Loss of control is a major objection faced by most social media advocates. For many senior-level executives, losing control is their biggest fear. This shouldn't come as a big surprise, as their ability to control people, situations, and outcomes is how they landed the top job in the first place. To give up this sense of control by putting themselves and their company into an unregulated, unfamiliar environment is scary. This fear is further exaggerated as they hear stories of social media blunders from their peers. Why on earth would they want to risk it?
Engaging with new media is not about throwing yourself into uncharted waters. It is about listening to what is going on, finding out what people think about you and your brand, and pinpointing your biggest fans and haters. For anyone in the c-suite, this actually INCREASES the level of control you have both internally and externally. Becoming engaged allows companies to gather intelligence on people posting comments on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, discussion boards, and other social networking sites. It allows you to monitor not only the discussion, but also the entire online environment for your industry. You can become that elusive fly on the wall, predict when tides are turning, and take appropriate and necessary action immediately, before the sh*t hits the fan. This is not a loss of control or throwing caution to the wind. It is understanding your industry, followers and market on a deeper, more intimate level. Your ability to control the situation and the outcome actually goes up.
Engaging in social media doesn't necessarily mean that you need to be shouting your product, company or service to the world. But it will let you know when people are shouting at your product, company or service. I recently heard the line "You have two ears and one mouth, use them proportionately". I think this applies tenfold when engaging online and conversing with your market.
Some free social media monitoring tools that help keep your ear a little closer to the ground include:
1. Addict-o-matic: Aggregates one search term from a number of different social media sites, video sites and blogs.
3. BoardTracker: Monitors discussion boards. Allows you to set up alerts for ongoing searches.
4. Alexa: Allows you to track website traffic (and compare against other sites).
5. Backtype: Monitors comments on blogs and social networks.