It seems these days everyone is enamored with social media.
It's hard to go to a conference that doesn't offer sessions titled, "How to Leverage Social Media to Benefit Your Organization" ... "10 Ways Social Media Can Help You Raise More Funds" ... "Social Media: Getting Your Story Out. What Every Social Marketer Needs to Know."
I'm no Luddite. But in full disclosure, even though I use it sparingly, I'm no big fan of social media for numerous reasons, including issues related to privacy, security, and time management, just to name a few.
Despite any of my personal biases, however, the axiom that "Good news travels fast; bad news travels faster" holds more weight in this age of incredibly fast communications technologies than ever before.
In short, when it comes to social media, be sure you've done your homework.
A Few Things to Think About
What follows are just a few things to ponder as you explore your initial, or expanded, use of social media.
How well do we understand this technology, and do we know the best—and correct—ways to employ it?
For example, do we know the differences between social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), bookmarking sites (Delicious, StumbleUpon, etc.) social news (Digg, Reddit, etc.), media sharing (YouTube, Flickr, etc.), microblogging (Twitter, etc.), and the countless blog forums that are out there?
Do we need to employ all of them, or will just one or two do?
Are we staffed to use social media in a timely manner?
Social media is meant to be interactive. In other words, it's a dynamic—not a static—form of communications, and much of it is extremely time sensitive.
For example, if someone posts a question on your blog, Facebook, or LinkedIn page, how long will it take you to respond? Hint: It better be sooner rather than later. Social media almost demands real-time turnaround.
Who within our organization should have access to and be responsible for our social media communications?
Keep in mind that social media is a window to your brand. Subsequently, the person(s) responsible for messaging on it in many respects become the online face of your organization. Choose them not only for their ability to know and understand the technology but also for how well they know and understand your brand and the image you want to project to the public.
Which leads us to ...
Do we have guidelines for online behavior?
Do you understand that anything you say on social media is in the public domain, that it is all being archived, and that it can be retrieved at any time by anyone with a search engine—which means nearly everyone in the world?
Subsequently, do you have written policies in place regarding such things as the accuracy of information you are putting online, the use (or non-use) of vulgarity, respect for others (individuals as well as organizations), and how to address online criticism of your organization?
Which also leads us to ...
Do we have a crisis management plan in place should something negative about our organization go viral?
If someone in your organization becomes aware that your organization is being challenged or criticized online, to whom should they report, and how should the organization respond?
Are we aware of privacy issues?
Do you know not to provide personal or organization-related information on social media sites that scam artists or identity thieves could use?
Do we know when we may be overexposing ourselves to our audiences?
At what point might you be sending out too many tweets or other online messages that, instead of holding the attention of your intended audiences are causing them to consider your messages spam?
What are our lost opportunity costs?
Is social media taking up so much of your time that it is preventing you from doing things more directly related to the success of your mission?
Let's be clear. I'm not trying to dissuade anyone from using social media. Used knowledgeably and thoughtfully, it certainly has proven to have its advantages and revered place in organization communications.
I'm just saying ...
Larry Checco, Checco Communications
© 2014, Checco Communications
Larry Checco is president of Checco Communications and a nationally recognized public speaker, workshop presenter, and consultant on branding and leadership. His books, Branding for Success: A Roadmap for Raising the Visibility and Value of Your Nonprofit Organization and Aha! Moments in Brand Management: Commonsense Insights to a Stronger, Healthier Brand, have sold thousands of copies both here and abroad.