HOW TO: 10 Ways to Engage ‘Luddites’ in Social Media

As more organizations decide to open up and join the Web 2.0 interaction revolution, some will flounder or even fail at it. Why? You need to get enough of your organization on board to really scale. Problems are inevitable if you can’t inspire the technophobic “luddites” within your organization (Late Majority and Laggards on the Rogers Adoption Curve) to adapt.

Distributing social media policies, mandating use of wikis or collaborative planning software, etc. will only get you so far with that group. Luddites will only take part when they see social media use as a social norm, believe they can handle it, and think its benefits outweight its risks.

Here’s 10 ways to engage your organization’s luddites in social media:

1. Make sure your organization’s leaders adopt social media first. If your senior leadership starts sending out messages with social media, your staff members will get the obvious message they need to use it too to respond to (or at the very least read) those messages.

2. Recruit energetic champions. Identify people in your organization who are open to social media and have influence. Recruit them to champion social media adoption and help respond to luddites’ questions and concerns.

3. Introduce social media through a tech savvy unit. If your organization has a particulary innovative and tech savvy recruiting, public outreach, customer service, etc. unit, introduce social media through that unit. Then after social media has reached critical mass within it, roll it out organization-wide.

4. Roll out with hands-on activities for new users. Road shows, lunch-and-learns, and other live presentations are a great way to roll out the new social tools to your whole organization, leveraging the positive peer influence and success of your pioneering unit (see number three above). Make sure people bring laptops to the training events so their hands (not your trainers) are on the keyboards.

5. Shape perceptions about social media. Ensure your communications about social media address more than its benefits. What luddite staff members really need to know is how to overcome the barriers they perceive to change and the steps they can take to improve their skills (and how your organization will support them). This communication needs to imply that adoption is inevitable and that the critical mass has already occurred or will occur soon.

7. Respond to criticisms from luddites. Some of your luddites may become determined detractors. You need to quickly understand and address their concerns to squelch them before they poison the well.

8. Practice behind a firewall. If some of your staff members have stage fright about using social media publicly, allow them to practice in private. They could, for example, begin listening and tweeting on Twitter using a protected account and go public a few weeks later when they (or their managers) are comfortable.

9. Use friendly reminders. Include a prompt about using social media on your Intranet home page to make it easy for staff members to remember how, when, and what to do. Or send out a daily or weekly email containing blog, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter mentions about your organization (and perhaps the competition). Seeing conversations are happening with or without them will interest them in having a say and illustrate the risks of being left behind.

10. Reward staff members for communicating. Create incentives, such as contests, prizes, and encouragement from senior leadership.

What do you think? How are you getting your organization’s luddites on board? Please share your ideas in the comments section.

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About Monica

Monica specializes in strategic communications, web and new media, and print materials with an international or multi-cultural context. She has worked on national public outreach campaigns targeting multi-cultural audiences and has conceptualized, written, and/or designed multiple websites. Monica also has written, edited, and/or designed high-profile newsletters, brochures, and reports, including some prepared in collaboration with the White House. She holds a bachelor’s in journalism and a master of international service with a focus on international communication. Monica is based in Washington, D.C.


  1. Monica have you ever worked to earn your way through the great continum of the “The New World Order?”

  2. A great read. It’s been my experience that demystifying social media is critical to ensuring it’s adoption. Don’t rely on your “tech” people to lead the way. When the skeptical folks see non “techy” peers using the tools they will lose much of the fear and concern over adoption and use of SM tools. If your tech folks are the lead in rolling out SM tools, policy and practices, caution them from using to many technical elements in descriptions/training. It’s perfectly fine to use twitter and not totally understand what an API is. If you will eventually need to know that information, you’ll pick it up as you begin to use the tools more. If you are scared off from the start by the “tech” you’ll never get far enough into SM to need to know anyway. That would be a great shame and potently costly to the organization. Cheers, Chuck W.