What if Social Media Isn’t Working? Then What?

You’ve listened, put together a solid strategic plan, spent time selecting the right services, and then worked hard to implement a social media program. But after months of toiling away, the results aren’t there: no one has become a fan of your Facebook Page, you only have a handful of Twitter followers, and your blog is collecting dust.

Then, what? Does it mean that social media has been a failure and a waste of time? Should you just walk away, and focus your time, effort and people on other projects?

The answer is “maybe” but not before conducting an audit of your social media activities to discover what went wrong and why.

This exercise, which might involved some external help, will provide insight into whether strategic or tactical mistakes were made that contributed to social media not doing what it was expected to do.

The problems could include:

1. Unrealistic strategic goals. Many companies buy into the “if you build, they will come” approach to social media. They think that by embracing social media, it will automatically attract a lot of people. This belief is skewed by the success of a small number of companies such as Starbucks and Ford, which have millions of fans/followers. Too many people forget, however, these success stories are anomalies or outliers.

2. Selecting the wrong social media services. Just because Facebook has more than 450 million users doesn’t mean it works for every company. A key consideration for most companies when they explore getting into social media is having a handle on where their customers and potential customers spend their time online, and what, if any, social media services, they are using. You have to fish where they’re biting, which may mean not using Facebook because your customers aren’t there.

3. A failure to execute tactically. The easy part of social media is listening and creating a strategy; the difficult part is working social media on daily basis. It’s grunt work and a lot of blocking and tackling. It involves investing a lot of hours to build relationships, engage with people and participate in conversations. In other words, it is more than just diligently tweeting or posting to a Facebook Wall. If not enough time or effort is invested, the results won’t happen.

4. The lack of engaging good creative content. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube, et al are tools that need to be fuelled by content to make them resonate with users. Whether it is contests, photos, videos, compelling stories or polls, content helps make social media sink or swim.

By exploring these areas, companies can get a better idea about why social media didn’t work. This will provide them with insight into what needs to be tweaked or perhaps overhauled to improve their social media efforts.

It may be that a few strategic, tactical or content changes will make a huge difference. Or it could be that these changes don’t work. Then, a company can determine whether it’s time to walk away from social media armed with the knowledge that it wasn’t for a lack of effort.

4 Comments on “What if Social Media Isn’t Working? Then What?”

  1. What an important read and very timely. This is great advice. Social media is not one-size-fits-all. SO many of us have been saying this for quite a while and it is finally being realized. I am really tired of hearing the same old success stories and mentioned this to a colleague recently. We need to share success stories of businesses our clients can relate to and become students of the craft in a different way, that isn’t necessarily easy nor does it exist of reading blogs and never executing anything. Reevaluating where you are now is a good way to regroup. Again, good read.
    Angela Connor
    Author, “18 Rules of Community Engagement”

  2. Nice summary. I think it all boils down to “mindset.” If you expect to sell, if you simply jump in to get on the hype curve despite other more important strategic imperatives, and if you don’t truly commit, you will fail.

  3. This is a great summary. They are all dead on but I wanted to add to #4.

    I often see the absence of good content is because the company/brand refuses to take any risks. You have to think big and try a lot of different things. Some will fail and some will work, but you won’t get anywhere posting mediocre stuff that nobody cares about it.

    And trust me, nobody cares about your mediocre content.

    My biggest question for a client who wants to “do the whole social thing” – why?

    I don’t accept the answer, “to get fans/followers” or even to “engage the community with relevant content”.

    Even though answer #2 would be correct in theory, that’s just the beginning of a new marketing mindset that has to be shifted for the social web.

    Is your company even worth liking? (both in real life and on Facebook)

    I think some brand should just stay anti-social.

  4. I believe you first have to have a great product or service. Social media just makes it easy for people to refer and tell their friends about your business. If your product is no good, then people won’t care.

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