Back in college, I visited our dentist over winter break and he lamented that he wouldn’t be able to fix one of my cavities until I was home for spring break.
I said no prob — it mainly hurt when I’d open my mouth in cold weather to say hello to people around campus.
Then don’t say hi to people, he replied.
In a way, this is analogous to businesses — colleges included — debating the use of social media. The potential pain seems an impediment to trying to communicate. People worry about the time involved, of having one more task to do. Others don’t see the payoff; there are no 20-page annotated graph-filled Best Practices Reports yet, no clear return-on-investment model. Managers worry about the lack of control, of the perceived perils of empowering people to create conversations on your behalf.
But here’s the thing: If you’re a college, business or person of any renown — a brand, essentially — people are talking about you. A lot. All over the Internet. You can go to Addictomatic and type in any institution name and find the current Internet buzz in terms of news, blogs, videos, pictures, Twitter and other media. Don’t you want to be part of your brand’s conversation? Moreover, don’t you want to lead your brand’s conversation?
When I poured time, brain cells and hustle into launching the SUNY Oswego Student Blogs, I was often asked why. Social media is not just an emerging form of communication, it’s THE form of communication for many of our prospective students. Sure, we have to pay attention to print, TV and other traditional media, but more and more students receive their info from the Web. Colleges design elaborate student-led admissions programs for incoming students because they know current students are great ambassadors. So why not allow students to become cyber-ambassadors, whether as bloggers or on Facebook or other social media platforms?
Which brings us back to the barrier of perceived pain, and the beginning of my story. Did I stop saying hello to friends and others while walking around campus? Of course not. A little bit of discomfort is a part of life, but it shouldn’t be enough to keep us from enjoying quality conversations.