IMG_3498The number one barrier that prevents people from engaging in social business is their fear of saying the wrong thing.

Addressing that issue has proven difficult as it involves so many variables and is deeply rooted in the individual’s own psychology. It is a myriad of obstacles that get in the way of engagement here, any one of which can be the one issue that prevents someone from playing in social media, or it could be a complex web of issues woven to prevent adoption. For me, the solution was two-fold:

1. I had to own my words; to stand behind them and take responsibility for them.
2. I then had to understand and own the ramifications of my words. For me this entailed being okay with people not agreeing with me or disliking me because of my words (something I still struggle with).

Luckily, I have a wonderful tool to help guide me in the social media world as I interact and engage in valuable conversation. The IBM Social computing guidelines give me the framework to avoid saying the wrong things on-line and provides you with the same benefit:

Quoted below from the IBM Social Computing Guidelines with my own highlights for emphasis:

1.   Know and follow IBM’s Business Conduct Guidelines.

2.   IBMers are personally responsible for the content they publish on-line, whether in a blog, social computing site or any other form of user-generated media. Be mindful that what you publish will be public for a long time; protect your privacy and take care to understand a site’s terms of service.

3.   Identify yourself– name and, when relevant, role at IBM-when you discuss IBM-related matters such as IBM products or services. You must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of IBM.

4.   If you publish content online relevant to IBM in your personal capacity it is best to use a disclaimer such as this: “The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.”

5.   Respect copyright, fair use and financial disclosure laws.

6.   Don’t provide IBM’s or a client’s, partner’s or supplier’s confidential or other proprietary information and never discuss IBM business performance or other sensitive matters about business results or plans publicly.

7.   Don’t cite or reference clients, partners or suppliers on business-related matters without their approval. When you do make a reference, link back to the source and do not publish content that might allow inferences to be drawn which could damage a client relationship with IBM.

8.   Respect your audience. Don’t use ethnic slurs, discriminatory remarks, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any similar conduct that would not be appropriate or acceptable in IBM’s workplace. You should also show proper consideration for others’ privacy.

9.   Be aware of your association with IBM in online social networks. If you identify yourself as an IBMer, ensure your profile and related content is consistent with how you wish to present yourself with colleagues and clients.

10.  Spirited and passionate discussions and debates are fine, but you should be respectful of others and their opinions. Be the first to correct your own mistakes.

11.  Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective. IBM’s brand is best represented by its people and what you publish may reflect on IBM’s brand.

12.  Don’t misuse IBM logos or trademarks and only use them if you have the authority to do so. For example, you shouldn’t use IBM in your screen name or other social media ID.

Take a moment and also real the Detailed Discussion section of the IBM Social Computing Guidelines here, as it will explain some of the above in better and clearer terms than I am capable.

Once you have a handle on the social computing guidelines, life becomes so much easier…. but even then, you or your employees may still be hesitant to start sharing, or think they don’t have anything to say… that’s okay. After creating your account, go find a few people to follow then start listening to how they are interacting. Take the next step by highlighting some of the ideas or information you find that you agree with and reshare those. After a while you’ll start to really get a feel for what you want to be saying and how to say it effectively as well.

Lastly, and this may seem overly simplistic though it is true: don’t worry about making a mistake. If you are playing in the social spaces you will make a mistake; but that’s okay too. Acknowledge when it happens and make your correction as soon as you can. In this way you can own your words and your mistake. This behaviour makes all the difference between a big or small mistake; between something that blows up or blows past.

Remember that social business is no different from any other interaction in the core values. If you pick up a phone or respond to emails in a professional capacity you can engage in social business as well. You have the trust of your company behind you, all you need now is the same trust in yourself and your success will be imminent!   Just remember to follow the social computing guidelines, especially so if you share something you disagree with…