Wednesday, December 02, 2009

the best control for social media

I was fielding a lot of rapid-fire questions this week from a skeptical audience of association executives about social media -- specifically, a barrage of questions about every worst-case scenario they could think of. What if people tweet things that are confidential? What if I don't have time to manage everything and control what people are saying online? We have layers of approval for these types of things. Even the best person might slip up at some point and post something inappropriate, right? You can't really guarantee for me that will never happen, can you?

Those things happen, I said, but that shouldn't stop you from trying. It's good to help clear guidelines for your team before you start working with social media, I suggested. Often, the way in which you correct an error can boost your reputation, I pointed out in an encouraging tone. No, I can't guarantee that won't happen, but it's best to choose people you trust for the task, rather than micromanage them.

"Ah, that's the problem," said one CEO. "I'm the one I'm concerned about."

I looked him right in the eye, and asked, "Do you know the best control there is on the market for social media?"

"No -- there is one?"

And that's when I pointed to my brain. Well, okay, the side of my forehead.

Truth is, if you don't have self-control, there's a lot I can't help you with, including using social media for business without embarrassing yourself. But I did take a lesson from it, a lesson that communicators should note: Sometimes, when you're making the case for social media, and your leadership is talking about loose cannons and that horse that escaped when the barn door was open, they might just be talking about themselves.

Now, to my mind, that doesn't mean they should be off your list of potential bloggers, tweeters, or Facebook friends. But they will need to rearrange their view of themselves as leaders in the social-media world. Showing a human side -- or as I like to say, if you don't have a personality in social media, you need to get one -- would do most CEOs a world of good.

In this great example, Brad Ward caught the Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin at Madison showing her perfectly fine human side in a Twitter exchange she meant to be private, and argues it's just the kind of post that should be public. I agree, wholeheartedly.

Getting your CEO to that point may take more work than you have hours to do, but it's a useful discussion to have. Just promise me you won't resort to ghostwriting for your CEO as a way to fill a gap. If your leader is unwilling or unable to exercise the best control for social media -- the one behind her forehead -- let her delegate full authorship to someone else, in their own name.

Related posts: You can't be Mary Poppins in social media (or, don't be afraid to suck)

Get past 6 other CEO barriers to social media

Employee blogs v. CEO blogs: Which is best?

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