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April 11, 2011


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Steve Jones

You couldn't be more correct in noting that the only risk is not taking part. If you try ignore it, it is a grave risk. But if you embrace it, there is nothing but opportunity.
The same could have been said for nearly every technological innovation throughout the years. I recently worked with a client who banned Facebook accesss on company computers. I suggested he eliminate their telephones as well, since the previous generation wasted company time on those.


Good post David and you bring up some points, points that I come up against on a regular basis. Some people only see the negative side & really can't work out how they will manage their Social Media presence. I explain that if you can send an email you should be OK and they look at me as if I'm crazy. With construction particularly, I think they consider Social Media just another type on IT, something they will have no control over and be totally dependent upon. I know this isn't true and so do you, but convincing the very traditional and the very skeptical isn't easy. I spoke to a lovely lady today, her construction related company doesn't even have a website!! The committee has been thinking about it for years, beat that!! I'm not too sure she'll convince the board that they don't really need a website, they need a Blog instead! That might be a tough call for her! She looked at my Blog as we talked on the phone and she seemed quite impressed, but still had a slight touch of reluctance in her voice. No one ever said it would be easy, right? We do what we can and keep smiling, it's the only way! Thanks to your post I don't feel like I'm the only one paddling up stream! Best regards Peter

Michael Halligan

Well said! I believe that small businesses are embracing social media far more effectively than major corporations in Australia.

David Meerman Scott

Steve, Peter, and Michael -- thanks so much for jumping in.

Peter - I'm amazed that the construction company you cite has no website.

I do understand the fear aspect. But that's not a reason to say "no." However, if a company is amazingly successful without social media or a family run business happy to just plod along and not upset the cash flow, I'd probably be scared of messing things up too.


It's interesting to hear your perspective of Australia's business adoption, or lack thereof, of social media communications.

A few years ago I consulted on an Australian project named Save Our Marine Life. This is a non profit organization focused on preserving western costal marine life. It was fascinating to me to learn how their culture impacted their use of the internet, let alone social media. At the time they were almost 5 years behind the rest of the world when it came to online consumption. After learning more about their culture it became clear that their lifestyle was entirely focused on outdoor activities, and not sitting in front of a laptop all day.

Though your example was specific to business, I would suggest they take a look at the success Save Our Marine Life has achieved. They have impressive numbers of Facebook followers, and email subscribers - over 7k and 15k respectively. More importantly they are making an impact by using an integrated marketing and communication approach.


Thanks for this post David. I was sorry to have missed you while you were speaking in Brisbane.

Back to topic. I consult to a number of these "conservative" corporations here in Brisbane and while I certainly try to help guide and introduce the benefits of social media to them, they do face huge challenges in getting it going. Many of them have extremely cumbersome approvals processes for ANY communication they release. There are additional challenges such as the regulations around their status as publicly listed companies and what they can or cannot say without Shareholder or ASX sign off. These challenges for example, plus the innate risk-averse cultural makeup of big corporations, make the "real time" requirements of social media a very daunting prospect.

Not withstanding, it is something that they can all get involved with at some level. Whether it is as part of their community engagement, crisis management or in-house HR practices.

My approach has been to continue to educate them on social media practices/opportunities etc, get them to understand that it forms "part of" their overarching communication strategy, and also as a first step to start listening to what's out there in the social sphere. I think this is a valuable first step and one that does not have that same sense of FEAR that you have spoken about.

There are some exciting times ahead for these companies as they take their first steps into the brave new world. I definitely agree with you in that there are more opportunities than risks and hope to help create some great outcomes for the social media-big business love affair along the way.

If you have the time or inclination, I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the challenges I spoken of.

Thanks again.

David Meerman Scott

Dave -- thanks for pointing us to the example of Save Our Marine Life. I will check it out.

Tracey - It's safe to say that companies all over the world have issues around regulation and publicly traded status, but that does not mean that those companies cannot communicate. I think the challenge is to separate the ignorance and fear of the tool itself (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogs, etc.) from the idea of communication. People in those big companies must realize that their customers want to communicate this way.

I never understood how company executives can be annoyed at telemarketers and throw away the "junk mail" then turn around and ask about the direct marketing plans at their company while banning social media! Makes no sense.


Thanks for your response David. Agree the big corporate regulation issues are global. Good point about seperating the fear of the tools from the idea of communication. It should form part of an overarching communications/marketing approach.

Thanks again for your time and feedback.


Dave - Thanks for the post ....#mythbuster!

As to my blog post on the Art and Innovation of Listening - conversations are taking place today all over the social web that impact your business – whether you are a large commercial Enterprise, a government department responsible for executing policy and programs, a Small or Medium business trying to grow your business; or a Not for Profit organisation perhaps trying to influence government policy.

Any and all of these organisations today must have a ‘Listening’ capability – the ability to ‘hear’ these conversations on the social web and in turn be able to analyse the resultant data to understand the impact of those conversations on sales, service, marketing, product development, policy formulation, policy execution and to understand the behavior and impact of customers, citizens, influencers and other conversations on your actions.

David Meerman Scott

Glad to help Tracey - this is important stuff.

Well said Michael - companies are good at "messaging" but normally stink at listening. Social media gives them some amazing tools.

aluminium kozijnen

I agree this one.. Social media is a fantastic way to reach customer..Really this is great point about this fear of the tools.. Thanks for sharing this David.. Very useful idea..

Ted Page

Good post David. I think a little fear can actually be very helpful for a company. From my own experience, if I don't feel at least a pang of apprehension around a new venture, then it's probably safe and average and not worth doing. There are real risks to using social media (if it's done very badly), but the same can be said for any marketing tool at our disposal. And the risk of NOT using social media is higher than using it.


Thanks so much for the great information. I always love to read more about social media and marketing.
I have my own site. I hope to offer tips as well. Thank you.

TPC Online Marketing

Unfortunately this is not limited to Australia, we see it quite frequently in dealing with C-level execs whose biggest fear is reputation degradation within the social realm. Good post.

Rusty Cawley, APR

Sorry, David. But I respectfully disagree. Executives are paid to minimize risk, and blindly leaping into social media presents a significant risk by any standard. Just ask Nestle' about the risks posed by a Facebook fan page.

Unfortunately, there is also significant risk posed by failing to address social media; opting out does nothing to manage the risk.

Social media advocates simply must stop pretending the waters are safe -- and start developing tools and methods (based in sound risk strategy) that help companies more safely navigate those waters -- if they hope to achieve any significant level of credibility with corporate executives.

David Meerman Scott

Rusty - Thanks for jumping in.

in my talks in Australia I laid out a plan to manage that risk which includes - setting social media guidelines for employees, having a policy around acceptable behavior, implementing real-time monitoring tools to listen to what people are saying, and more. Yet, there was still resistance.

I could get killed walking across the street. It is risky. But that does not mean I stay home,

It is risky for you to comment on my blog - it is less risk to do nothing. But you are here anyway. Sometimes the right thing is to say "yes." Good for you to manage that risk - I wish companies would do the same.

Carmel McCartin

Many of these frightened companies are run by Baby Boomers who are getting to a stage in life where they hate change.
To those company executives who "trace their worries about social media to their belief that "people will say bad things about our company" via social media" I say - Then don't give people a reason to say say bad things!

Communication and transparency are the keys to running a successful business. Modern technology gives every business these opportunities.

To those corporations who fear social media - keep away! We don't need the negativity! Leave the social media scene to the SMEs' who are embracing the revolution that is giving the power back to the people.

And, as a Baby Boomer with a flourishing SME (due to social media), I'd like to remind you of the story about "the mouse that roared".

David Meerman Scott

Carmel - excellent poing on doing good so that people do not have things to complain about. And I also agree that this fear leaves the social media world open to those companies that are not fearful. Thanks.


So much of the fear is misplaced. Sure, there is risk in a company jumping into social media without a plan or guidelines.

However, most of the risks cited are not risks of participation, they are risks to corporate brands that have been immune to the voices of their customers. Now that customers have a voice, those brands are worried it will be used against them. Brand participation in social media isn't even the root of their concerns.

As Carmel said, quite giving them something to complain about, because the real fear of social isn't your own engagement, it is the rest of the world saying what they think of your brand, your values, and your product.

Account Deleted

446 major Aussie corporations see social media as a risk? Wake up Aussies! You have no choice, people are going to bag your company and your products anyway. These bad comments are going to spread virally, its up to you to listen, be part of the conversation and do something about it.

Better yet they should get the 446 corporations to read David's book and then do the Risk Management Benchmarking Survey again!

fall protection

I never thought that there are still corporations out there who are not harvesting the power of social media to dominate the market. There is no reason to fear social media. In fact, the constructive criticism can help improve products.

Quentin Aisbett

Unfortunately for some of these 'afraid' corporations there may come a time when a little reputation management or issue management is going to be required. So the options are to ignore social media and wait to have your say via traditional (slower) media OR engage on Facebook, Twitter, etc and respond immediately, before it gets out of control.

The real issue for the big boys is to whom they should leave control of the profiles..Marketing? or PR? They need to have a strategy, particularly when issues arise.

I also wanted to comment on your reference to GM Holden, I haven't followed the link to your interview yet but I must say I think Ford is leading the way in that particular industry.


Moncler Sverige

Excellent post. It makes me realize the energy of words and pictures. I learn a lot, thank you! Wish you make a further progress in the future.

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