Social media may be the new shiny communications tool thatâ€™s all the rage with the cool cats now, but truthfully, very little about it is really new.
For example, the idea that a person can be a medium.
No, not that kind of medium.
Remember the axiom â€œDonâ€™t shoot the messengerâ€? It exists as an old saying because before the web, before mobile phones, television, radio, the telephone, and the telegraph, the job of transmitting communications across long distances was handled by people.
As obvious as this may sound, it still needs to be said: â€œSocial media is people.â€
One element of social media that causes brand guardians heartburn is the fact that to do it properly at the corporate level, you have to essentially funnel your brand through individual people.
Iâ€™m still trying to get why thatâ€™s a bad thing. Waiting. Thinking.
Nope, still donâ€™t get it.
If youâ€™re afraid that the person in question will screw up, give me the name of your PR agency, since apparently theyâ€™ve never screwed up. Bear in mind, Iâ€™m a person who thinks â€œsanitizingâ€ a press release until it contains no actual information is a screw up.
If youâ€™re afraid that the person in question will â€œgo off messageâ€ then give me the name of your President, CEO, and your other top execs, because God knows theyâ€™ve never been known to stray from the official corporate line in an interview.
If youâ€™re afraid of brand dilution, then evidently you have a creative agency thatâ€™s never pushed your advertising outside the bounds of the brand bible. Iâ€™m not sure if thatâ€™s a blessing or a curse, actually.
If youâ€™re afraid that theyâ€™ll provide information that turns out to be wrong, letâ€™s see the rolls of your customer service reps. Wow, that many people, and none of them have ever given out incorrect information? Impressive.
I think you see what Iâ€™m getting at here. Youâ€™re already funneling your brand through people.
People are messy and imperfect. They have opinions and personalities that arenâ€™t always â€œon brand message.â€ They take job offers with other companies when opportunities present themselves.
This is all suddenly shocking new information? Was this not true of your brand manager? Your last VP of Sales and Marketing? Your sales staff and front line people? Why is it different when itâ€™s a guy whoâ€™s tweeting tech support, or updating the corporate blog, or acting as part den mother/part referee as your community manager?
The truth is, you donâ€™t have to be comfortable with the tools to be comfortable with the people and the roles. Donâ€™t let your discomfort with the tools bleed over into discomfort with the roles that fit your organizationâ€™s communications needs, or the people you select to fill those roles.
The handwriting is on the wall. Social media offers a rich, scalable, efficient and effective set of tools to handle a number of business communications problems. It reaches an audience that is becoming increasingly ad-blind and un-spinnable. The organizations who master the use of it will have a competitive advantage. Thatâ€™s the message.
Donâ€™t shoot the messengers. If you do, youâ€™re effectively shooting yourself in the foot.
IMAGE: Longbow Shoot by Hans S on Flickr