If you look at marketing magazines and read all the industry trades, social media seems to have been widely adopted and understood by everyone. However, sometimes as industry professionals, we get wrapped up in our own game of inside baseball. We forget that for a lot of America, and some of our clients, this is still an unknown area, and therefore a little bit scary.
I recently attended an event that reminded me of this fact and was the inspiration for this post. The event was Social Media Boot Camp, and it was a daylong workshop of various sessions dedicated to different topics. Throughout the day, I realized that the attendees in the room had varying levels of experience within the social space, and therefore, their comfort levels were different as well.
Empathy is a human emotion that we strive to achieve, and when dealing with clients, empathizing with them and understanding their fears is a huge help—especially in the world of social media. Imagine if you were about to embark on something that scared the bejesus out of you—like starting a company Facebook page. For me, personally, a good example would be to go skydiving. I am not a fan of planes, in general, and the thought of falling out of one, with only a parachute, is not a very comforting thought.
Now, if I do decide to go for it, I want an instructor who is patient with me. Someone who won’t try to force me into something I’m not ready for. The ideal instructor would understand why I am scared, and really make an effort to make me feel at ease. This may mean that it takes more than one plane ride to summon the courage. And it may also mean that I need to take some incremental steps to feel comfortable with the big leap.
When discussing social media with clients, I always try to be this instructor and understand exactly what fears the client faces. It could be they are scared of the negative feedback. It could be they are worried about the business infrastructure they have in place, and they wonder whether their business is truly ready. Or it could be they are worried about wasting their investment—with little or no return. I make every effort to understand these emotions when planning campaigns for clients.
It’s worth it to take the extra time to be a client’s social media (read: skydiving) instructor. Making sure they understand the basics of the platforms, the how and why of the various tools, and what measures they can take to safeguard their reputation, builds trust. It also makes explaining the business case of social media, and how it does affect their bottom line a whole lot easier, too.
Once you have explained the safety features, you still need to gauge whether clients are comfortable assuming the risk. Because like in skydiving, we can’t guarantee the future and can never eliminate risk completely. What you CAN do is make sure they understand how to mitigate risk, and make clients feel confident because you’ll be right there with them—freefalling in the digital open.