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Live from #OPENNYT: Better safe than sorry is no way to approach social media

One of the mistakes American Express has made in recent years was being too cautious with social media, said Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN, Monday during the panel on “Decoding the New Digital Consumer” at  The New York Times Small Business Summit.

American Express is all caught up now and engaging on a variety of channels, but Sobbott’s advice to other companies is to not “let over-caution keep you out of the spaces where every business should be today.” For example, Facebook should be your first stop because “people are listening to their friends” there; the next stop should be Twitter.

But you know your business best, and you can identify the social media channels and technology that are best to help you get where you want to go, said panelist Claire Hughes Johnson, Google’s vice president of global online sales.

Although the lack of control over everything that happens on social media channels can be scary for company leaders — especially those who aren’t comfortable with the technology in general — social media can be a boon for business.

For example, all businesses face difficulties, and you can use social media to develop a good relationship with customers before you face a crisis, said Susan Lyne, chairman of Gilt Groupe.

You can also take all of the positive messages people post about your business and highlight them, said Chris Maguire, co-founder of Etsy, Waffl and Postling.

At the social media breakout session earlier in the day, Naked Pizza co-founder and Chief Brand Architect Robbie Vitrano told attendees they don’t gain by being over-controlling of social media and the conversation that’s going on there about their businesses.

Of course things can go wrong, but “if things go badly on social media, respond to it immediately with honesty and openness,” and have fewer secrets, advised Vitrano, explaining he and Naked Pizza’s other leaders have found it works better that way.

Image credit: Warchi, via iStockphoto.com

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