10 Reasons Why Social Media Fails

There is no lack of focus on social media success stories, even though we keep talking about the same ones (e.g. Old Spice, Dell, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.) over and over again.

But what about social media failure? There’s little attention paid to campaigns and programs that drop the ball, blow up or, frankly, are a waste of time and money. The thing about failure is it shouldn’t be shoved into the corner and alone. Failure needs to be scrutinized, explored and studied so we can understand how to create successful efforts.

Here are some of the leading reasons why success can be so elusive:

1. Unrealistic expectations: Like anything new and exciting, many companies have completely unrealistic goals about what social media can achieve. It can’t turn good products into good, it can’t transform your brand overnight, and it can’t turn bad customer service into stellar customer service. By setting the bar way too high, companies set themselves up for disappointment.

2. A failure to execute: There’s a lot of talk about social media but far too often not a lot of walk. Everyone gets excited about social media strategic and tactical plans but when it comes to actually implementing them, the ball gets drops. This usually happens after the novelty of social media wears off. It stops being exciting, and start to become a daily grind. Let’s be honest, social media on a day-to-day basis is hard work with little glamour, which explains why execution can be so challenging.

3. A lack of transparency: It is impossible to reinvent yourself on social media. A company can’t suddenly embrace a new identity. Instead, it needs to use social media to gradually change how it does business and deals with customers. But at the same time, it has to be true to itself.

4. Too much of a focus on sales: Social media not about the hard sell; it’s a soft sell environment. There is lots of talk about how Dell has sold several million dollars of products on Twitter but people forget that Dell’s total revenue is more than $50 billion, which makes its social media sales a drop in the bucket. Companies that try use overtly social media to drive sales as opposed to provide value-added information about their products/services or engage with customers will fail.

5. Un-social goals such as boosting Twitter followers or Facebook “Likes”: Social media isn’t a numbers game; it’s a platform to build relationships and your brand, and encourage conversations with existing and potential customers, employees, suppliers, etc. Getting lots of followers or “Likes” is a dividend of having an engaged social media program.

6. Too much attention paid to creating something to go viral: It is difficult, if not impossible, to create something that will go viral on social media. Something that goes viral has as much to do with luck and being in the right place at the right time as it is about great content and creativity.

7. Trying to be all things to all people: This is otherwise known as the “shotgun approach” in which a company embraces lots of social media tools to establish an extensive presence. What often happens is they spread themselves too thin and, as a result, do everyone in a mediocre way. A better approach is doing fewer things but doing those things as well as you can.

8. The lack of a corporate champion. Since social media is a relatively new corporate activity, it is important to have someone within the organization who can lead the charge every day. This is someone who believes in the potential of social media at a time when there is more focus on return on investment.

9. Bad or not enough content: There is lot of focus on the tools but content is still king, and that includes social media. Without a steady supply of content (blog posts, tweets, updates, video, photos, contests, etc.), it is difficult to engage consumers a regular basis. That being said, content is not easy to create but it can be a great investment.

10. A lack of social media talent to operate programs: The tools let you do lots of different and interesting things but people use and power them. Without good and experienced talent, social media efforts can be for naught.

Any other thoughts on why social media efforts fail?

11 Comments on “10 Reasons Why Social Media Fails”

  1. Social Media should never fail! I will admit, it is a test of trial and error sometimes, however, once you find your niche, it will really drive business to you. And one of the best tips that I learned from (http://www.abstraktmg.com) is that you should always post things 80% soft sell information and 20% direct sales.

  2. It takes time to figure out what works and what doesn’t and most people simply don’t have the time and experience yet. I hope those reading this will pay special attention to numbers 1 and 5.

    I suspect the reason there is so much focus on unimportant numbers is that controlling people have a need to measure things. The main thing lots of Twitter followers gets you is the illusion of popularity and there are some who will use that to decide whether you’re important enough to follow or not. Sheer numbers without interaction is useless.

    Social Media takes time. Relationships take time. You simply can not measure everything and those who are the most effective spend their time doing and not being accountable for what they do. It can take twice as long to keep track as it does to do.

  3. Super article Mark thanks!

    1. Lack of engagement – they simply don’t talk to people
    2. Focus on technology – this is about PEOPLE
    3. No strategy
    4. No system
    5. Not understanding how to use the Big 4 – Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook & YouTube
    6. Lack of training


  4. Excellent, I have made almost every mistake you mentioned. What I have found necessary was to learn from the success of others and if your here for business, keep it focused on business and be lazer targeted on an audience.

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  8. Let’s also not forget that even the biggest social channels (Facebook, Twitter, etc) are extremely fractured. There may be 500 million Facebook users but there is no way to get in front of all of them.

    This was made abundantly clear when I was discussing a social media strategy with a large media client. We were pointing that if they invested in their Twitter account they could net 10’s of thousands of people interested in what they are doing. Their CFO pointed out that by comparison they were expecting 10’s of millions of television viewers. Reaching that kind of audience via social media is an almost impossible task. For most major brands this means that social media is a low cost, low investment endeavor – which unfortnately may not be worth their time.

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