Why do companies trust their employees to answer a phone, but not to blog or get on Twitter?
It drew a flurry of responses – everything from online activities being permanently etched in Google and thereby carrying more risk, to companies just not “getting” that their employees are likely out there talking anyway, with or without permission. It’s the second part that stuck. (The actual answers to the above question are actually rather secondary at this point).
Once again, we’re at this place of what I’m affectionately calling the Social Media Stalemate.
There are piles of information out there now about the “why” of social media, and there are increasingly bold and prominent examples of the how, from our favorites like Dell and Comcast and Zappos to all of the companies that Peter Kim has been copiously collecting here. I’m just about done with the argument that what we need is more “examples”. We have examples, what we seem to collectively lack is the stones to execute and try stuff for ourselves (there, I said it).
So this brings me here. What happens when we’re a bit of an impasse? When we’ve outlined examples, talked until we’re blue in the face about the benefits of participating in social media and pointed out the risks of ignoring it, and yet our company or client refuses to hear?
You probably know by now that I’m a proponent of doing things in baby steps, and that complete revolution is often impossible and sometimes even unwise in the face of business. So no, to those of you that may be preparing to launch into a comment storm about social media’s overhype, I’m not suggesting that we jettison everything old in favor of everything new. But doing nothing at all, digging in your heels and refusing to see what’s in front of you? That’s a tough nut to crack.
I’m all for education and teaching and learning and gradual sea change. But even I have to admit that I shake my head at some of the stale rationale I keep hearing to justify resisting the things that are so obviously changing the face of business and media as we know them, even in small ways. And I grow even more confused when what I hear as justification are things like “it’s risky” or “we don’t know if it will work” or “companies are afraid of the unknown”. I have yet to execute any substantially successful communications, marketing, community outreach, fundraising, or customer service initiative in my career that came with a guarantee of success, whether or not it had precedent.
This isn’t fishbowl validation anymore, folks. I’m not trying to preach to the converted or play kumbaya, nor am I trying to assert that social media is the end-all (and I’ve written many times about why it isn’t). Social media didn’t create the mistrust or the detractors or the risks or the issues at hand, it’s just putting them in plain sight, and putting companies in the uncomfortable (or enlightening) position to respond.
So I’m asking you. Can persistence in teaching and education pay off, and is eternal patience the only prescription (besides more cowbell)?
How much analysis and risk evaluation is enough before action is imperative?
And when all else fails, when (and HOW) do you cut bait, either as a company or an adviser? Is there a time when you as the social media champion are forced to choose your company or your cause?
I don’t have all the answers here, far from it. But I’m wondering if any of you are thinking about this like I am. Help me out?