMB. From the eyes of someone fighting for every dollar, we have to have a better plan to fold it into the marketing mix without the time suck. Social media should be for everyone, but just saying you really need to be “doing social media”, just isn’t going to cut it.

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Is it really about being transparent?


In Business, I don’t really have a hard time saying “I’m sorry”, I just don’t like saying it, because it constitutes either failure or the inability to “do” something. It conveys that perhaps you did not hold up your end of the bargain. And yet, a lot of people cannot say it or do not say it, or, do everything in their power to avoid it. That makes things worse.

I don’t like saying “No”, because it means I can’t or won’t do something for you. I am refusing to do something for you. Some people do not like to hear No, or in some cases won’t take No as an answer. Others, instead of saying No, agree or say yes, when they really shouldn’t. That’s not a smart thing to do.

I don’t like saying ‘Goodbye”, because it signifies that our current engagement is ending or over and sometimes you don’t want it to end. Other times saying goodbye is exactly what’s needed a “good” bye. Sometimes, it’s just time.

In life, and in business,  some things are painful to do. We don’t want to do them because they hurt or we fear that we will lose business.  The three things that I mentioned above are all communications issues aren’t they? But in each scenario, its a form of communication that is often times necessary but avoided. Which again, makes things worse.

Sometimes we do have to say No.

Sometimes we do have to say I’m sorry.

and Sometimes we do have to say Goodbye.

What happens to the marketing person, the social media specialist, or the PR pro that decides to incorporate those three words into their lexicon?

They get Respect. Street Cred. and probably more business. Is this about being transparent?

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Augment your social media marketing efforts with honesty


Whatever you are doing for your clients right now isn’t enough. You may be doing what work’s for YOU because YOU know it works, but is it enough? Is it what is best for your client? Ok it may be, but I bet you, you could be doing more. Why do I think that? It’s simple and I’ll explain.

I was at a client meeting 2 weeks ago and  after everyone had cleared out, the president of the company asked me a question. It was one of those make or break moment type of questions too.

He asked me what I thought.

I sat there and was getting ready to go down a path I had gone down many times before. It was going to be the part-pitch, part-what-you- should-do type of comment, when I stopped and decided right then and there, to take a different approach.

I took a big breath.

I decided to tell the president that if I owned this project/company, if this was MY company, this is what I would do.

I told him what I would do and why. It wasn’t the I’m good at what I do rant, it was the “this is broken and its not working and I need to fix it type of comment”.  It was the, “here’s what I need to do to make it right comment”.

Simple, honest and dead on.

Guess what? It worked!

A lot of what I was referring to were elements of social media that needed to be in place to make an already thriving community/website more interactive and more conversational. Did it need to be radically changed? No. A new website? No. An overhaul of a social  media presence? No. It didn’t need any of that. It needed some tweaks and some changes in strategy, that’s all. What it needed was a dose of reality sprinkled with honesty.

At the end of the day, it’s not about bangin’ the client for as much as you can get, or getting the project at any cost, or saying what they want to hear. It’s about you being honest and seeing the challenges of running a business from the perspective of the business owner.

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The role of social media in the Iranian election

As you are all aware of by now, assuming that you are somewhat wired, there was a presidential election in Iran. When the news surfaced globally that current Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won the election with 65% of the vote, it set in motion the wheels that power social media. While the outrage over a seemingly rigged election simmered to a boil, demonstrators numbered in the hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Iran in massive protests…Something else happened as well.

Those same elements however, took to the power of social media to document in real time the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s violent reaction to the people’s protests of a seemingly rigged election. That’s right, the power of social media was literally the first to let the world know about the displeasure that Iranian citizens had over the election results and the fallout from that election.

Much of this activity was covered by Iranian citizens on social networking sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Flickr,  Facebook and personal blogs; and though the Iranian government did their best to try and stop the rising flood of information flowing out of the country via social media, ultimately theres not  a thing the Iranian government can do to suppress the massive amount of citizen journalism taking place before our eyes.

Consider the following:

According to BNET Media, as of last night, there were almost 12,000 videos available on YouTube under the search term, “Iranian election.”

Consider that the top trending topics on Twitter are #Iranelection, #Tehran, #Mousavi, and #Iranians. That’s right. People are not only talking here in the U.S. about what is going on in Iran, the people of Iran are letting the WORLD know about what is happening via social media.

If you go to Flickr and type in any type of search term that is related to the Iranian election you get a stunning amount of results and images that we can all assume that the current Iranian regime would prefer that the world did not see.


Other social media sources that are doing their best to keep the feeds coming are the following:







Iran Election









Global Voices



A slew of Twitter Accounts:

This list will continue to grow over the next few days and weeks, feel free to share it and add to it. But know this. We all constantly talk about some of the best case uses of social media every day, and in this situation we are seeing the power of social media being utilized to not only enlighten the world, but also empower its citizens in ways that I’m sure were never envisioned by its progenitors.

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