Sunday, April 15, 2007

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

So I was filling out an online survey the other day about applications of social media for organizational communicators. I believe it was hosted by Ragan. And I found one of the questions bothersome. Here was the question:

7. What barriers do you face in using social media in your work?
a. Lack of executive support
b. Lack of employee interest
c. Budget
d. Lack of understanding about the use of social media
e. Lack of measurement
f. Fear of change
g. Fear of loss of control
h. Legal concerns
i. Fear that employees will waste time

Why is there no recognition that there may be – how shall I put it – smart reasons for not using social media or certain elements of social media?

For example, perhaps one reason is that the communicator has not found ways to integrate social media that are appropriate to the mission or goals of the organization. You can understand social media in your sleep and still not have yet found an application that will support the organization’s goals.

Or, perhaps the issue is that the organization’s key audience is not using social media. Now I know some people think everyone is online. But they aren’t. What if your audience is comprised people who have no access to the Internet at all?

It’s not just about the survey (which probably should have at least had an open-ended option for “other”). It just struck a chord with me because I’ve been noticing the same tone in communications podcasts and blog posts.

Sure, these reasons likely are what’s holding some companies back. I don’t dispute that.

But opting out doesn’t automatically have to mean you are afraid or ignorant. And it’s a bit arrogant for early adopters to make that assumption.

In my own case, my organization is podcasting. There are specific strategic reasons that it is a good tactic for us. Blogging, on the other hand, is about for us as appropriate as renting billboards. But I don’t hear anyone calling us scaredy-cats for not using billboards.

Don’t get me wrong, I think PR folk have a responsibility to their employers and clients to learn about social media. Otherwise, we can’t give good counsel for when to use elements of social media and when not to. Social media can be the best tool ever for some strategies, but it is not the million-dollar answer to everything.

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