Friday, May 22, 2009

Four Strategies to Overcome Sociomediaphobia

Sociomediaphobia (noun): fear and loathing triggered by the mere notion of conversational engagement with customers and prospects. 

Why are so many clients so afraid of social media? It can be perplexing, when it's so easy for "us" to see the opportunity, and it's not so easy to persuade "them" to see the light. 

Case in point. There's a brand that I desperately want to work with and know with 100% certainty that we could create amazing results with. In spite of doing relatively little marketing communication, this brand has numerous, hungry fans who, like me, are begging for them to create a community online. The fans have created a Facebook page where they are literally asking for the brand to engage, and a fake Twitter account on behalf of the brand. It is also a brand with stories that are so rich that they would make you drool. Yet, the brand's response when I proposed actively participating in social media was something to the effect of: "Yes, we know. Maybe later."

Trying to put myself in the client's shoes - part of the purpose of this blog - I think back to the time before I was personally engaged online. I suppose it was one part fear of the unknown, and one part not knowing where to start climbing the enormous mountain of information. So I dove in head first, and it has become the most fun I have had in my 20 years in this business. 

Here are a few "blocking and tackling" strategies to overcome this fear and help move people who would really benefit from a social media strategy along the curve a little bit faster: 

1. Educate in a way that whets the appetite. In addition to "the presentation" and "the demonstration" serve up "appetizers" in the form of great stories on a regular basis (sans stalking, and assuming there is at list some marginal interest). Unearthing a relevant research study in the client's specific category with real quantitative data on what similar or competitive brands are doing in social media helps, when possible. Third party endorsements are always good, so I'm going to see if I can get this particular client to attend a social media conference with me. Data creates confidence, whereas anecdotal evidence of "coolness" perpetuates doubt. Of course, the data doesn't exist for everything yet, which will remain part of the challenge for a while. So if you can't find it, just tell them that the Pope is using Facebook now, and that should win them over for sure. 

2. Speak their language - not "ours". It is essential to use simple, accessible language and keep the lingo to a reasonable level. Resist the powerful urge to tell them how cool hashtags are three minutes into the conversation. Remember that not everyone is as much of a geek as you are. Let's face it - those of us who live and breathe and love social media tend to use language that makes even others in the profession glaze over. A very intelligent coworker has pointed out to me that I sometimes speak "in code". This is a difficult thing to keep top of mind and even harder to change, and I think regular Twitter use actually exacerbates the challenge because we get used to talking mainly with fellow devotees. But it's got to be done. Are you speaking in code? Stop it. Now. 

3. Sell the sizzle, not the steak. Spoken like a true early 90's ad grad, right? But really - like anything, you've got to sell the benefits, not the features. So abandon any remote thought of using the " it's about relationships, how can you put a measurement on that?" argument. One, it's crap, and two, any marginally engaged client is going to be out the door at that point in the conversation. The other part of speaking their language (besides speaking plain English or whatever language you speak) is speaking to the bottom line. Today I shared with this client some great information on ROI measurement via thebrandbuilder blog which does an outstanding job of articulating the opportunity social communication tools present them to not just engage and build community, but to demonstrably grow their business.  

4. Learn patience. As @ambercadabra recently reminded me, contrary to what I wanted to hear, we will all need to learn patience in spades to help most others navigate this sea change. Unfortunately, not every brand is run by innovators. It isn't easy, but deal with it. I work with a guy who is the most amazing relationship-builder I have ever known because he nurtures a "sale" over the period of months, years, whatever it takes. And it that's what it takes, I am determined to see this brand feed its online community. It will happen. 

What do YOU think are the best ways to overcome Sociomediaphobia? 


  1. Nice post Sue.

    I'd add a fifth or maybe first item: never underestimate the power of free advice. Biggest client I've landed to-date came from my willingness to "teach them everything I know" in the form of a free 3-hour workshop delivered at their annual marketing confab. Worked my ass off on that deck but in the end, it made the client realize how little they really did know and how much I seemed to know.

    Balanced against honest advice and a willingness to say what our firm had and had not done in the SocMe world resulted in a trust that has now transitioned into a couple of sizable contracts.

    Oh ya, and that patience thing... very, very important. ;-)

  2. Hello,
    These are four competencies which each social media marketing companies should inculcate into their marketing strategies in order to keep their exposure and tenacity in competition.