It's interesting that two or three years into the social media movement and publication of books like Naked Conversations, and six years after the publication of ClueTrain Manifesto, most companies still don't "get it." Sure, they give it lip service and they may even set up a blog. But they don't really understand this is a different medium, a different voice, a different way of doing things. What's supposed to be a conversation ends up being a bastardized form of traditional PR or marketing in so many cases.
Most of the people we talk to are communication managers at Fortune 1000 companies, and they're smart people. But smart people make mistakes. Here are five examples of misdirected thinking when it comes to social media, particularly blogs.
1) Confusing blogs with traditional articles: "We can't do blogs, not enough time to do them justice. No way I can write a blog every other day," said one. He, like many, assumes that writing a blog is like writing an article--lot of thought, lot of energy, reporting, researching, finessing, etc. They also see it as a traditional writing style, just another editorial in new clothes (vs a conversational style). It's like reconditioning, teaching people to write in short bursts rather than long winded sentences. Just watch the way the younger crowd text-messages. Make your point quick, then move on.
This leads to...
2) Fear of more work. If it's an exec blog, the exec comm manager figures he/she will be the one ghost writing it. Better to steer clear of it or figure out another platform where they can spread the pain. The truth is if the executive doesn't have time, don't blog. Look for other alternatives such as group blogs where the exec can weigh in at times--and write it from his/her own voice.
3) No communications plan: I've seen several cases where the comm manager launched a blog with no communications plan behind it. Against our advice, he launched it without reaching out to others in the organization to build support. "Build it and they will come". But it didn't work--they didn't come and he ended scratching and clawing to bring people in later to blog and comment.
4) The wrong blogger: Some comm managers think they have to launch a blog with their highest ranking exec. or at least someone with perceived power. This might be the group's vp or other big shot, or in one case, a "web 2.0 expert," whose mission was to preach to the masses about the wonders of the new technology. Sometimes this works; sometimes it doesn't. But oftentimes it's the voice from the back of the room--the quiet geek with all the ideas--who should be front and center. Open the gates of the zoo--give the others a chance.
5) Obsession with perfection: It's human nature--people are scared to make mistakes and look stupid. But in the social media world you have to put it out there and take a chance. Write from the heart. Take a stance. Get the hell off the message.
One company we work with approached its first video podcasts like they were preparing for network TV, assuming it had to be top quality production. We had to show them how podcasts have a looser, less formal, chatty style. We didn't need stars or fireworks, just good genuine conversations. Many companies feel like they're giving up control in this case. It's the perfection disease.
It's the one tip that many companies will struggle with: loosen up.