Social media and the art of seduction

by Shannon Paul on October 31, 2008

Don’t let anyone fool you. Companies want social media engagement, most just aren’t willing to do the internal work aimed at bringing down the barriers to transparency in order to make that happen.

Most of us know someone that desperately longs to be in a relationship, yet they remain hopelessly single because they refuse to let down their barriers to intimacy. They express a desire for closeness, but always seem to find every available excuse to cut the relationship short. Companies resist social media engagement for the same reason people resist authentic, loving relationships — a fear of intimacy.

It’s not you, it’s me
Of course it is. Companies engaging in social media have entered into a long-term commitment. They may get cold feet from time to time, but they’re committed to staying the course. Entering into this kind of relationship is completely illogical. Hindsight may be 20/20, but there is never enough evidence on the front end to support making any long-term commitment — what if the industry changes? What if the markets collapse?

We commit anyway because commitments ultimately add value to our lives and to business.

Get Seductive
If you thought this was going to be a rant, you got it wrong. If it’s your mission to help any business get social media, get ready to take things slow, but pay attention to signals that may mean you have a green light to move ahead. Most companies still have tightly controlled corporate cultures and they simply aren’t used to feeling vulnerable — sharing content previously treated as proprietary and welcoming direct feedback does just that.

The trick to making commitments like this work is in defining the goals and measurable objectives ahead of time so that you can shore up the persistence to stay on track.

Seduction requires patience.

In most cases, companies would like to date social media strategies before they make long-term commitments. How can we help them do this? Does social media engagement and online community development have to be an all-or-nothing proposition? Are there ways we can help companies ease into social media engagement? As passionate evangelists, can we learn to take it slow?

Photo Credit – The Jamoker

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{ 15 comments }

October 31, 2008 Rahul Deodhar

Well said, often companies raise barriers just for this. Alcoa tweets – and thats surprising – but the tweets are rather toots!

October 31, 2008 Dirk Singer

Great post Shannon, I definitely think it’s worth all of us having a sense of why companies are so reluctant to take the plunge, even if rationally it might be in their best interests to do so.

I posted about this the other day, in summary it comes down to a combination of better the devil you know, a sense that (still) it’s “not for me”, and the smoke and mirrors we sometimes construct:

http://tinyurl.com/6cqnqg

October 31, 2008 Webconomist

A great analogy Shannon!

Your mention of cultures is a key element. That’s group social behaviour patterns. Organizational theory that has dictated how companies are run. Mostly “Top-Down” and Social Media is Chaos Theory…thus they’re mutually exclusive. Oil and water.

At some point though, this will change more significantly. The Visa credit card company is run on Chaos Theory, so it can be done.

October 31, 2008 Tim Rueb

One of the reasons I believe that social media ends up in the PR department or agency role is that they continue to have a desire to control the discussion.

The dirty little secret is that it happens outside of their walls as well and this is very hard to stop.

October 31, 2008 David Benjamin

Shannon,

Great Post!

Sad to say I can relate all too well to the analogy, however it is so true. I am one who is slowly putting his toes in the pool before diving in. I am trying to do my homework, read as much as I can from those I respect, and then decide I how to implement social media into my business.

Thanks for sharing your views in an entertaining way!

October 31, 2008 Randy

Shannon,

I’ve been thinking this for years. Having come from a very big Silicon Valley tech firm, when blogging was still fresh and young, the PR folks recoiled from the notion of social media engagement as if it had the pox. As I understand it now (since I’m not there any more), they’re marginally better, but still trying to manage a “corporate communication channel” instead of truly committing to the relationship.

It’s sad to see so many well-respected companies sitting on the sidelines while social media passes them by. Then again, it’s a competitive advantage to brave firms who will take the social media plunge without annoying strings attached.

October 31, 2008 Hubert

As I have been primarily been helping my talented friends and family, I think this analogy can be splattered all over plain individuals as well. When I forward people articles on how to use social media to further your career and the like, I usually get the “enh, I don’t know. I don’t understand how it’s supposed to work.”

The only thing I can do is stay patient with my “clients” and lead by example. Hopefully for them, they will catch on before it gets overtaken by bigger fish that have caught on and make it difficult for them – the little guy – to get any light, like the state of the blogosphere.

October 31, 2008 winedivergirl

Indeed. And what a funny, personal analogy. Love that! Not only taking the progression of the “relationship” slow, but they have to take measuring the results slowly and may need a different means of measuring. Building those relationships, committed brand loyalists, isn’t measured the same way in dollars earned. How do you measure respect in a community? How do you measure good standing among your fellow industry associates? How do you measure leadership within an industry if you are only looking at dollars?

October 31, 2008 Keith Monaghan

Hi Shannon,

Great post.

One tactic I’ve found useful with reluctant clients is pointing out that parts of their business may already be transparent, whether they realize it or not.

Like this video of how to beat a car salesman at his own game:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPor5b7JLLE

Or this one of a Comcast technician falling asleep on the job:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvVp7b5gzqU

It can help them to understand that the conversation is happening and it is out of their control. The question then is do they want to join in?

October 31, 2008 Eric Brown

Shannon, Great Insight, and good comments. I might add, lets all display leadership as we navigate the waters and negotiate with Corporate America as to why SM works, what works and what doesn’t. Big Boy and Big Girl Executives are pretty slow to react to change, but some are. Only when they do accept it will SM become mainstream. It absolutely must start at the top for real results.

A bigger problem though may be separating who knows what they are doing and who does not. All SM efforts and strategies are not created equal.

November 1, 2008 John P. Kreiss

Great post Shannon. I felt like you were speaking directly to clients in the industries we serve (Construction and Real Estate). Many companies in these industries are very loyal once they’ve committed to relationships. They will stay with the same people they’ve learned to trust for many years.

Getting their trust, however, is often very difficult. Many companies are tightly held and very cautious when entering into new relationships.

John P. Kreiss
MorganSullivan, Inc.
http://www.morgansullivan.com

November 1, 2008 Desarae Veit

I love this post. So incredibly true. I love great metaphors and this explains companies short comings and commitment phobias to a big giant T. Now, if only we could just buy all men, companies, and social media phoebes a quick pill cure for this commitment disease.

Desarae
http://www.interactivemedias.blogspot.com

November 3, 2008 OnlineMarketerBlog.com

Great post!

I had a guest blogger mention exactly this type of issue – how social media should be looked at as a relationship. He was talking specifically about the relationship between journalists/PR folks and bloggers, but I think the ideas of your post still apply.

http://tinyurl.com/MoLuv

November 8, 2008 juliemarg

Great article — thought provoking …

Yes we want more intimacy, but we all want to choose who we’re intimate with …

Some social connections can be like bad boyfriends. How do you remain open and trusting when someone does not have your best interests at heart – they just want to tear you down?

I posted your article at my new blog http://calbizdirectory.com

December 23, 2008 Todd Smith

Thanks for a great post. Social media is indeed about long term relationships. And they don’t happen overnight. What is awesome is that they have the potential to offer much, much more than one night stands.

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