There are a lot of “best practices” that you hear about and learn about as you begin the process of immersing yourself in Social Media. I entered into the fracas around the time that David Meerman Scott published his book, Lose Control of your Marketing and PR, so a lot of the talk was about how you just need to get your message out there and let it fall where it may. Much like a white fluffy dandelion, you have to be willing to let your idea fly all over the world. You might never see it grow into another dandelion. You might never know what happens to that seed.
Like so many things in the world of Social Media, hearing words like this might make you feel one way, but then when you actually start experiencing life as it exists online, best practices sort of undertake a new meaning, a more personal meaning. Maybe a meaning you didn’t expect. So is the case with “losing control.”
When you are talking about a brand, a company, a product, or a service, “Losing control” can have a lot of positive ramifications. Your video has completely spread beyond where you thought it could, for example, or maybe someone took one of your ads and shared it with tons of friends. The same thing can be translated to a personal level. When we are engaging with people, part of that engagement is built upon them tweeting out our posts, writing posts based on our posts, sharing our tweets, and liking (and thus sharing) our Facebook updates. It’s all pretty neat stuff.
There are some dangers that you have to be aware of amidst all of the talk about losing control, however, and learning these lessons the hard way can be anything from mildly irritating to disastrous to painful. Mark Schaefer talked about this not long ago in a post called Why Social Media Blogging is Corrupt. Many bloggers, in fact, are noticing that their posts are showing up, unattributed, on sites that have simply robbed the post. That’s not really losing control, is it? That’s losing credit for your work, credit for your idea. It’s kind of like the movie Being John Malkovich, if you’ve seen it. It’s Malkovich’s brain, but there are tons of people traipsing around in there!
Tracing blog content is one thing. Tracing advice, an idea, something you offered as consultation – that is a lot harder. If you give someone an idea and then they turn it into a new business concept or a new e-newsletter topic, can you prove that they “stole” that idea from you? Even if you could, how can you go about that without looking like a sour-puss?
Give to Get, but Don’t Give Away Anything Too Dear
A couple of months ago, I wrote about your secret sauce, the thing that differentiates you from other people in your niche, field, industry, what have you. This means that it’s okay to give advice. It’s even okay to give lots of advice for free. But don’t give away anything that you want to protect. It’s very hard to toe that line, and a lot of people who began by giving everything away are now in the uncomfortable position of having to say, “Um, wait a minute, you want me to do what for you by when and for what price? Um, but, what do I get out of it?”
Rather than having to back-pedal, consider the following before you share an idea, advice, or consultation at no charge:
• Is this concept something that helps (or could help) separate you from your competition? If so, be very cautious about sharing, even if you start out by sharing with someone in a completely different industry.
• Does the person have a history of crediting you or others with ideas? This one, unfortunately, needs to be learned by either hearsay (risky) or experience (Potentially painful). However, if you start smelling the signs that the person wants you to lose credit AND control, don’t be ashamed to hold back a bit.
• Would your advice really make a difference for the person you’re talking to? If so, you are offering a huge value, and you need to ask yourself if you are okay doing that for free.
Are you losing control, losing credit, or both?
Are you finding that in your efforts to engage with people, you’re giving away the store? You know the old saying. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. As wonderful as it is to meet other people and share your content, you must remember that ideas have a way of wafting out of your hands and into the hands of someone else. If you are credited, you need to ask yourself if that is enough. If you are not credited, you need to determine how much damage losing that idea could cause you.
Determining these lines and how you will manage them is an essential step before you dig into any type of engagement. You don’t want to have to decide these things on the fly. You don’t want to have to dig yourself out of an avoidable hole.
This is post #18 in the Engagement Series. If you want to make sure you don’t miss a think, do what Steve Tyler does – hit the subscribe button! Well, okay, Steve Tyler just sings about not wanting to miss a thing. But still…
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