Is your company afraid of social media? I don't mean merely uncomfortable or inexperienced. I mean white-knuckle teeth-clenching afraid. I frequently talk to companies that live in deathly fear, and they have their reasons. The question for them is what to do. Do they give into their fears and avoid social media or do they plunge in and overcome their fears? Usually, the right answer is neither. Instead, you need to try to let your rational brain break through the wall of fear and take a first step that doesn't feel so big.

 It's more often large companies than small companies that live in social media fear, and that fear is often rife within the executive ranks and especially the legal department. In regulated industries, there is usually a compliance department that spends every minute of the day mitigating risks and social media is the biggest risk they can see out there.

But I see it in small companies, too. Owners of businesses terrorized by the prospect of a bad review on Yelp. Many big businesses and small would be thrilled if social media disappeared from the face of the earth.

What can we do to get over these fears?

Part of what's needed is for us to recognize that fear is an emotion that often alerts us to real danger. We must always tap into our emotions to notice when we are in a truly threatening situation. If we had no fear, we'd get ourselves into real trouble far more often.

But with social media, although the risks are real, we must figure out how to cope with them rather than avoid them. When we are afraid (or angry or any other "negative" emotion), we must always make the choice as to whether we are going to act on that fear or whether we want to override it.

For example, if a policeman pulls your car over and starts writing a ticket for a violation that you absolutely did not commit, you'd be justifiably angry. Yet you are unlikely to begin yelling at him. You experienced a very strong emotion, but your rational brain overruled your emotions and decided to stay calm and fight the ticket in court. Or pay it even though it is unfair. Or engage in calm discussion with the officer to explain the error. Or just about anything except losing your temper and taking a chance of getting arrested.

Fear of social media needs the same approach. You might be experiencing real fear, and there are real dangers. But social media is here to stay and we need to use our rational brains to overcome our fears, starting with a small step that seems less risky.

My advice is to start by listening. Read your Yelp reviews. Start subscribing to blogs. Follow someone on Twitter. Set up a Google Alert for your business. If you are a large business, get a listening service like that of Converseon. (Full disclosure: I serve as a senior strategist for Converseon.)

Whatever you do, don't just sit there in the fetal position, wondering if you can make it to retirement without having to deal with social media. Accept the fact that you are fraidy-scared and make a rational decision to start by listening and gaining experience. After you listen for a while, you might feel the impulse to participate. And then you are on your way.

Originally posted on Biznology Blog.

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December 10, 2013

Mike is an expert in search marketing, search technology, social media, publishing, text analytics, and web metrics, who regularly makes speaking appearances.

Mike's previous appearances include Text Analytics World, Rutgers Business School, SEMRush webinar, ClickZ Live.

Mike also founded and writes for Biznology, is the co-author of Outside-In Marketing (with James Mathewson) and the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (now in its 3rd edition, and sole author of Do It Wrong Quickly, named by the Miami Herald as one of the 11 best business books of 2007.


I like the angle you approach the subject, but is it fear or ignorance? You'd be surprised by how some companies still fail to acknowledge they exist in the 21st century.

I try to encourage business to get involved in social media as a good way to make contacts that they may have not made in there general way of marketing. yes it is a double edged sword but if someone is going to talk about you or your business on the many social media networks it is better to be there to respond rather than not no about it. personally I like Topsy to tracking interactions you can use this to search many networks at once

Great post. One of the most powerful ways to use Social Media is Brand Recognition. It allows businesses to interact and engage with customers in ways that were not possible before. The biggest benefits to using social media as a business is the opportunity to reach out to an audience that actually wants to hear from you.

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