Fear makes people act the fool. It really does.
Take a few random examples throughout history: The burning alive of suspected witches, the French building the Maginot Line, McCarthyism, protesting the US government’s takeover of medicare, and just recently, bizarre, equally irrational and completely unenforceable bans on social media by an increasing number of organizations and corporate entities, evidently in a state of complete panic over something they still refuse to understand.
Today, I want to pay these fearful organizations homage with this short list of completely nonsensical guidelines which I hope will help them embrace both the ignorance and fear that seem to be spreading like a virus across their corporate boardrooms. The question at the heart of this epidemic of stupidity being of course: “What the hell are we going to do about this social media thing?” Well don’t fret, if you are that kind of company, I have the answers you need right here:
1. When in doubt, ban the use of social media in as many places as you can. The last thing you want is for anyone – employees, customers, etc. – to talk about you… or your industry… or anything at all for that matter. So ban, ban, ban. Ban the use of Facebook, ban the use of YouTube, ban the use of Twitter, ban the use of Seesmic, ban the use of anything that looks, sounds, smells or feels like social media. Ban it inside your facilities, your stores, your stadiums and at all of your events. Social Media is a lot like swine flu: Kill it before it spreads. Control will be achieved.
2. If you discover unapproved company/brand evangelists among your employees, silence them immediately. They are not official representatives and cannot be allowed to communicate with the outside world. Watch them closely too, in case they try to sneak back into their accounts.
3. If a blogger says something negative about you, threaten to sue them. That usually shuts them up.
4. For all its current dangers, Social Media is really little more than a fad. Ignore it long enough and it will eventually go away on its own. (Sooner or later, all those people on Twitter will find jobs again.)
5. You’re pretty sure that someone in Legal is already working on drafting a corporate social media policy. If anyone in the org understands social media, surely it’s the lawyers. See #1, above.
6. There is no need whatsoever to look into how Social Media might fit into your business model. It doesn’t. Your PR firm and ad agency already explained this to you last year.
7. Okay, so maybe it’s time to “test” the waters of social media. No problem: Just hire some digital marketing guys to start a few accounts and create content. Speaking of which, we should get the promotions department on this call and see what kinds of sales campaigns they can come up with. (Should our ad agency manage this stuff?)
8. All inbound tweets must be reviewed by Legal. All outbound tweets must be approved by Legal. Wait… #1 (above) seemed like a lot less work. Let’s go with that instead.
9. You say online reputation management, we say PR. You say social media monitoring, we say traditional market research firms. You say customer engagement, we say driven salespeople, outbound calls and email blasts. You say live online customer support, we say inbound call center in Manila. You say social screening and recruiting, we say stacks of resumes are better. You say deeper relationships, we say more advertising. You say social media, we say proven methods we know and trust. We have everything under control.
10. Maybe the easiest thing is to wait and see what your competitors will do, then maybe do that.
If you do not follow these ten precepts to the letter, several things will happen (in no particular order): 1. the sky will fall 2. Swarms of Africanized killer bees will colonize all of your retail outlets, and 3. What… the first two weren’t enough?
Please learn to recognize the signs of Social Media Terror Syndrome (SMTS). Among them are an irrational fear of customer opinions, a sudden distrust of perfectly professional employees, a fixation on technology bans and nonsensical legal action, increased stress reactions when confronted with discussions about change, violent outbursts at the mere mention of the social web, and a reluctance to learn basic social media skills.
If you or someone you know knows a company or organization currently in social media terror mode, please call for help immediately.