For those of you who read yesterday"s piece "Brands loosen grip on social media" in the Sydney Morning Herald, you would have read about the debate on who should control an organisation"s social media message - the organisation itself or an agency who you can outsource to.Organisations who are unsure about how they should engage people online need to know this: social media, like a lot of other media is simply a means of communication. It may be the most powerful given the one-to-one nature, but it is certainly not the easy one-hit-wonder-marketing messiah that it is made out to be.Sounds straightforward? In reality, not quite. You may have come across Toyota’s foray into social media with the help of Saatchi & Saatchi. A video competition advertised and rated through various social networks to elevate Toyota’s Yaris and its brand. It was smooth sailing despite the lack of interest in a worn-out idea. Then judges came in and picked the winner and the video, rightly so, received a backlash. It did more bad than good and to make it worse, there was no risk control in place.Westpac is another example. In this instance, the banana smoothie video to explain the interest rate rises. I should say I’ve actually been a fan of their ‘I’m your bank manager’ campaign. But there was no follow up on that campaign in the online world. We know that for banks, the best market is the youth because once a young person opens their account with one bank they tend to stay with them for life. But it’s not all youth either – the fastest growth segment on Facebook currently is 55-65 year-old females. If Westpac had followed up on their offline campaign online, they would have been able to disseminate the message, such as the one of interest rate rise, directly to the people without anyone else being able to define the message in the middle.What is most powerful about social media is it provides you with a level playing field, costs virtually nothing and people will share your message depending on how good or bad it is. Organisations no longer control the message – but that is ok.Other organisations like ours can help build policies and guidelines or support with tools to monitor what is being said about a business, but at the end of the day, the organisation has to take its own responsibility in dealing with their customers like they do through other forms of communication.Another concern is that getting out there in this form of media will involve putting a lot of effort in managing and curbing negative publicity. What needs to be understood is that negative publicity is going to get aired regardless. Having your presence in social media means you can work on that negative publicity and mitigate the same where appropriate. There are risk mitigation plans for almost anything in businesses – why not social media?A few months ago I came across I sitt Casino har de spill fra Net Entertainment og Microgaming. Scott Drummond at an event we both spoke at. Then, he was a couple of months into his new role of Community Manager at Optus. He was quite excited back then about Optus"s progressive nature to jump in to the world of social media.I need to put a disclaimer here - Langoor uses a few Optus products. However, when it comes to their phone support, I think it is outsourced to another company and very substandard. On the other hand, have a look at the Optus Twitter time line. You will notice very quickly how Optus is handling their reputation online. Even from my personal experience, their online support team has been excellent on all fronts.The most important lesson from Optus that directly deals with the aforementioned discussion of outsourcing the online engagement is that it is ok to not be in control of the messages online about your brand. All you have to do is thinking about shaping that message. You can do this by addressing any problems that your customers may have and rewarding those who are loyal. From that point, social media can be as positive as it was negative.The key is to be ahead and start fresh. I read once, organisations who do best in such media are the ones who shift from ‘controlling their image’ to ‘being themself’. Scott and I spoke about the importance of building communities and engaging with them on an ongoing basis. It is about being transparent and personal. Social media is not going to replace the traditional forms right away, but it is certainly changing the way messages reach out.Most importantly, social media has made approachability, open dialogue, transparency and personal touch more important to a business than the size of their ad budget.