Is fear your social media handbrake?

Shark Fin

Afraid to take the plunge?

In writing the second of my postaweek2011 blogs I was thinking back to the reasons why I had never considered seriously blogging in the last couple of years.

Besides not setting aside enough time to write, which I will now do, I’m sure there was a certain amount of fear involved in my procrastination.

I’m not talking about being afraid to try something new or even use the technology. Neither of these have been a problem in the past. No, what I’m actually thinking about is the fear of criticism or ridicule.

Over the past two years I’ve built up a small collection of influential people whose tweets and blogs have been a constant stream of inspiration, illumination, and wisdom.

When I originally started this post I included the names of some of those that I regularly follow, but after thinking about it further, I changed my mind.  Why?

Initially I decided it was because I didn’t want to appear to be dropping names, but then I stopped and thought about it. The fact is that I consider all those I follow worthy of mention and from each I have gained something of value, but to name every one would have produced a rather long list. That said, you know who you are and I thank you.

When I consider the social media company I keep, I really don’t have to think to hard about why I’ve been reluctant to put myself on the blogging map. Faced with a group of followees made up of highly regarded people it often crossed my mind that in committing my thoughts and ideas to the blogosphere or tweeting a thought, I was exposing myself to potential criticism and ridicule.

In essence, my own fear was a handbrake on my participation in social media.

This struck me as rather odd. When we began trialling Yammer internally I can distinctly recall having a conversation on exactly this issue: fear inhibiting participation in enterprise social media. One staff member told me they couldn’t join in Yammer conversations in case they said something stupid. To which I’m sure I responded, “Of course you won’t and besides nobody would be awful and criticise you“.

Now, while I believe that is probably the case, the human ego can be a fragile thing. It takes an incredibly long time to build someones confidence with encouragement and praise and yet it can be dashed in an instant with a careless or ill-considered comment.

Much talk is made of the importance of culture in the adoption of enterprise social media. An open, nuturing, fostering culture where everyone feels valued and able to participate is more likely to succeed in its adoption of social media practices. Those organisations that adhere to an archaic “command and control” styled culture will suffer from a continuing reticence in staff to participate in social media adoption simply because they are afraid to be visible.

I for one choose to overcome my fear and participate anyway and hope that I in some way I can and will add value to those that connect with me.

For organisations considering enterprise social media, culture is and will continue to be more important than the technology. Don’t let fear be the handbrake to adoption of social media by staff: Think carefully about the culture of your organisation and whether it will be supportive or destructive.

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