Never Fear: Itís Not the Big Bad Wolf
When I was 7, I went away to summer camp for the first time. I was petrified of not knowing any other campers, not having any friends and being left out. I was afraid the other girls wouldn’t like me or would make fun of me. I begged my parents to not make me go, and gave my mother a fit when it was time to get out of the car and say goodbye.
The unknown was absolutely terrifying.
As difficult as it may have been, my mother was stoic in that moment and insisted I would meet people and make new friends. She reminded me that the most important thing to remember was to treat others as I would want to be treated. The Golden Rule.
And as is much of what our mothers say, it was true. I did meet new people. I did make new friends. All I had to do was suck up my fears, play nice and, generally speaking, others did same.
While the real world doesn’t always work out so nicely, there is a key lesson to be learned here, even when it comes to social media. Yet, one of the most serious concerns businesses and individuals alike have regarding social media is the fear that you are opening up yourself or your business to unnecessary incivility, negativity and criticism. The perception is common that social media can unleash a Pandora’s Box of legal nightmares and PR blunders.
We have all heard the horror stories of biting customer complaints and businesses getting ripped apart on social networks, so the concern is not completely unfounded. However, these are not the norm and are almost always over-sensationalized. For every gaffe you hear about, social-savvy businesses generate millions of dollars in sales.
Instead of being a destructive force, social media will open more doors than it closes. From branding to sales and job prospecting to communicating with customers and peers, social media is an inexpensive and effective way to reach your target audience.
The odds are with you.
Today, there are literally billions of active users on social media. If Facebook were a country, it would rank third in terms of population, behind only China and India. So don’t let your head get too big. You or your business is not that important to be hacked, stalked and singled out in a vicious, punitive manner. People just have better things to do with their time.
As long as your engagement on social networks is not antagonistic, follows the Golden Rule, and reflects the value of sharing, you will likely receive reciprocal positive engagement.
Absence does not make the heart
Also consider that your official absence on social media will, under no circumstances, prevent criticism and negative remarks being posted about you or your business. In fact, your participation on the same social networks as your prospects, customers or contacts will help you manage your reputation.
By using social networks to actively listen, you will be able to stay aware, in real-time, of dissatisfaction that may be associated with you or your business. It also serves as a platform for you to respond and address any negativity. The feedback you gain will only help you or your business become more responsive.
What is normal now, used to be frightening.
A mere 10, 15 years ago, it wasn’t social media that scared businesses. Back then, the fear was of simply having a company website. Businesses were intimidated by the perceived complexity of building and maintaining a site, the costs associated with it, and the newness of the online medium.
What we all found out, though, was that times have changed, the way of doing business has evolved, and not having a website delegitimized you.
Today, you can take that last sentence and substitute social media for website. Instead of viewing social media as a way to hurt your reputation, not having a social media presence will make you look less professional and not “with” the current times and ways of doing business.
So, take a chapter from my mother’s book: Don’t shy away from social media because you fear the unknown. Fear is a natural part of how humans operate. However, business decisions based on fear more often than not turn out to be mistakes.
Don’t let it define you or your business. Instead, suck it up, learn the ins and outs of social media, and open up those doors to new opportunities.
Kathleen Laney, President and Executive Search Consultant at Laney Solutions, is a Contributing Writer for Parking Today. Contact her at email@example.com.