Fear is one of the most ancient conditions, and one without which we wouldn’t have survived as a successful species
Fear was understood by the ancients.Fear has been part of our lives for thousands of years, both culturally and personally. Fear is one of those channels through which our personality makes its mark on the world. It guides us, shapes us and sometimes limits us.
A.C. Grayling said: “True fear is an enemy of endeavour. Itsubverts confidence, interferes with performance and lames resolve. Fear creates obstacles where none exist. It gives rise to adherence to outworn practices whose only recommendation are their familiarity.”
Fear exists to be borne, not avoided. Nelson Mandela said: “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” Andthe Persian poet Sa’di sums it up: life is about attempting the pearl.
But that’s all very well for poets. What about the real world, I hear you ask? Ifwe’re going to overcome fear, it helps to have a framework to use. I’ve taken the framework of Karl Albrecht. He claims that all fear is derived from these five. And the first of these is…..
The fear of extinction. The big one. This is the fear that paralyzes budget holders who are having to work ever harder for results. It’s also the fear of the director who senses that the silo they are responsible for – their empire – may soon not make sense.
Companies should reflect the markets they serve but there’s a danger that old siloes gain a life of their own. Did you see the British Gas Twitter chat? Wasn’t it odd they put forward the head of customer service? He should be quietly doing brilliant logistics, not explaining price rises. That event takes us nicely on to…..
The fear of mutilation – this one is really about damage to body parts, but you can easily see how it underpins the more general fear of pain. In a corporate context, this can manifest itself as a fear of feedback from customers or managers. It can say: don’t speak out or take any risks.
And this is the most prominent fear among marketing or communications directors, who have witnessed countless competitors and peers getting social media very wrong, seeing them mutilated in the court of public opinion. The simplest way to avoid such a fate seems to be not to venture out there at all.
And yet. If there’s one thing we’ve learned from horror movies from The Shining and 28 Days Later to Aliens and Nightmare on Elm Street, it’s that locking yourself in or diving under the cover is never the answer!Third in our framework is the Fear of Loss of Autonomy
This is the fear that drives business leaders to plough their own furrow. Yet this is no time to act alone, autonomy be damned! At a time when there are few playbooks on how to get your social media right, economic power is shifting relentlessly to the new owners of media and data: Facebook, Google and Twitter.
This is the time for alliances, and we’ve recently seen some strange ones! Now is the time to get together to share data, or media buys, or at the very least sharing best practice. Think “open innovation.” Think “frienemies.” But beware Machiavelli! “A prince ought to take care never to make an alliance with one more powerful than himself”
The fourth fear is of separation, abandonment and rejection. In social media, the feeling that nobody’s listening to you can be palpable. Social media shows you that only a tiny fraction of your audience pays you any attention most of the time. But don’t judge yourself using a “numerosity heuristic”.
Numerosity is arguably the worst measure of social media performance. It typically fails to take into account how many humans might realistically be in your audience. It ignores how many of them use social media and – often overlooked – why they use it. And it leads brands desperately to plead on Facebook “Like this post if you woke up this morning”.
As anyone born after 1960 will attest, it’s just not cool to keep telling everyone how cool you are. You can’t earn a cult following or deeply engaged audience by asking people to love you. Do what you do, do it brilliantly and do it – I can’t stress this enough – with your audience in mind at all times. The rest will follow.
And finally, the fear of ego-death, humiliation or shame. For anyone who’s ever run a Facebook page or YouTube channel, you know there’s no room for feeling humiliated! In a world with billions of independent perspectives, you need a thick skin.
But businesses are famously thin-skinned. How can a business handle the raw and relentless world of social media? In a word: culture. Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs both routinely read customer emails. Why? To tell their teams: we do this. It’s time for more CEOs to engage more regularly on social media.
And the culture rests on foundations that are more than merely the thick skins and hard work of the employees. Companies need data, clear objectives, shared responsibility, adaptiveness and space to fail. We don’t need to be super-humans, we just need to make our companies and departments operate more like, well, humans.
Find a structure that reflects the way your business operates today, sociallyTake some risks now, it’ll feel worse laterThere’s safety in numbersDo what you do, let them love you laterDevelop a culture that is robust - antifragile
In the end, you have to laugh.By Peter Sigrist, managing director, 33 Digital - @psigrist
The Five Fears of Social Media, a Spooky presentation
The Five Levels of Social
A spooky presentation by
@psigrist of 33 Digital
He who has
fears will truly
Cowards die many
times before their
The valiant never
taste of death but
If the diver always thought of
the shark, he would never lay
hands on the pearl
The ﬁve fundamental fears:
- Loss of autonomy
Karl Albrecht Ph.D.