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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Social Media Risk vs. Reward: Your Market Is Not Waiting For You To Be Relevant (psst: neither are your competitors).

Ck-art At the conference I spoke at last week, I cited relevance (and risk!) in my presentation, as well as in several other workshops when I addressed how best to transition companies to social media environments. I explained that risk is UBER important to assess, as a company has a responsibility to its customers, employees, shareholders and other stakeholders. But even though social media means that your brand's reputation and message is far less within your control, companies can take steps to dramatically manage risk. How?

Companies can manage risk through establishing a social media policy, identifying a handful of employees to be the brand's spokespersons on social media platforms and provide social media training for their employees so that they're not flying blind in this thriving, dynamic new region that is The Social Web. Plus, companies can start out through small steps and, once they gain a comfort level, they can broaden the volume of initiatives they implement and the resources and budget they attribute to them.

And the best way for companies to manage risk? Ensure that their company, and all of its departments, are delivering upon their brand's promise, value proposition and customer expectations (which are expectations that the company has set through its marketing, sales and communications, so the company should be consistently delivering upon them).

But when it comes to relevance? Folks, once you've lost relevance with current and prospective buying audiences, then it's--poof!--gone. And at that point you'll need to build it back inch by inch, while your competitors are already miles ahead of you. They're gaining market share while you're working to gain ground. Where's the innovation in that strategy?

Remember, just because your company is not actively participating in these media does not mean that the conversation waits for you. Conversely, the conversation just flows on without you. I'll repeat that last part as it's pivotal to understand... it flows on withOUT you.

In fact it's flowing on without you right now.

What's worse? Your competitors aren't awaiting your participation, either. Nope. They're enjoying first-mover advantages, as they already conducted the risk vs. reward assessment. So you can imagine my delight when I ran across this article citing feedback from companies on this very point. According to the piece:

"Last week, executives from companies as varied as Wal-Mart, McDonalds, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Mayo Clinic gathered at General Mills’ headquarters in Minnetonka to discuss the opportunities and concerns presented by social media. And one thing became clear: For now, companies seem more fearful of being left behind than they do of losing control."

While relevance isn't necessarily calculated as a "hard" performance benchmark like, say, revenues, much like trust (and ergo, credibility), once relevance is lost, it's amazing just how important "Getting it back!" becomes. So make sure that the social media conversation that you hold inside your organization about the social media conversations you wish to hold outside your company does not only focus on the concern of how to manage risk--and the fear of losing control-- but also on the very real threat of losing relevance.

Because losing relevance is the biggest risk of all, no?

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Couldn't agree more with this. Live in a vacuum and or assume that what you're doing will always work, and suffer the consequences. Great post and great food for thought!

I feel at many B2B companies you have those fast movers that see the power of social media for their brand - and you alsp have those slow movers that see social media as not needed. It's tough out there to get your key stakeholders on board without proving the value to them.

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