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.
You forgot to include, “Have all employees disclose any SM accounts and their passwords (even if they do not have online access at work) and monitor them for any discussion of the company”
Omg!!! That was hysterical – I forget what crazy city felt that was acceptable for their city employee applications, but truth really CAN be stranger than fiction sometimes!
I’ve heard of that one. It’s definitely real. (Isn’t that sad?)
11.) Feel free to delete whatever you need to, no one will notice
Good one too. 🙂
You also forgot turning over consumption of social media to the IT department, who will promptly send everything to the legal department for review.
Great post, Olivier!
A couple of days ago I was participating in the #socialmedia chat on Twitter where we were discussing size of follower lists vs effective management of those lists, quantity vs quality, etc. Someone said, “there’s no way a company can engage with 100k followers/fans”.
I suggested, mostly joking initially, that large companies could have each employee engage with one customer/follower, creating a one-to-one ratio. That way Coca Cola could engage with 100k followers.
Well, as you can imagine, this started off a string of discussions around employee suitability, consistency of tone, rogue employees running amok, training, listening in on conversations, etc.
However, through all the issues and wrinkles, it occurred to me how amazing it would be to put the original idea in place. Imagine if every employee engaged with one (or a handful of) customer(s). Imagine how powerful that could be for both parties, how empowering, how personal. What if all the non customer-facing parts of the business suddenly had regular conversations with customers? What different views would customers get of the company and how strong would they come to feel about it? What would those employees learn about their products and the marketplace and imagine how involved they would feel in the life of the company? It potentially could change so much about the relationship between a company and its customers.
The very idea would scare the bejeezus out some corporations.
I’ve vowed to think more about this. Does anyone else have any thoughts?
That’s a kickass idea, Eric. For many obvious reasons.
I won’t dwell on the obstacles standing in the way, but you know… the spirit of that idea is one well worth pursuing. Absolutely. If a 1:1 ratio isn’t feasible, then how well can the idea be adapted to a company based on what it is trying to accomplish.
Well, Olivier, obviously I had drifted off into a beautiful (imaginary) world of perfection and harmony when conceptualising this, but, hey, we might as well aim high, right? 😉
However, you distilled it appropriately when you called for pursuing the “spirit of the idea” and thinking about how it could be adapted to a company’s aims. In that regard the spirit of the idea is that companies should allow/enable/encourage social media to be as pervasive as possible (guided by strategy, etc) throughout the corporate body rather than confining it to the marketing department, for example.
(Having said that, in my world view, you could replace “social media” with “marketing” in that last sentence and it would be just as true.)
Great stuff…I think I know a company just like that. 😉 As for rule 3 you could also add ‘Another option would be to try paying a different blogger to write nice things about us’
Yep. That’s a pretty good one too. 🙂
I like to think that the organizations which don’t want their employees talking about them have a sub-conscious understanding that they suck. They know they’re clueless halfwits undeserving of their exorbitant executive salary packages and, should this whole social media thing get out of control, the entire world might find out just how inept and useless they are, leading to the ship taking on more water than they can bail.
BAN BAN BAN!
Brian, two words: Amen.
🙂 You’re absolutely correct.
Companies who know they rock aren’t afraid of their employees. Companies who know they suck are. Psychology and anthropology 101.
I had a tweet from a friend the other day that said (paraphrasing): “@BethHarte, company banned @MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog, can no longer read it.”
I almost wanted to cry. Not because they banned *our* blog, but because they BANNED their employees from learning!!
No wonder Americans are SO far behind in everything… God forbid you let them learn when they want to so that they can do a BETTER job for YOUR organization. UGH! It kills me. Like a knife in the heart.
**Marketers, don’t let this happen to you! Find a new job…trust me, you’ll thank us later.
Community Manager, MarketingProfs
An HR manager addressing a similar issue a year ago told me “There is nothing our employees need to learn that we don’t already teach.”
Isn’t that sad?
Great Post- we have a name for the disease now. SMTS that is great.. Need a slide with how it looks and a graph on how it spreads, and then a postmortem report on the company involved.. Then we have to get a drug that can fix it..
Love your sense of humor.
Thanks, Steven. I love the idea of the CDC-like post. 😀
Olivier, this is priceless. Thanks!
I about wet my pants! Thanks for a GREAT commentary. Rings a lot of bells.
Olivier, love your sense of humor, is it French too?
It seems to me that fear and banning of social media is usually justified with a logical fallacy.
An abuse of social media is brought out as an example for the ban. The ban is instituted. End of discussion.
But abuse does not argue for non-use. It argues for correct use.
Still, non-use is our preferred form or denial and overreaction.
Keep creating…it freaks people out,
Exactly. Simple education can help fix this. Sadly, many executive cultures aren’t into “learning.” Like you, trying to change that a little every day. 🙂
Haha, great list Olivier!
An addition: If you’re struggling to figure out which social media platform to use for your company, just use as many as possible. One of them is bound to be successful.
😀 Wow. That’s scary too.
Oliviér, as usual – Genius!
Those companies **should** be in Social Media Terror!
Terror of what video defacing or mocking their product surfaces on YouTube (United?)
Terror of what influential blogger will call down hail stones on their brand (too many to mention)
Terror that a #hash tag with their name on it hits the Twitter trending topics & launching the yourcompanysucks.com Web Page to the top of Digg
And Terror that they won’t know a thing about it until it hits the WSJ (or the Globe & Mail here in Canada)
In the “old tech” days there was a saying of trying “Security Through Obscurity”
To those businesses – obscurity does not exist anymore.
Elliot, well said.
“People said what about us where? What’s a twitter?” ;P
Olivier, I think there’s a lot of denial and overreaction on both sides of the issue.
Among certain social media true believers, there’s absolutely irrational terror that if every brand doesn’t dive headfirst into social media *immediately* it will be dead in a matter of moments.
I don’t believe it.
And, as you’ve suggested, among certain corporate disbelievers there’s an irrational sense that if social media can be ignored long enough it will go away and we can return to the blissful, easy-to-manage media landscape of 1955.
I don’t believe that, either.
Hysteria, terror and denial are lousy tools for good decision-making. I’d like to see a more balanced approach.
I wrote a two-part blog post that attempts to find a balance, called What If Your CEO Is Right To Be Afraid Of Social Media.
I’m curious to hear your reaction.
Thanks. Jumping in with both feet isn’t a good idea for all companies (for some, sure… but not all). Agreed.
Any company that reaches out and tries to learn as much as they can will do well.
Those that rush into things without learning or reject an idea without learning about it are equally doomed to fail.
@tjcnyc yours is a really well balanced article, including the links you provide. The Brand Builder is a master however in this particular case I value your efforts on these theme more highly, thanks.
– Walter, @g2m
Good post. Here is an article along the lines you write about, but more from the perspective of employees posting about their job experiences (and denigrating customers).
Loved this and will share with everyone I know.
The tragedy is that if these companies reinvested the time and resources they’ve spent stopping social media into actually trying to understand and leverage it – they’d be miles ahead by now.
Le sigh, exactly.
Perfect! As usual, you got right to the heart of the matter! The irony is that you didn’t have to make up any of the objections – they are real! Thanks for the humorous take on things…
Hilarious post! Too bad I could relate to some of your “advice.” I interned for a firm that worked with a client that did not want to use social media because every post/tweet/update needed to be sent through legal before it could be published. There’s definitely a reason why this post is so funny, and sadly it’s because a lot companies practice in this fashion.
Thanks for the laughs!
Wow. Yeah… That is so sad.
The sad, but so very true part is that I have faced so many of the things you mentioned in my job as I shared my passion for social media. Especially #2. I was trying to be an evangelist for the company helping customers and I got the reaction you noted for Social Media Terror Syndrome (SMTS): Violent outbursts at the mere mention of the social web.
So, I got tired of it and I am moving on. The company’s loss for not listening and understanding those of us who are passionate and just wanted to connect with customers.
I will find something else that allows me to do what I love. 🙂
As always, a great post and one that I plan on sharing with my twitter followers later! I do have one “food for thought” to share with the group… Can commerce and social media co-exist harmoniously? Meaning, are there opportunities for companies to directly sell using social media tools? For example, if a customer wanted to re-finance their house and posted to twitter asking for banks to tweet back with their rates, would it be appropriate for the bank to respond with a DM? I know community building is at the core of social media and overselling within an online community (whether twitter, facebook, etc.) would be extremely detrimental, but at some point commerce will need to enter into the conversation. A company’s social media strategy can’t exist on branding or dumping excess inventory alone. Food for thought…
Some folk feel that it is inappropriate to use the word “fear” when discussing how to get the C-level across the line of realization that social media strategy should be on the agenda.
Perhaps that’s right – but showing examples of their customers participating in discussions with their competitors in the social web does create a kind of pregnant pause – it that fear, or the sound of a pin dropping?
Social Media Academy, Australia
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