I recently suggested why you should be getting your business involved in social media and even how social media has proven successful for some of the less obvious professions, but the biggest barrier for businesses contemplating the step is fear of the unknown.

To combat some of the fears you need to consider why social media is proving successful. The fact is that rightly or wrongly, people trust their “friends” much more than they trust media organisations and institutions like governments and big companies. Word of mouth has always been a successful way of developing business and social media has taken that to a new level.

The shift in attitudes is already underway and amongst certain demographics is nearly complete so there is no point ignoring it, it is time to embrace it and see where you can exert some influence or control. Control, or a loss of control of information once disseminated or even just written about them, is probably the biggest fear of those opposed to making the move into social media.

Yet, the fears are normally based in ignorance or at least a lack of understanding. It is true people can write bad reviews about you and tweet about poor customer service to all and sundry. yet, whether you are online or not, they are probably going to do that anyway – it is the way the world works now. Also if you are hot on your customer service, or at least on the management of matters when they do go wrong you can combat any bad press just as quickly.

But not being involved in the social media arena it is like not reading a certain trade magazine that you know constantly takes a stance against you. It has no effect other than damage your brand. If you at least read it, you will be informed. Some of that information may be true and you will learn an insight into your business you may have previously overlooked. Other information will be untrue, but at least you can make a judgment on that and see why they are saying that. You can then assess the information and make a considered response.

In many case the things that we ‘fear’ are simply excuses not to learn why we fear those things, and usually new things. Understanding is the important tool in maximising the most out of social media, and in understanding it is important to remember these four lessons:

  1. Don’t expect people to react in the same way as they would offline – it is a much more informal arena.
  2. Don’t expect your reputation offline to give you particular credit online – that needs to be earnt again.
  3. Don’t expect everything to be measurable. Corporate business in particular has a trend to create as many spreadsheets and pivot-tables as possible to show a metric value in everything. Social media is not always like that, sometimes things just work. Maybe somewhat ironically social media is more personal relationship-based – how good business always was – and that means that often a little personal touch works in a way that really can’t be measured.
  4. Don’t embrace the informality too much however. Remember to carry on with the same brand values and a professional approach. This can often be the most difficult lesson to grasp as the boundaries are so often blurred.
  5. Social media is a buzzword, but it the factors that it created have changed the way people do business. It is not going away in any near future so you need to combat your fears and embrace it.