In the second of several video clips from the Q&A during the Women Tech Council meeting, Trust Agents Chris Brogan and Julien Smith discuss how to overcome fear and some other ideas for you to think about. I love how they take on any question whether related to social media or not. These responses in particular helped me better understand Chris and Julien as people.
Julien recommends embracing the uncomfortable and teaching your mind to overcome certain things. He says to give in to the desires of your future self (the one that is already better than your present self) and make decisions based on him or her.
Chris breaks “fear” down in categories such as the business fear of having to let employees go because he didn’t make his numbers, not knowing how to do a job (the difference between men and women), and not having a college degree.
In the context of social media and face-to-face events, there is still a lot of uncertainty associated with bringing social networking platforms, technologies and methodologies into the marketing mix. There is fear around privacy, investment of time, costs, negative comments, loss of control, lack of expertise, exposure, difficulty measuring ROI, and the risk of failure in such a transparent environment. After all, not only were we put in the hot seat by the recession, some of us were burned beyond recognition (lost jobs, companies out of business, marketing strategies obsolete).
Here are some of observations about the event industry and how to use social media more effectively to overcome our fears.
Stop speculating. Organizations have been accustomed to short term returns. If you invest X amount of dollars in audience promotion or booth sales, you will get X number of attendees and exhibitors for this year’s event. Social media success requires a long-term, sustained, and creative investment of time, energy and money without the expectation of immediate return. It requires that someone in the organization be working the social media levers all day every day and never asking the question, “how long will this take?” Instead they should be asking the question, “what can I do to help my customers today?” The result will be less fear (it’s more comfortable to help), more loyalty.
Quit trying to force twenty pounds of old school sales and marketing into a five pound social media bag. I see event industry companies and show organizers on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook every day selling their wares the old way on a new channel. I recently witnessed an individual on my #eventprofs Twitter “channel” being drummed out of there (by group consensus) because she was continuously selling her educational program and not contributing in any other way. There is an underlying mindset, philosophy, and liberalism of thought that underpins social media behavior. Organizations need to learn the rules of the road to prevent the much scarier scenario of driving off a cliff.
Stop the faux “I feel your pain” efforts. Over the years, I’ve written about exhibitor advisory boards and volunteer committees formed by organizations in an effort to get “feedback” from their customers. It’s a great idea on paper. In reality the same groups that allow these committees to “contribute” also restrict them from having any power to effect change. Second, the members of the committee are usually the large exhibitors, the biggest sponsors and the companies with the most “value” to the organization. They don’t necessarily represent the broader constituency. Social media channels can empower customers, provide honest feedback, and represent a broad customer base more effectively than committees. When the community knows you have their back, they respond with increased loyalty.
Community first. Brand later. The reason why so many organizations are playing catch up in social media is that they are still trying to form a community around their brand. They soon learn that the only time their community members are jazzed about their brand is when they are at the show, being wined, dined and entertained. What about the rest of the year? Companies need to use social media strategies year round. Having a strong community helps companies overcome the fear of social media in so many ways–loyal, trusted customers ready and willing to offer honest feedback, promote their brand, and guide their continuous improvement is invaluable.
Be more human. (Yes I stole this from Chris Brogan). Be open to smaller group interaction. Stop marketing to thousands of people at once and try talking to only six people at once (I stole that from Mitch Joel). Maybe scale back the mega-events. Here’s what’s happening in the events industry. Attendees who are unhappy with boring speakers, the lack of personalization at large conferences, the same meeting formats over and over, and feeling like a number (thanks again Chris) are having tweetups, creating their own meetings (eventcamp) and burning up the Twittersphere talking about how to fix broken conferences and trade shows. Smart organizations will attempt to use social media to understand why this is happening and improve their own products.
Be very afraid. Be very afraid to overcome your fear? Yes. Here’s how. RD Whitney of Tarsus Online Media told me that one of the things that keeps him up at night is putting resources, time, and energy into creating a great event only to have the community siphoned off by some “guy” in his underwear at the kitchen table blogging about the same subject and getting people to listen. Wisely, RD uses social media to remain vigilant and ultimately mitigate his fear because either there isn’t anyone doing a better job than he is (the goal) or he figures out how to work with the underwear bloggers that have new and interesting ideas to support his community.
The Takeaway: In the end, these observations all point to the same mandate for overcoming the fear of social media–Listen, learn, and evolve or your customers will do it without you.
Are you afraid of anything?