Your Fear of Social Media-Don’t Stick Your Neck Out


Fifth and final article on the fear some people in government, associations and nonprofits express when whey contemplate social media.

In the first article I stated, “Media respects those who do social media. They like your willingness to engage. They sometimes are willing to give you the benefit of doubt because you are obviously unafraid of the issues.

Associations and nonprofits get new members and donations. People support you because you provide a better understanding of issues. You get to influence a regional or national audience. You no longer have to depend on the media for outreach. You control your own destiny.

Why do social media? Because it accomplishes organizational objectives. It gets you and your organization where you need to go.”

I have argued that social media is affordable and there are resources and people to help you develop your platform. I suggested that social media audiences are getting older and now’s a great time to start.

So why aren’t you doing it?

We within government, nonprofits and associations are warned by peers and coworkers that sticking our heads out only results in getting it cut off.

There, I said it. It’s not the potential rewards or understanding the technology or affordability or the youthful orientation of the audience. We’ve been taught that the world is a dangerous place filled with enemies just waiting for you to say something stupid.

I hosted and produced hundreds of radio and television shows and wrote articles for national publications and there has been nothing but good will as a result. I addressed issues of controversy without any negative results.

Your response is that I’m an experienced public affairs professional who knows what to say. Maybe, but you would think that somewhere along the line something I said would cause me problems. But that simply hasn’t happened.

I believe that the fear of public engagement is greatly exaggerated. I also believe that we can do a lot of good by being more open and honest about what we do.

I feel that we are obligated to use new technologies to create a dialog with the public to better serve mutual interests. Most of us consider ourselves public servants. What could be a better use of the public’s time than providing them with new opportunities to learn and interact?

If we are honorable people doing an honorable job, what do we have to fear?

No, it’s not easy

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that social media is a walk in the park. It isn’t. Those of us engaged in social media refer to it as feeding the beast. It’s not something that has a beginning and an end. It always needs effort.

Organizations have a way of making content creation ridiculously difficult. Article creation can take on a life of its own with revisions and edits by endless numbers of people. Ugh!!!

You should be able to create a blog post in an hour with a couple minutes for revisions. Internet users skim unless they find something that fits their interests exactly. Short articles (as little as four paragraphs) are not only fine, they are preferred. Write as if you were talking. Our formal training in writing needs to be reexamined when writing for the Internet.

Organizations need to ease up. We ain’t engaging in the great art of writing. Blog posts should be informal and short. When we create audio, the purpose is not to emulate National Public Radio; it‘s meant to be breezy and informal.

I do not edit out my many mistakes when I create radio and television. People seem to feel that it’s more honest and friendly that way. There are a group of people in New York who love to kid me via e-mail about my occasional inability to pronounce names correctly. I can edit out my flubs or leave them in. The lack of polish and control seems to put people at ease; they perceive the product as genuine.

Organizations that create national blogs or websites complain that it takes months to build an audience. In the first year, it seems like a lot of work for little gain. Persistence is necessary. If you offer what your audience wants and post often (at least three times a week) and create something no one else is doing, you should be able to get 1,000 page hits a day after the first year to year and a half.

Marketing is necessary. Google and other search engines send you traffic based on the number of websites that point towards yours (referred to as links). Asking related websites to “link” to yours and offering to link back is mutually supportive. The more links you have, the more popular or authoritative search engines think you are and the more web traffic you get.

Social media does require time. If you have no time, don’t do it. But do not use fear of social engagement as an excuse; the payoffs are simply too great.

Final thoughts

So we’re done. I hope you enjoyed the series. If you have thoughts for future articles or comments or criticisms please do not hesitate to contact me. I appreciate your attention.

Best, Len.

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