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Summary:

Just the other day, someone told me that they are afraid of social media; they have no Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn account. I’ve compiled this list of eight reasons why you shouldn’t fear social media for anyone who is still apprehensive about using these tools.

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Just the other day, someone told me that they are afraid of social media. They have have a website for their business, but don’t have a Facebook account, a Twitter account, or even a LinkedIn account. If social media seems like a useless waste of time to you — or a strange and unnatural way of communicating — you’re not alone.

I’ve compiled this list of eight reasons why you shouldn’t fear social media for anyone who is still apprehensive about using these tools, particularly for work.

  1. Didn’t websites prove to be not so scary after all? Remember when you first heard about the Internet? Email? Websites? Sure, we all had those moments of trepidation, where we weren’t quite sure if someone was going to steal our identity, stalk us, or rip us off. We did our homework, talked with friends and colleagues, took some classes, or hired someone else to help us. We eventually learned that websites weren’t scary, email was useful, and the Internet was changing the way we communicated and worked forever.
  2. Social media is not rocket science. Contrary to what the occasional unscrupulous scam artist might want you to believe, there are no “secrets” to social media marketing, and it is not hard to do. You do need to learn the basics, and you probably won’t fully understand how to best leverage social networks and other social platforms until you’ve used them for a while. The question isn’t if you can learn what to do and how to do it well, it really boils down to whether or not you have the time to do it yourself, or if should invest in someone who is well-versed in the ever-changing intricacies of the many aspects of social media.
  3. You have are many ways to learn more about it. Start with a search on Amazon for “social media.” There are many books which can present some foundational information about how social media works and differs from other ways we communicate online and off, although keep in mind that within a few months, those books could be mostly outdated. There are also ebooks, articles and blog posts detailing the ins and outs of social media. You can search for “social media” on this blog or read past Social Superstar columns, for example. There are classes from universities to adult continuing education on social media as well as online courses, workshops, teleseminars and tutorials. Your challenge isn’t finding a class but instead is making sure that the sources and instructors are credible, however, a quick search on Google can speak volumes.
  4. There are now a myriad of case studies. Just Google “social media case studies,” and you’ll find a slew of results that break down how companies and organizations are using social media with positive results. Sure, you may still have to sift through some hype, but down-to-earth and practical examples of social media marketing tactics being put to use and producing an acceptable return on investment are increasingly prevalent.
  5. Many helpful tools are available. As social media marketing continues to mature, more and more companies are producing tools to help you create and manage your social media channels and then measure the growth, activity, and results of your social media activities. A quick starting point for identifying types of tools and popular tools in categories from communications to monitoring is the Wikipedia definition page on social media.
  6. You can take baby steps. Any good consultant will tell you that you don’t have to pull out all the stops right out of the gate to successfully leverage social media for your marketing, communications and customer relations efforts. Start small and grow over time. Develop a plan where you identify and pick the right tools, select and roll out your social media channels slowly, and manage them effectively and efficiently. I usually recommend LinkedIn as a good place to start for any professional; it’s as easy to set up as filling out a resume and can get you connected and networking in no time.
  7. You can ask questions. As you dip your toe into the social mediasphere, you can pose questions to your friends, fans and followers in your favorite social network and get back near-instant feedback and answers. Try LinkedIn Answers for business-oriented queries about social media. You might also get some useful input from your network and an expanded audience using an answers site like Aardvark. Or you can simply ask people you know who are using social media effectively. Almost anyone you ask is usually happy to provide some tips or thoughts on the matter.
  8. You can get help. If you’re still stymied, there are so many ways to get help these days. If you’re looking for someone to help you manage your accounts on a basic level, there are consultants who offer social media management services. Even virtual assistants who are in the business of being detail-oriented and organized are adding top-level social media services to their repertoire. If you’re looking for deeper and more strategic help, there are many reputable social media marketing agencies and, increasingly, advertising agencies and public relations firms are also ramping up their social media offerings.

Working on the web doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be into social networking, tweeting or tumbling, but my advice is that you at least investigate and see what it is you’re missing

Are you still shying away from social media or do you know someone who is? What, if anything, are you doing about it?

Stock xchng image by user hisks

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  1. What you didn’t address is the possibility that the fear people have towards social media stems from their lack of trust in the individual platforms.

    Websites with millions of users have an interesting vantage point to metric and mine their user data for use in marketing and advertising.

    I, personally, would rather not participate in the global experiment of social marketing.

    1. I can totally see your point. We are ALL part of a social marketing experiment at this stage although I’d say if you joined over 4-5 years ago, even those early social networks were not savvy enough to understand the implications of what they created, particularly from a marketing standpoint. These days, it is pretty “caveat emptor” if you dig a little. I try not to think of it because the benefits far outweigh this icky parts.

  2. Sorry to take a dump on your parade Chris, but you’re participating right now.

    1. Absolutely, and it’s difficult these days to be completely exempt from it. Just browsing the web and loading a seemingly innocuous analytics tracker will make you a marketing statistic.

      I guess my point here is that social media sites can (and do) make a lot of money mining your personal data. Supplying these sites with so much of your personal information can also expose you to potential phishing or identity theft.

      Actively refusing to participate in that level of social media may not be an issue of fear, it might be an issue of trust.

      Do strangers really need to know this much about me?

  3. Promod Sharma | @mActuary Thursday, December 23, 2010

    Great points, Aliza. I especially like your observation that websites are no longer scary. Neither are blogs.

    The key is getting started and LinkedIn is an ideal spot. Thanks for your post.

    1. Thank you! I have to say that blogs are still scary to me – not because they are “hard” but because they keep demanding more content from me. I call blogs the Content Beasts, always hungry for more words. I just do what I can when I can and try to be okay with that.

  4. Thank you for the 8 reasons not to fear social networking. I hear these comments daily then, when the tools are used properly, it is a wonderful experience. Many businesses are using these medias as tools to update thier customers now. In this day we have to be instant and social media allows us to do this.
    Sharon

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