Facing Your Fear of Social Media

Photo by SashaW

Robin Lane is a public relations strategist in Washington, DC. For more than a decade she has been working with clients to create traditional and social media strategies that get results. Her expertise includes search engine optimization, event planning, thought leadership programs and digital strategy. Follow her on Twitter @robinhlane.

Did your 2012 resolutions for health and well-being this year include social media? As scary as the gym seems, for many of us it is nowhere near the horror of navigating the online world. After all, you can hide at the gym but not in social media. You are out there for the world to see.

The legends of “social media gone bad” permeate the web and strike fear in the heart of organizations around the world. Determined to not be the next victim, companies have developed myths to help justify staying offline or waiting to see if this new fangled social media will last.

Myth: Our target donors aren’t online, they are older and more traditional.

Truth: Unlike Trix, the Interwebs are not just for kids. In fact, according to a May 2011 survey from the Pew Research Center, 74% of adults 50-64 are online. And, in a separate report they found that 66% of online adults use social media.


Myth: If our organization doesn’t join, we can avoid the conversation altogether.

Truth: Not unless you take your name out of the public domain. The fact is not joining doesn’t stop the conversation any more than crawling under a rock keeps you safe from gossip. People are still free to talk about your organization, with or without your influence.


Myth: We will reach the people who truly care about our cause with our tried and true methods.

Truth: Potentially. But, with the millions of people using social media to research, shop and stay up-to-date, it’s not looking good.

The real truth? Navigating social media just takes a little finesse, the right attitude and a lot of research but you can easily turn your real world charm into social media success.

1) Research

Do not start your account until you are ready to tweet or post. The first step is to listen. Research the platform, the influencers and your competition. Don’t just jump in. It is more important to know what is being said before you start participating. Make a note of what people are saying, how and where they are saying it and what seems interesting to you.

Monitoring will help you design a strategy to define your online brand identity and ensure you are engaging with these new platforms effectively. If you have the luxury of an expensive monitoring system great; if not there are several free tools to help you. You can set up free blog and Twitter searches through a number of useful sites including Google, Hootsuite, Monitter and Social Mention.

2) Write

Now that you understand the landscape, you are ready to engage. Many organizations think just creating an account will do the trick but social media is about contributing to the conversation. The quickest way to lose credibility is to have an account that doesn’t tweet unless, of course, it’s a sales pitch.

Participation means going beyond promotions. Offer interesting articles, your own as well as those from a third party, to help people better understand your cause and see how they can help.

Be consistent with your updates, too. If you can’t post your own content, offer thoughts and opinions on other content. Staying involved with your network is the only way to really leverage the platform. Anyone can create noise in social media. It is up to you to provide valuable insight.

3) Engage

Social media is not about what you write as much as what you think. While you can use the platforms to push your message, it is intended to allow you to interact. Don’t be afraid to show your personality and relax a bit. Find your loyal contributors, discover people interested in your organization, identify key influencers and talk with them.

While you can work with them to develop ideas and concepts for the organization, it is also your chance to get to know them. Everyone gets a say in social media, so take the opportunity to gain valuable insight and learn what makes them tick.


Look for the platforms that will help your goals, concentrate your efforts on one or two that will help you focus your brand or industry discussions, and go for it.

Don’t let talk of “Tweeting,” “Checking-in,” or “Posting to Facebook” induce a panic attack. Take the first step, get to know your audience and understand their needs.