Why Social Media is Scary

January 11, 2009

Best Of, Social Media

As one of my company’s social media leads, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with a wide range of people about social media.  From our most senior VPs to senior executives within the government to our summer interns, every group has their own set of questions, concerns, and pre-conceived notions about social media and what it means for them.  Over time though, I’ve realized that they all one thing in common.  They could all agree on one thing.

Social media is scary.

Let me tell you why.  Businesses and our government are structured in a very hierarchical way – everyone is part of an org chart, everyone has a boss, and everyone is working to get to the next level.  Why?  Because inevitably, the next level brings more pay, more power, more respect, and more influence.  In the current organizational structure, everyone’s role is nicely identified on the org chart and with that, there is a structured way to act.  Raise your hand if you’ve ever said or have been told something like, “you can’t contact him directly – get in touch with your manager first,” or “draft an email for me to send to him,” or even better, “talk to “Public Affairs and Legal to get that approved before sending it out.”

The problem with this structure is that social media renders these traditional roles and responsibilities obsolete.  It introduces unpredictability and opportunity, unauthorized emails and tremendous insights, inappropriate language and humor.  Social media gives everyone a voice, whether they want it or not.

That’s a scary concept.

  • For junior employees - “Yeah, that’s great that I can start a blog that everyone in the organization can read, but what will I say?  What if my grammar is wrong or I spell something wrong – will people think I can’t write?  What if I disagree with something that my manager says?  What if I write too much and my boss wonders why I wasn’t working?  I don’t know – I’ll have to really think about it.”
  • For developers, programmers and other IT staff – “Ummm, I became an IT programmer because I hate people.  I don’t like speaking out, and really enjoy just coding and sticking to myself.  Now, you’re making me blog about my work?  I have to post my code to a wiki?  But, I can’t – it’s not ready for prime time yet.  I can’t just post draft content out there – let me get my manager to review this first.”
  • For managers - “So, how much time is my staff going to be spending blogging/reading blogs rather than doing actual work?  If my staff have questions about their project, their career, or their work environment, I want them coming to me, not blogging about it for the whole world to see.  I’ve got an MBA and have been with the organization for five years – why would I put my work out there for people to change and mess up?”
  • For senior leadership - “What happens when people start using these platforms to just complain about everything?  Why would I want to give everyone a place to whine about every little thing that’s bothering them?  I can’t possibly keep up with every comment, question, and suggestion that goes up – I don’t have the time to do that!”

At the heart of all these questions is an underlying fear of the unexpected. People now have a voice, a freedom to say what they want and talk to whomever they want.

In the traditional business culture of org charts, everyone is relegated to their role and everyone lives by that – it is very easy (and fits nicely onto a PowerPoint slide).  Before we had social media at my organization, if we got an email from someone we didn’t know, all we had to go on was their directory listing – “ohhh, I just got an email from one of our Principals – I’ll have to ask my manager if it’s ok to respond directly to them or not.”  Now, I can click on anyone’s name and see not only their entire bio and a picture, but also their entire history of contributed intellectual capital(IC).  I can see their blog postings, their wiki edits, their bookmarks, and their skillset.  I’ve gotten this a lot lately as people within my organization have tried to say that they’re social media “experts” yet I can click on their name and find out they haven’t blogged, they’ve made one wiki edit, and they’ve only logged into our social media platform once.  Really?  You’re a social media “expert?”  Thanks, but I’ll pass and contact the guy in San Diego who has been editing the wiki like a fiend, adding great IC on social media.

Social media allows people to easily subvert the traditional organizational hierarchy.  Whereas that title or degree that followed your name used to be all the authority you needed, you’re now being judged by what, if anything, you’ve contributed.  I’ve run into quite a few senior PhDs who turned out to be brilliant and just as many who left me asking how they got through undergrad – I now have more information at my disposal to make my own determination before I ever even meet them.  This transparency scares people because they’re now forced to show their skills and demonstrate their expertise.

Social media gives employees an unprecedented ability to use their voice to gain credibility, influence, and power within the organization – for better or for worse.  Junior employees can quickly become valued and respected or suspended and reprimanded members of the organization because they now have a voice.  Middle managers can lose their power and credibility if they don’t use their voice.  Senior leaders can lose total control of their organization if they don’t listen to these voices.

No matter what level you’re at, social media can be very scary.  On the other hand, it can be an incredible opportunity.  Will you face your fears and take advantage of the opportunity or hide from the fear it instills?

*Image Courtesy of Flickr user Ack Ook*

, , , ,

About sradick

I'm Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Brunner in Pittsburgh. Find out more about me here (http://steveradick.com/about/).

View all posts by sradick

68 Responses to “Why Social Media is Scary”

  1. tonymack (Tony Mack) Says:

    FriendFeed Comment


    Why Social Media is Scary | Social Media Strategery [link to post] http://friendfeed.com/e/6b87421d-5872-401c-aafc-5a50ee02803b

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  2. nike sb shoes Says:

    Hhe article's content rich variety which make us move for our mood after reading this article. surprise, here you will find what you want! Recently, I found some wedsites which commodity is colorful of fashion. Such as nike sb shoes that worth you to see. Believe me these websites won’t let you down.

  3. shox r4 Says:

    Hhe article's content rich variety which make us move for our mood after reading this article. surprise, here you will find what you want! Recently, I found some wedsites which commodity is colorful of fashion. Such as xxxxxxxx that worth you to see. Believe me these websites won’t let ustomemories.com you down.

  4. moncler outlet store Says:

    Hhe article's content rich variety which make us move for our mood after reading this article. surprise, here <a href=” http://music-ofthesun.com/ ” >wslmart.net you will find what you want! Recently, I found some wedsites which commodity is colorful of fashion. Such as xxxxxxxx that worth you to see. Believe me these websites won’t let you down.

  5. .Origina Says:

    Here elaborates the matter not only extensively but also detailly .I support the
    write's unique point.It is useful and benefit to your daily life.You can go those
    sits to know more relate things.They are strongly recommended by friends.Personally http://www.nike-air-force-one.com/Nike-Air-Forc

  6. dunk shoes Says:

    Hhe article's content rich variety which make us move for our mood after reading this article. surprise, here you will find what you want! Recently, I found some wedsites which commodity is colorful of fashion.
    http://www.inin-from.com

  7. Use Says:

     It’s good to become honored because it’s a difficult career sometimes, said YFD paramedic Adrian Aust Steve is recognized as using a being thirsty regarding knowledge, in search of brand-new approaches to supply high quality proper careAust has been identified by many other firefighters because the YFD’s Paramedic of year  http://www.edhardycheapoutlet.com  ED Hardy Cheap   during the ceremony, while John Anderson ended up being called the actual EMT of the season, and also Gabrielle Trevino the particular Urgent situation Medical Dispatcher of the seasonInchesCRICO/RMF Strategies and also the EMLC collaborated around the progression of any white paper, which summarizes the initiative’s outcomeAnderson’s nomination go through,  http://www.nikeairmaxagency.com/nike-air-max-clearance-c-219_230.html  Nike Air Max Clearance   He or she is famous for regularly beyond as well as beyond in their dutiesRecommendations in order to Forget abou More powerful Physician-Nurse CommunicationAfter identifying these kind of essential places, your EMLC worked with each other to develop a couple of best practices designed to enhance connection amid Male impotence  http://www.discountbeatsbydre.net  Beats by dre   physicians along with nursing staff When you’re during an unexpected emergency, it might look like a long timeAt any moment you may be eating out in a hearth to picking up someone stuck within the wasteland for you to having a grandma towards the infirmary, Kobayashi stated CRICO/RMF Techniques is <a href="http://www.nikeairmaxagency.com/nike-air-max-c-219.html  Nike Air Max   surely an operating section of CRICO/RMF, the patient basic safety and medical malpractice firm held simply by as well as serving the particular Harvard medical community because 1976Yuma observing countrywide EMS few daysColors was at each Rural/Metro Hearth Section train station Monday day, getting the consideration of all of the  http://www.edhardycheapoutlet.com  ED Hardy Outlet   firefighters

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 5 life lessons I learned from social media this week « Direct Marketing Observations - January 16, 2009

    [...] post that caught my eye immediately was authored by Steve Radick essentially stating that social media is scary and the reason is, social media gives everyone a voice, whether they want it or not. It can instill [...]

  2. Social Media is Scary - How to Address Junior Employees | Social Media Strategery - January 27, 2009

    [...] one of my recent posts, Social Media is Scary, Rick posed some pretty valid questions that essentially boiled down to “yeah, social media [...]

  3. Gov 2.0: 5 Reasons Social Media ISN’T Scary « Adriel Hampton - February 13, 2009

    [...] Several great social media and Web 2.0 minds have influenced this post, including Steven Radick (Why Social Media is Scary), Craig Newmark (in discussion with Heather Krasna), Jeffrey Levy (commenting on a GovLoop post of [...]

  4. Are You Afraid of Social Media? | Marketing Conversation™ - October 31, 2009

    [...] Steve Radick over at Social Media Strategery wrote “Why Social Media is Scary,” he gave us a few reasons why he thought social media was something that every part of an [...]

  5. Best Internet Marketing Posts of 2009: Social Media, SEO, PPC, Small Business, Web Design, and More » Techipedia | Tamar Weinberg - January 5, 2010

    [...] Why Social Media is Scary (Steve Radick): Why is social media scary? There are challenges to be overcome by junior employees, developers, managers, and even senior leadership. Steve Radick tackles them all in this post. [...]

  6. Best Internet Marketing Posts of 2009: Social Media, SEO, PPC, Small Business, Web Design, and More » Techipedia | Tamar Weinberg | Business-Blog-Consultant - January 6, 2010

    [...] Why Social Media is Scary (Steve Radick): Why is social media scary? There are challenges to be overcome by junior employees, developers, managers, and even senior leadership. Steve Radick tackles them all in this post. [...]

  7. Beste Internet Marketing berichten van 2009 « Narrowcasting & Digital Signage weblog - January 12, 2010

    [...] Why Social Media is Scary (Steve Radick): Why is social media scary? There are challenges to be overcome by junior employees, developers, managers, and even senior leadership. Steve Radick tackles them all in this post. [...]

  8. Disagreements and Debates Are Good Things | Social Media Strategery - February 3, 2010

    [...] champions, we pretty much make our living taking our colleagues, clients, and bosses out of their comfort zones, showing them new ways of working and new ways of thinking. We’re the innovators, change [...]

  9. tonymack (Tony Mack) - February 9, 2010

    FriendFeed Comment


    Why Social Media is Scary | Social Media Strategery [link to post] http://friendfeed.com/e/f49930ef-6b3c-4e80-98b8-3a540acdffb2

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  10. TonyMackGD (Tony Mack) - February 9, 2010

    Twitter Comment


    Why Social Media is Scary | Social Media Strategery [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

  11. tonymack (Tony Mack) - March 9, 2010

    FriendFeed Comment


    Why Social Media is Scary | Social Media Strategery [link to post] http://friendfeed.com/e/2e54ca07-5117-456b-bc7f-1c93697f750a

    Posted using Chat Catcher

Leave a Reply