IStock_000006769769XSmall It is not easy to know where to start when it comes to social media. The stories of brands that have taken missteps with fake profiles, and become a lightning rod for negative comments are aplenty – causing more than one marketing team to take a big step back and wonder where and how best to get involved. Increased scrutiny by legal teams, the recession and a general fear of taking risks are also factors that are keeping brands from really digging deeply into using social media.

Yet for all this reluctance, there is still interest and a desire to start somewhere – coupled with a knowledge that all this social media "stuff" does actually matter when it comes to fostering customer loyalty and connecting with your best customers. So what's a brand to do? Here are four social media ideas tailor made for the nervous brand to start to engage online with social media tools without diving straight into the deep end. They are techniques that have worked in my experience to help ease the reluctance while still demonstrating the real potential of social media:

  1. Internal Training & Experimentation – One of the often forgotten aspects of many social media tools is that they can very often be used privately. You can create a password protected blog, or a private corporate wiki. Just because it fits into the category of social media doesn't mean it needs to be public to the world. Starting with some internal training (bringing in outside folks on occasion) and finding a way to adopt using tools behind your firewall can be the ideal way for a reluctant organization to start to get comfortable with social media.
  2. YouTube Channel (Without Comments) – Many brands have videos that were produced for some business reason, from sales training to advertising to customer interaction. Posting these videos onto YouTube can offer an easy way to start to share content that you already have. It's low effort, but gets you started with the process of uploading, tagging and sharing content. As I have said many times before, there is no reason for a brand to enable comments on a YouTube video, though it is advisable to have a way for people to share their feedback with you – potentially through a link in the description of your video.
  3. Industry Listening Program – Though it is common advice to hear that you should be listening online, what many times is less discussed is how you can ease into this listening by focusing on keywords for the industry that you are in rather than just on mentions of your brand name. So if you are running a medical practice that specializes in lasik, see what words people are using to talk about this procedure and you can learn about how you might be able to make your practice more shareable without ever delving into specific conversations or even finding commentary about your practice.
  4. Content Aggregation – One of the concepts I believe will be a huge force in the future of social media is the idea of content curation. The first step in that line is the relatively simple act of finding content that already exists and bringing it together in some sort of useful format. The nice thing about this activity is that it intitially requires no content creation or publishing of opinion, and also helps brands to ease into social media simply by finding what is already out there and bringing it together. This aggregation could be compiled through a page on an intranet site, or a tool like, or even with a Twitter account used to follow a selected group of content creators on Twitter.