…in United States, social media uses YOU!

(apologies to Yakoff Smirnoff for the title)

The question isn’t whether or not you want to use social media; the question is how you’ll use social media. This goes for anybody (or any company) who is not a rank-and-file employee. Wait, no, strike that. This goes for anybody.

I just finished reading Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk (AMZ, B&N, Powell’s). It was originally recommended by]Mike Stackpole, and I’ll recommend it to you (a detailed review will come later). Between that book, and hearing Brad Ditzell speak at a New Media Dayton meetup (you can watch the video here) the realization gelled.

You are involved in social media. You have been all your life.

Up until relatively recently, that meant gossip and office politics. These were (and continue to be) horribly damaging things, but they are social opinions and thoughts being shared among peers. Luckily, that gossiping and office politics and water-cooler conversations have largely moved online.

It’s lucky because these conversations are now in the open.

Sure, bad gossip can spread even more quickly (virally, as the grownups trying to be hip say), but if you bother to pay attention, you can actually address that gossip and opinion up front, in person, and right now. [1]

Yes, that means you’re “always on” when you’re participating in social media. But you were “always on” before – you just didn’t know people were talking about you.

That’s difficult – I can be a real jerk sometimes. But now, when I realize my mistake, I can address it openly and honestly.

Companies, business-owners, and even employees (I’m especially looking at salespeople and academics here) need to realize that people are already talking about them. Blasting PR overtop the conversation isn’t going to help; joining the conversation can help everyone.

[1] One caveat – I said “address”, not “issue an apology for”. There’s a big difference.