Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is your social media style open or closed?

I keep running into businesses and organizations that run to the extremes of social media: Those that let a thousand flowers bloom, with many projects or departments or units having their own social feeds, and those that mandate one page for everybody. They're either wide-open or tightly closed, generous or controlled, conversational or super-scripted.

I'm never an advocate for trying all social media at once, particularly if you don't know why you're on any particular network. Or, as I like to say to my clients, "I can support you doing nothing  or just one thing on social media, as long as you've thought it through, tried it, and can tell me why it is strategic for you to take that approach." The small size of your staff, company or organization might well mandate just one social presence, or none. But I'm talking about larger organizations here, those with many moving parts.

Of course, organizations and companies aim to control the message on social media for all sorts of reasons that have little to nothing to do with actually communicating. It's easier (and it's much easier for your PR firm or consultant) and time-saving if you only have one Facebook page instead of the 87 that your organization's sub-units could produce. It supposedly controls the message, although in practice, that's tough to do these days.

Your version of a closed approach to social media doesn't have to involve many units. It might be your lurker-but-not-poster participation, or a decided "no personal sharing" policy, two personal ways of controlling (or omitting) your message.

These closed approaches may not just be controls on the system. They also can be the sign of a fixed mindset, not one geared to growth, an attempt to make Facebook or other social networks a stone tablet rather than moving stream of info. There's an echo of the old command-and-control approach to communications in an age where that's just not relevant anymore, a vestige of an easier time for the message controlling types. And if social media has taught us anything, it's the open mindset, the risky one, that leads to great growth and opportunity. So like life.

This put me in mind of a Brain Pickings post about the work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, who studies fixed mindsets and growth mindsets. Dweck writes, "Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics." Brain Pickings described how this played out in a research study:
...Dweck brought people into Columbia’s brain-wave lab to study how their brains behaved as they answered difficult questions and received feedback. What she found was that those with a fixed mindset were only interested in hearing feedback that reflected directly on their present ability, but tuned out information that could help them learn and improve. They even showed no interest in hearing the right answer when they had gotten a question wrong, because they had already filed it away in the failure category. Those with a growth mindset, on the other hand, were keenly attentive to information that could help them expand their existing knowledge and skill, regardless of whether they’d gotten the question right or wrong — in other words, their priority was learning, not the binary trap of success and failure.
I see this as well with clients I'm coaching for public speaking or presenting. Some are open to improvement, even eager for it. Some are scared but willing to try. Some just want to hear how wonderful they are, again and again. And all that goes double for your social media presence. A more open social media style may well mean you face more criticism, questions, or other-than-adulation.

Success vs. failure really is a binary trap, and social media isn't a binary world. Have you fallen into that trap in your approach to social media?

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Eric. S.)

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