Warning: Some of your colleagues are afraid—deeply, irrationally afraid—of social media. You know the people I'm talking about: the otherwise reasonable cubicle-dwellers who scream like diaper-rashed newborns at the horrifying thought of having to create... a Twitter profile.
Social media can seem threatening to coworkers who are uncomfortable with technology or those who fear change or who have control issues. Or those who are from a more Gutenbergian era. Or paranoid privacy freaks. Or, come to think of it, "normal" human beings who don't wish to stream their immediate thoughts onto the Internet.
And even people who aren't threatened by social media (those who have a personal Facebook page or obsessively tweet when they're at home about Canadian field hockey) may wind up resisting your social media schemes because, well, they're busy. Social media is not part of the job description, so they may not feel committed to participate.
Turning the Tide
How can you overcome the resistance against social media? How can you get everyone—or darn near everyone—in your organization to give social media a fair shot?
Put out a contract. No, I'm not talking about hiring a hit man. Yes, I do mean a contract.
The idea comes from a fine book by behavioral economist Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions. In one chapter, Ariely writes about crafting several experiments to test how honest MIT students were when offered the opportunity to cheat on an exam. The most interesting part: When the students signed their names next to a kind of oath, a statement that they'd take the test in the spirit of the "MIT Honor Code"—which did not exist—no one cheated.
Moral of the story: when people pledge to do the right thing (in our case, engage in social media) and sign their name to said pledge, they will behave properly.
Put It in Writing
A written agreement can be a great tool for getting colleagues to join your social media army. Don't know how to write such a thing? Feel free to use this:
Social Media Contract
Month, Day, Year
I promise to
1. Visit our organization's Facebook page at least once a day.
2. Respond to our Facebook posts by "Liking," commenting, or sharing.
3. Invite at least 15 appropriate people who are genuinely invested in our community but haven't yet "Liked" our page... to "Like" our page.
Your Name and Title
A caveat: you may, in spite of the contract, have to follow up. Here are five things to keep in mind:
- Some people may be shy about their social media phobia. Be sure to visit everyone who signed the contract, and be particularly gentle with the authentically fearful. Some social-media-phobes simply need handholding. You may need to sit and watch them as they sign up for Facebook, or show them exactly how to comment or Like. You may need to guide them through their first 20 tweets. It may be annoying, but if you're the social media maven you must follow up in a welcoming fashion.
- Others may need a focus. Give those people a (reachable) goal. Tell everyone to post at least one item per week and respond to one item per day. Or, perhaps everyone can collectively recruit, say, 100 new followers by a specific date.
- Be careful about hassling people too much about putting in Facebook time. If you find that your follow-ups are having a negative effect on your social-media life, back off.
- Appreciate their efforts. Once a week, in a staff-only email, highlight a particular post or comment by a staff member. Make this person the Social Media Superstar of the Week.
- Finally, know when to give up. You may well have one absolutely stubborn jerk in your organization who will pout and whine and deliberately drive you crazy because you dared to ask for help. If that person resists the contract, the personal appeal, and the do-it-for-the-team approach, clap your hands and say goodbye. Some people will never get social media, and they should be free to do something other than hinder your good work.