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Social-Media-Phobes: Put Out a Contract on 'Em!

by Ken Gordon  |  
April 29, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • How to convert social-media-phobes into social-Web-savvy employees
  • How to craft a written contract to get employees more social

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.

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Ken Gordon is the social-media manager for the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education. If you liked this article—or you happen to care about excellence in Jewish education—please Like the PEJE Facebook page.

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  • by Spencer Fri Apr 29, 2011 via web

    Setting goals or numbers is definitely the way to go. Otherwise, a contract may just seem hokey.

  • by Ken Gordon Fri Apr 29, 2011 via web

    You got it, Spencer! --KG

  • by Karen "KJ" Janowski Fri Apr 29, 2011 via web

    Making a commitment in writing, or to an individual or a group of individuals is a time-proven technique - works with all sorts of personal goals such as weight loss. However, I'd have to disagree with your statement that there's an "irrational" fear of social media. It can be a terrible time sink with unclear payback and, in that sense, the "fear" is totally rational! How do you help folks to get involved and yet not waste inordinate amounts of time?

  • by Ken Gordon Fri Apr 29, 2011 via web

    You make a good point, KJ: for people who are easily distracted--the folks who spend most of their day at the water cooler or constantly play Word Twist--social media can present a HUGE problem. Though I must say, I'm not sure that the majority of people in a typical organization fall into the easily distracted category. From my experience, most workers can quickly understand how to use social media to form strong relationships and share useful content... but there will always be exceptions. --KG

  • by Peter Curtis Fri Apr 29, 2011 via web

    I have issues with the basic premise of this article. It assumes that using social media is the right thing for everyone in the organization. Sorry, but it isn't. Many people do not use social media simply because, as introverts, they have a natural preference not to. It has nothing to do with being uncomfortable with technology, fear of change, or control issues. It's simply that introverts don't have a personal need to be socially engaged. In fact, introverts thrive on solitude, not engagement. It's how their personality is wired. For an introvert to embrace social media for the sake of the organization, he or she has to view it as a job task and approach it with resolve as any other challenge.

  • by Alana Schwartz Fri Apr 29, 2011 via web

    I agree with Peter Curtis. Being anti-social in a social media world may come to be an advantage. Twitter requires a different mindset from writing. Facebook isn't for everyone. Sometimes, keeping the socially inept away from these sites is a good thing.

  • by Ken Gordon Sun May 1, 2011 via mobile

    Peter & Alana: I like what you're saying about the excessively shy. They should be allowed to apply for a deferment from the social-media wars. --KG

  • by Barbara Lemaire Sun May 1, 2011 via web

    My business is based on taking these shy people by the hand and teaching them how to be involved in social media without being overwhelmed

  • by Ashley K. Edwards Mon May 2, 2011 via web

    This is actually a great idea! I work for a social media marketing company, so I forget the whole world isn't yet on board--or comfortable--with social media. It's important, though, that employees become the biggest brand advocates, so getting them involved in the company's social media efforts is perfect!


  • by Ken Gordon Mon May 2, 2011 via web

    Barbara & Ashley: Thanks for the notes. I do appreciate them. --Ken G.

  • by Barbara Lemaire Fri May 6, 2011 via web

    Thanks Ashley & Ken
    I appreciate the verification of my idea that I should contact marketing agencies to offer my services.
    Take care, Barbara

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