Last week, I did a webinar for the Illinois Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives
(IACCE) on social media for chambers of commerce. One of the questions at the end of the webinar was "What are the pitfalls of using social media."
I wanted to share my answer and expand on it here.
There are many benefits of using social media for sure, but there are also some dangers. As long as you're aware of them, you can work to avoid these pitfalls and use them to your advantage.Loss of Control
In the "good old days" you could send out your mass faxes, your printed newsletters and your blast emails and not have to really worry about any complaints. If someone disagreed with what you were saying or doing, they couldn't really tell many people about it (without spending lots of money).
Using social media means giving up some
of that control. If you use blogs, Twitter or social networks, it may seem like anyone and everyone can "gang up" on you. I frequently am asked if chambers of commerce should allow comments on their blogs because the board is afraid of negative comments. And this point alone keeps many organizations from jumping into social media.....but it shouldn't.YES, allow comments on your blog!
Social media is used to create and develop conversations and relationships. You can't have a ONE-WAY conversation - it has to be TWO way.
What are you afraid of? That a few people might add comments that they have a different opinion that yours? Honestly, what could be better than having your whole community discussing the issue that you were supporting? You get the opportunity to further your position, share additional resources and engage in healthy debate.
Those people adding comments don't get to spam you, blatantly lie or use profanity - you can
delete those comments. But leave all other comments even if they disagree with you. Reply to them in a polite and professional manner and further the conversation. You may even be surprised by some of your supporters who also join in the discussion.No Communication is Disposable
Sometimes, due to the speed and sheer amount of communications, you may think that your tweets, comments, statuses or posts may go unnoticed. No matter wha
t nor when
you post something, someone
will see it. And, in many cases even if you delete a post, is has already been indexed, saved or copied somewhere.
If you wouldn't say it in front of a group of 50 members, don't say it on your blog, Twitter or any other social media. As an example of poor choices of posts, back in March the Batesville AR Chamber executive had to resign over some anti-Obama posts on Twitter.
Don't let these ideas scare you. You do
need to use social media to promote your organization's positions, benefits, member, events and more - but do know that there is a line you can cross and offend large groups of members. Disagreement is fine. Debate is fine. But offensive or inappropriate posts must be avoided if you hope to build relationships, improve member retention and gain new members.Once you start, you can't stop
Your members are already using social media sites to network and share information for their business. Some of them are even hoping (expecting) you
to be there, too. They'll welcome you to the party and encourage you to share information and have discussions with them. You'll probably have some good successes at first and be energized to continue. Stay energized!
If you stop sharing and stop engaging your members, they will likely feel like you're neglecting them. And, if they've continued using social media and grown their network, they may have plenty of other resources to find information. So, keep your organization in the conversation and continue to listen, learn, adapt and share. It does take some commitment, but you and your members will find it rewarding.
Please don't let these potential negatives keep you from using blogs, Twitter and more. This blog (and many, many others) are full of great examples of companies and member-based organizations having great success with social media. Here's an example: I got a note from Jessica Hibbard at the Frederick County Maryland Chamber
just the other day. She had just met a member at a Tweetup who said she joined the chamber after
she found them on Twitter.The benefits of using social media far outweigh the negatives.
Get started today! If you have any questions, please let me know. And, if you're already using social media, stay connected to your members and your community online. Keep them engaged!