Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lessons from ice bucket campaign on use of social media

     The ALS Foundation hit a home run---no a grand slam-- with the campaign around the ice bucket challenge.  I use the word "campaign" loosely because this was started not by the Foundation but one individual who posted the challenge to Facebook.  As we have seen before when something goes viral on social media the results can far surpassing anything that can be done using more conventional means.  How many people knew there was an ALS Foundation a month ago?  Watch how the research dollars rapidly increase from many private and public sources in the future.  It now has the visibility that generates more support.   We have seen the same thing happen before with Alzheimers Disease, AIDS and breast cancer.
      So why are so few organizations using social media in an interactive manner more?   This question doesn't ignore the tentative uses that organizations use like Facebook and Twitter.  The problem is that most organizations only use these social media platforms in the same non interactive ways for which they have been using print media.   Developing a website or Facebook page that is as static as an organizational brochure is a shortsighted use of social media.  Tweeting only to inform people about upcoming or past events also doesn't qualify as interactive.  Social media is designed to be a two way communication to fully utilize its power.
     So why are organizations reluctant to use the powerful interactive capabilities of social media?  As I have blogged before it is their fear of losing control of the content.  Negative examples of the problematic use of social media are often repeated in the news.  Someone losing their job for an inappropriate Facebook post or tweet are things that do point out some dangers.  These examples are usually done by a young person who has grown up in a time when sharing information and comments to a wide, diverse audience is done causally.  The opposite seems to be the case with many organizational leaders who have grown up with a much different orientation to how online interactions should occur.  When their job is at risk they naturally become very conservative.  But like the old saying "nothing ventured, nothing gained" this conservative perspective can have some negative impacts on an organization in a time of changing organizational dynamics.
    So how do you better use the power of social media to maximize its power?   Just like the ALS challenge developed.  You reach out to supporters or users of your product or service and engage them by asking them to give you feedback.  Pose a question that you would like to start a dialogue.  Ask them to post the interaction on their social media.  The key in any engagement to ask for information and not to give information and then to LISTEN.   Don't be afraid of negative feedback as it often is more useful than positive praise.  Even outside critics can be useful in understanding the challenges your organization has to overcome.  Viewing an organization from the inside can often overestimate your strengths and underestimate your challenges.
     It is a new world out there today.  Those who embrace it thrive, those who resist it struggle.

     This Friday I have something I would like to try in Columbia for the Labor Day holiday to generate a little social media buzz.  Check back on Friday.

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