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Social Media – Electing not to participate?

@MitchJoel‘s latest Blog post discusses those companies who question whether social media is ‘right for their business’. While traditional marketing thoughts might be ‘well, not every channel is right for every business’, one must realize that social media is not traditional marketing. It’s a fluid, ever-changing series of communication channels that are not managed by agencies or corporations. They are managed by their users, and the content available in these channels is maddeningly unpredictable at the best of times, and horrifyingly predictable at the worst of times.

This being said, you can easily see why some companies are apprehensive about participating in such a different method of communication. It’s tough to realize that you need to rely on the general public to make your efforts successful, but once you make that leap of faith, it’s incredibly liberating if not a bit overwhelming.

So, while Mitch points out quite effectively that ‘yes, social media IS for every business’, one thing that is missing from the discussion is that EVENTUALLY your brand is going to appear in social media channels regardless of your action or inaction. Sure, it might not happen tomorrow, next week, or next month, but one day it will and it will be at the discretion of whoever decides to mention you. You’re never going to be able to completely control what people say about you, but you can be at least involved in the conversation and the longer you wait to speak up, the quieter your words will be.

Your decision to start participating now can be one of the most crucial decisions you make for the future of your brand. This is not to say you need to jump in haphazardly just to ‘be there’. You first need to figure out what your brand is all about, because there is no other media where your real story will come out faster than it will in social media. If you try to whitewash your story in to what you ‘want it to be’ rather than what it ‘really is’, you will be sniffed out by the community and labeled a fraud.

The key to participation in social media, as has been repeated countless times by social media gurus, is to be genuine. Be transparent. Hide nothing, and be not afraid to talk about everything. Look in every nook and cranny of your business for the ‘good news’ that you otherwise might pass over. Sometimes the most seemingly insignificant thing can spark an excellent conversation, and net you some extremely valuable insight in to your customers, competitors, and community.

The time to begin is now and the longer you wait, the longer it will take to get your own voice heard.