Thursday, February 18, 2010

what you can control in social media

This week, there's unrest in the social media world. People think Facebook's too wide open (when it actually has some of the most extensive privacy controls around) or that Google Buzz represents the ruination of society. At the same time, I've heard organizations and companies get enthusiastic about aspects of social media that can help them track what's being said about them--like blog comments, Twitter hashtags and geotags--until they find out they can't decide how those are used, and by whom.  And nearly every day, I hear or see communicators asking folks to retweet a post, or become a fan even when the people they're asking don't have a direct interest in the company or link being promoted.

It's 2010 in social media, a trend that's over a decade old, and some folks are still fighting over control, remote or otherwise.  And it's the efforts to control the "mob"--the many people who now can use free and widely available social-media tools--that seem to misfire the most.  I hear a lot of hypothesizing about bad things that could happen, but often, the reality is more benign.  For most users, crazy behavior is just not how we roll in social media.

I'm wondering whether we might reboot that thinking about what you can control in social media, if you're an organization, agency or business that wants to use it to communicate with your audiences.  Any good psychologist would tell you that, in any given situation where others are involved, the only thing you can control is your own reaction.

That's true in the most effective responses to social media commentary, sharing, mashups and other participatory spins on what you're communicating.  Sure, you can get upset about it and try to control it.  Or you could listen, leave it alone, ask more questions to find out what's going on, listen some more, and maybe gain new customers and respect.  You might find fans you never would find otherwise, and new business you couldn't develop with the best tools around.

So put that remote down. It doesn't work here, anyway.

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