The Art of Decision Making In Social Media

Making business and social media decisions requires proper timing but not hesitationThe way people approach decisions is fascinating. Not all decisions are created equal of course; there are those that require immediate action or opportunity will be lost, while others are best decided after careful consideration and research. The weight of each type of decision varies, as do the repercussions for acting quickly or being too slow.

In business, the majority of people tend to flip-flop the decision process. Sometimes easy questions or calls to action come about, and usually they can be handled simply by giving it a little thought and making a decision. However, most people tend to slow these down by moving the decision to be made to a larger group…emails are drafted, many people are CCd and doubt is dispersed in many forms, including questions like “what do you think we should do?” and the single-word pass-off, “thoughts?” Unfortunately, making mountains out of mole holes is commonplace in today’s business world.

Then there are decisions that should require more attention and research, and often are appropriate to bring to a larger group. Decisions that, if made to hastily, can negatively impact a campaign, or even the company’s reputation. Very often, instead of seeking wise counsel, people tend to pull the trigger quickly, often resulting in a mess that needs to be cleaned up.

It fascinates me that so many people are wired to do the opposite of what is required in a decision making process.

Many years ago, I read a Colin Powel Leadership Primer in which he referenced the timeliness of making decisions. He said that if you make a decision without being 40% sure of yourself then you are jumping in too hastily and mistakes can be made. Conversely, he said that if you wait for more than 70% certainty then you have likely missed an opportunity. Get inside the 40-70% range, then go with your gut.

This concept of knowing when to make a decision right away or when to seek more input or do more research can apply to many areas of life, but I want to point out how it applies to social media. You see, social media is a strange hybrid of real-time conversations and historical archive. A Facebook conversation that is started by consumers may require immediate attention, but do not forget that it will be permanently seen in various places on the internet. A tweet that is offensive may be removed, but chances are that those that saw it have taken screen shots and spread it around by Twitpic, blogging and Facebook before your finger can even get to the delete button. Particularly in crisis or reaction to something negative, remember that what you say from your official brand page will be brought up again, so you need to make sure that what you say is what you mean.

It’s very easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to something that is said about you or your company online, and the immediacy of a smart or even sarcastic reply can be tempting…after all the keyboard is in front of you and the only thing standing between you and what you are sure is an authoritative and smart response is the “post” button. Remember the old adage in this case that it is best to keep your mouth shut and suspected a fool than to open it up and prove it. The vast majority of situations that arise online, even the most critical, really do not need a response within minutes if you are not quite sure that the response is appropriate. Back off the trigger, consider all options and their possible outcomes, and then post when it is time, but not before. In all of this you must remember…do not wait too long or opportunities will be lost, or in the case of social media your community can turn on you.

There is so much pressure from pundits to “immediately” respond to things. Success can be found when cool heads prevail, so make sure that you are putting the proper weight (and timing) on the decision you are about to make, or the post you are about to write, because on the internet, nothing ever truly goes away.

Awesome decision making photography used under Creative Commons, courtesy of s~revenge
By Matt Singley

Personal: husband to Alison, father to four amazing kids. I used to live a fast but enjoyable life in Los Angeles, now I have chickens on acreage in Charlotte, North Carolina. Just a bit different. I'm an advocate for cycling as much as you can and eating as cleanly as you can afford. Professional: I'm the CEO of Singley + Mackie, a creative digital agency that serves well-known lifestyle and entertainment companies around the world. Clients include Microsoft, Samsung, Hulu, YP and others. If you want to find the more-professional me, go to