We are currently working on a project that involved asking people about their problems and fears when starting out in Social Media Marketing – and one of the most given answers surprised me:
“I fear saying something wrong, damaging my company’s profile and bringing long term damage to it. Nothing ever really get’s deleted on the internet.”
I’m not surprised about this because I’ve never heard about this – I am surprised that in 2015 this is still one of the biggest fears when starting out in Social Media. Because when you face that problem – the problem of being able to hurt your own or your company’s profile on social media, it means that you already solved a different – and much bigger problem: Not being heard at all.
When you start out, you have almost zero visibility – and the problem you face first is changing that. But due to having no visibility at all – you have the added benefit of being able to try things you probably wouldn’t dare to do in other media.
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Yet, marketers are more scared about “saying something wrong” on a Facebook Fanpage with zero fans than they are when being quoted in the New York Times.
The general assumption “The internet is written in ink, not pencil” might still be true today, but: It may help to regard social media updates as “Straight to DVD” movie releases. Most of them are crap, but a few of them are still great movies, and only when they are great they ever reach an audience.
And face it – when you are starting out in Social Media – you are like an independent filmmaker: No one cares. But not making movies will never make you a famous director.
And making really bad movies is often a start for great careers in filmmaking: Peter Jackson (famous for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit) started his career with a zombie/horror/gore mashup that was fittingly named “Bad Taste”.
Even when you get heard, when you are already visible and you already have an audience, the risk of saying something wrong and damaging your company’s or your own profile is a lot smaller than you might think. We’ve all heard the stories of social media “shitstorms” on companies’ Facebook pages – but most of the time these happen because someone acted so far against common sense that it had to hurt, was drunk or wanted to humiliate his company on purpose.
Due to the more informal tone on social media, you can often get away with a lot that you wouldn’t be able to get away with in other media. I even got away with connecting Angelina Jolie’s breasts to content marketing (not what you think though). Before anyone asks (again): Yes I would also talk about my own anatomy in a post if it made sense. Jeff Jarvis did just that – and he got a lot of positive recognition for it.
Social Media influencers of today got to be where they are because they were testing the rules to the absolute limit. Did you know that at least two of the Forbes Top Power Social Media Influencers had their Twitter accounts banned? And after getting them back they openly admitted to what happened and wrote posts about it. Here is Jeff Bullas’ post and here is Aaron Lee’s. Have fun.
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The fear of saying something wrong is the natural enemy of saying anything. The fear of doing something wrong is the natural enemy of getting anything done. This holds true in social media as well as anywhere else. But this fear is fed by armies of social media consultants who are talking about “rules on social media”, “communication paradigms” and the “importance of social media guidelines”. Holding back for fear of breaking any rules they might not know about is one of the biggest and most common mistakes of social media marketing beginners. The rules of social media are a lot simpler than you think: 99% of the time you get away by following common sense. Controversial is ok – that doesn’t mean you need to insult people. Provocation can be a very valuable tool.
A lot of the social media advice that is still being followed today and regarded as set in stone by many is simply false. There is a lot of discussion about how often you should post on a social network, and the topic is relevant. But the most quoted advice is still: Post once a day on every social network and more means you are a spammer. And that one was never true. Guy Kawasaki, arguably one of the world’s most influential social media marketers dissected that in an interview once. He also said: “If you do social media right you will piss some people off.”
The truth is, that no social media influencer got famous by following the rules, they were all at one point testing the limits. Because without testing the limits you probably won’t pass the point where people care about you. The time of creating your social media audience one follower at a time has long passed.
The fear that a social media massacre will happen on your empty Fanpage is like fearing your plane will crash while riding on a train.
So, maybe the best advice I can give you is to battle the most relevant social media fears one at a time. When you are starting out, the biggest problem you have is being the new kid on the block: Nobody wants to talk to you. Fix that first. When people start talking to you – the next problem is getting them to listen. Then to follow you. Then getting a lot of them to follow you.
Saying something wrong that can hurt yourself comes a long way down the line. Currently, there is no point in worrying too much about it.
(That doesn’t mean that I recommend switching off common sense and running around insulting people – if you do that no one will ever listen to you.)
One more thing:
It is totally ok to need some help with figuring out how all this internet marketing, social media, and content distribution works. But you have to figure it out for online success because you need web traffic if you want to make money from your efforts.
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