What The Iranian Elections Can Teach Businesses About Social Media

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What The Iranian Elections Can Teach Businesses About Social Media

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I’ve been completely fascinated by what’s been occuring with Iran lately. I feel that we are witnessing history unfolding before us. I honestly believe the voices that are being shouted out could not have been heard as loudly as it were not for social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Iranians are logging into their Facebook account to find out what’s going on. They are Tweeting to update the world on the tragedies that are occurring as we speak. The force and the impact would not be as strong if it were not for the tweets, updates, and uploaded Youtube videos.

If you’re learning to leverage social media applications for your business, the Iranian elections can teach you some valuable lessons. For starters;

Be transparent. The Iranian government was not very transparent in how they finalized the votes. In doing so, they created alot of distrust amongst the citizens. This is really the heart of the issue here. The people of Iran are fed up with the level of secrecy and behind-the-scenes manipulation of the voting process.

If you’re going to use social media, be transparent in your efforts. Don’t manipulate your readers or audience. Don’t fake things like Wal-Mart did. It’ll only backfire on you. Look for opportunities where you may need to disclaimer or caveat issues when communicating to the public especially if you see possible miscommunication or misinterpretation occurring. Your consumers and customers want to know that they are consuming truth and not fiction.

Accept opposing viewpoints. Iran’s government didn’t do this. When the people took to the streets, law enforcement and the secret police came in and gave these people a beatdown. Seven people died because of the Ayatollah’s inability to accept the opposition’s viewpoint.

Look- people aren’t gonna always agree with you. In fact, the bigger your company is, the more likely you’ll have opposing viewpoints and dissatisfied customers. They’ll tweet their dissatisfaction (Quiznos sucks). They’ll make comments via their blog (KFC printable coupons backfire) and they’ll start Facebook groups that your company sucks (Verizon customer service sucks). If you do anything similar to what the Ayatollah did, which is to enage in censorship, then you’re just asking for more forceful opposition. Embrace the feedback and the opposing viewpoints. Chances are, you can improve your business based on their feedback. So don’t delete comments on your blog just because they don’t agree with you. Engage in a dialogue.

Be real. Iran’s elections was anything but real. The government has engaged in all sorts of duplicitous efforts from the very beginning of this election process. They have shut the voting process down early and prematurely declared Ahmadinejad as the winner. They have also shut down the SMS text messaging system so that Mir Hossein Mousavi could not grow grassroots support on the day of the voting.

Who in their right mind wants to be part of something like this? No one. In the eyes of the people, it’s all fake.

People want authenticity. In Iran, they’re demanding it.

If you are going to use social media tools, learn to leverage it with authenticity. There’s nothing wrong with being incorrect or showing that you are prone to mistakes. I get tired of seeing so many business people set up Facebook profiles and Twitter accounts and all they do is talk about business and show the “sunny side” up. Talk about boring. Show your personal side. Talk about, within reason and comfort, your family or personal interests that matter to you. This is one on one communication with another human being.

Keith Ferrazzi recently said,

“So often people love you because of your imperfections. We don’t realize it’s really the perfect bits that frighten people off.”

How true.

If you’re a business, talk about things besides the business itself. Talk about your customers, your employees or you for that matter. We do business with people whom we like, know, and trust. Facebook status updates, tweets, and blog entries can easily reinforce the concept of authenticity. No business is ever perfect in how it runs its operations. Why cover up what we already know- that you’re not perfect.

Be transparent and don’t cover up issues that need to be addressed. Learn to accept opposing viewpoints of your customers and show that you are willing to embrace them. And be real. Chances are, revealing that other side of yourself or of the business can create hidden opportunities to connect that you were never aware of.

So what do you think? Are there other social media principles that a business can learn while watching history unfold itself in Iran?

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