How to control social media

I was on the phone yesterday with a prospective client who expressed concern from her board about losing control. “I know that we need to eventually start blogging and tweeting,” she said. “but our board members are concerned about losing control.” She went on to describe what I think are extremely valid concerns:

  • Social media will open the flood gates to criticism about the organization.
  • Social media will take away their control over the brand image.
  • They won’t be able to control the resource requirements needed to do it right.

After listening to her concerns, I half-jokingly asked: “What if we showed them that they won’t lose any more control than they have now – no matter how much they dive into social media?”

“What do you mean?”, she asked.

Loss of control is a non-issue

I went on to explain that, for the most part, the issue of control has not been effected by the advent of social media.

Potential donors still have complete control over two things:

  1. Whether they choose to donate money to your non-profit or not.
  2. What they say to their friends about your non-profit.

And likewise, non-profits still have control over many things:

  1. The price of their products (donations and how they are spent).
  2. Who buys their products (channels of fundraising).
  3. How they treat their or donors.
  4. How they treat their employees.
  5. How much value they create in their community.

->Also see visual.

Only the volume has changed

The only thing that’s different on both sides is that the volume has been cranked up to ten. A bad experience now gets posted on YouTube. And a great experience gets retweeted.

How companies can control social media

A customer’s experience of a product is largely controlled by the company. And even in the case where a customer has a crap experience because of a “bad apple” employee or an honest mistake, the company still has complete control over making things right. In this sense, companies have a substantial ability to “control” what people say about them.

For some organizations though, it might be easier to blame social media than to admit losing control over the business.

What do you think?

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Comments

  1. Thanks John. This is really succinct and clear.

    The great thing for me is that social media makes the previously invisible, visible. There have always been negative comments about organizations, companies, etc. Groups of clients and customers would vanish because one person with substantial social clout would have a bad experience and spread the word. Now you can hear the chatter on the street and respond to it, rather than just wondering where the heck everyone went. Same thing goes for the good things. The invisible good things you were doing for people that were benefiting your reputation in small steps now have the potential to spread much father, much faster. Focus on doing good things, engaging with people with legitimate concerns and you won't need control.

    1. The challenge for organizations is to create products and provide customer support that blows people away so much that they blog, tweet and Facebook it.

  2. John:

    What an eloquent way to frame the message about control, especially for a nonprofit. Usually, I say something like, “Whether you like it or not, they are already talking about you. You just don’t know it. Wouldn’t you like to know what they are saying about you and engage in the conversation?”

    I find that most of the time, when a Board or Executive Director responds with the fear that they will lose control, they are afraid they will lose control of how their brand/organization appears to the masses. They've bought into traditional marketing thinking that you can control how people view and respond to your organization/brand with the right broadcast marketing, the right message and the right medium. I also believe that when they state they fear losing control, they are unknowingly stating that they don't believe in their own organization and that they know they have faults that need improvement.

    Think about it. An organization that truly believes it's doing the right thing, for the right people, at the right time, with the right message, using the right tactics, doesn't fear negative criticism. That organization usually has their ear to the pulse of their members/customers and makes changes as needed.

    The leaders of organizations that don’t want to hear what others really think about them, have a larger issue at hand.

    1. It's amazing how social media is forcing companies to think about how they do business. Maybe the purpose of the increased volume is so that those who are partially “deaf” will finally start to listen?

      1. most of comapnies today uses social media to promote their brands and services.
        and they require their employees to learn hot to use it by providing proper training.

  3. Nice post, John. Let me add that actually, the upside potential is greater than the downside risk. I look at this from a PR standpoint and from the experience of dealing with crisis situations before there was social media. Nonprofits need to see the benefit of “banking” goodwill for themselves through social media…and then the ability to be on top of bad news situations quickly and efficiently through social media. Yes, bad news spreads fast with social media, but it will do that whether you're present or not. Why not have that big deposit of goodwill to draw from when the road gets bumpy?

  4. I agree that there is alot of upside — its basically doing what all great companies have to do to let the market participate directly in the brand. I agree that there is more benefit that risk. However, I have seen this exact “experiencement” fail when the biggest critics of the company were the employees themselves who saw it as an opportunity to escalate their concerns about the company management. Dealing with unhappy employees and social media might be good topic for a future article, John.

  5. Most medias are plastic. They tried to hide the real truth about the incident especially those actresses and actors who are in messy situation…….

  6. Most medias are plastics. They tried to hide the real truth about the incident especially when some actresses or actors are involve in the situation……………..

  7. Great post. On the spot.

    I like to tell potential clients: “Yes, you can't control what people say on your facebook page. You can't make them not complain, as much as you cant make them only write nice reviews. BUT, a complain, when properly handled, can turn into an OPPORTUNITY. What if the complainer gets a quick answer by your company, and everybody sees that you addressed his concern quickly and efficiently? You just turned a complain into a positive impression.”

    What do you think?

    Cheers from Cancun,Mexico!

    Camilo Olea

  8. Being on a board as well as in the marketing industry I hear this from both ends. The director of the organization was led with great trepidation into the world of social media. She has become a true believer and one of my best advocates and case studies. Great post.

  9. Being on a board as well as in the marketing industry I hear this from both ends. The director of the organization was led with great trepidation into the world of social media. She has become a true believer and one of my best advocates and case studies. Great post.

  10. It definitely takes a lot of courage for an older business to dive into the social media sea. One can easily lose control and get confused with the flood of new information, customer input, network affiliates, and brand visibility.

  11. It definitely takes a lot of courage for an older business to dive into the social media sea. One can easily lose control and get confused with the flood of new information, customer input, network affiliates, and brand visibility.

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  14. I’m a consultant working with Palo Alto Networks; they have an excellent whitepaper on the subject of blocking social networking apps that you may have to worry about, “To Block or Not. Is that the question?” here: http://bit.ly/d2NZRp. It has lots of insightful and useful information about identifying and controlling Enterprise 2.0 apps (Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc.) Let me know what you think.

  15. My opinion is that social media can improve your business, but you have to hire some professional people to take care of such a job. Social media can be very useful, but you have to do it right or it can end up bad as any other thing that you just do in a superficial manner.

  16. My opinion is that social media can improve your business, but you have to hire some professional people to take care of such a job. Social media can be very useful, but you have to do it right or it can end up bad as any other thing that you just do in a superficial manner.
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