Things Companies Don’t Want to Hear about Social Media

When a company decides to embrace social media, everyone becomes an eternal optimist. Whatever services are selected, there is no doubt they are going to take the world by storm.

If it’s a Facebook Page, there will be thousands of “Likes” within months, if not weeks. On Twitter, there will be a stampede of followers. And a blog will attract lots of comments and in-bound links from other blogs and Web sites.

In the wake of all this bullishness, it becomes obvious there are a few things companies don’t want to hear because it would ruin the mood. These include:

1. Social media is a game of inches, not miles. While some companies hit the jackpot by attracting a lot of followers out of gate, most companies are lucky if they see slow, but steady, progress. It means that instant-gratification may be difficult to discover, and that success could takes many months rather than days or weeks.

2. Social media is grunt work. From the outside looking in, it’s glamorous with lots of shimmery tools. In reality, social media can be tough slogging that needs to happen each and every day.

3. There is a never-ending need for fresh content. Social media is a beast that is always hungry and never satisfied. One of the keys to engaging consumers is giving them a steady diet of content – be it blog posts, updates, videos, polls, photos, tweets or contests.

4. Social media can be an expensive proposition, particularly if you’re lucky enough to be successful. While the tools are free, it costs money to hire people to operate social media, create content, monitor activity, and engage with consumers. If a company’s social media efforts succeed, it may have to hire more people to support the growing amount of activity.

5. The ROI of social media can be challenging to measure. The thing about social media is often it can’t be measured in isolation. It may be easy to quantify the number of followers or “Likes” but extrapolating the impact on leads and sales can be difficult to pin down because there may be other factors – direct mail, advertising, etc. – that also have an impact.

If a company isn’t prepared to consider these realities, there is a real danger it will have unrealistic expectations of what social media can achieve. As a result, it may be easily disappointed when things don’t exactly go as planned.

26 Comments on “Things Companies Don’t Want to Hear about Social Media”

  1. So true – and thanks for sharing. Social media marketing takes a huge amount of commitment – we run courses for this and getting over the hurdle of instant success in social media is the biggest.


  2. A 6th, related to many of these:

    Social media is much more about listening than it is talking.

    SM is really quite a poor broadcast channel, at least for the little guys, but it can help smaller players listen to customers and competitors as well as fans and skeptics. Many companies don’t seem to like this.

    1. Trevor,

      Excellent point about the importance of listening, which is something that companies should do as a strong first step into social media.


  3. Do you think those 5 things will hold true over the next few years? I can see the measurement piece getting better, but the other 4 don’t look like they are changing any time soon.

    1. Ben,

      Agreed that companies will still have a difficult time accepting the realities of social media. Thanks for the comment. Mark

  4. Companies also need to know that when you open yourself up to a more direct conversation with your audience, people will not just have positive things to say. Companies are usually ill-prepared for negative feedback or handling mishaps (a la Red Cross or Kenneth Cole).

  5. For us, the hardest part is the last one – measuring the actual ROI on the social media work we’ve done. As you’ve talked about in the article, hundreds of likes or twitter followers isn’t a metric that can be converted or compared to cold hard cash very easily…

  6. I appreciate the direct honesty of this post, especially the point of social media being a game of inches. You can achieve some “quick wins,” but the reality is social media needs to be looked at through long-term lenses.

  7. How true this is! If only I get could get my clients to understand this and be realistic about how social media works. Thanks for the info, it’s much appreciated.

  8. Completely agree – often have the same problem when convincing individuals to become active on social media as well. Everyone wants 1,000 followers on day one – not going to happen.

    I think number 4 is the most common proposition that no one wants to believe. Time has to be spent on social media – you can’t log in once a day and hope to be successful. Companies that are truly successful have to invest time in creating good content

  9. @ben I think the other things are going to change significantly. Especially #4, sure some companies had to hire a bank of phone operators to answer the newly invented telephone, but today every employee has a phone or 2 and answers it, themselves.

    As time passes, Social Media will not be a position but rather a set of skills and abilities that your workforce will require to be successful.

    I truly believe that the sooner we stop thinking of Social Media as just “marketing” and realize we’ve always seen business value from developing personal and business networks, the sooner businesses will see true opportunity in these tools.

    @trevor Listening is important for sure, and Soc Med is a shitty broadcast channel without a doubt. But engaging in social media ISNT about broadcasting, it’s about conversations. Just like that last networking event you went to.

    The opportunity for the little guys to converse with customers, competitors, affinity groups, influencers and friends is a BIG opportunity. I actually think it’s easier for the little guy to have the honest personal interaction required to be successful in the space.

    People matter, tools don’t. Thanks for the thought provoking post Mark.

  10. Spot friggin on. Budgets need to shift some from building the plane (social media planning) to piloting the plane (ongoing social media content and interaction). A good plane will not fly without an able pilot.

  11. Great article Mark.

    Personally being at a photography studio leads to a large quantity of fresh content but often times it is occurring all at the same time from multiple sources. Everyone wants to see their contribution instantly leading to a surplus of information going out to followers at once. However, during the rest of the time it becomes a difficult balance to use the available resources without “burning” any billable time from a client.

    Anyone have experience with balancing content out to keep a constant flow of new content, without letting topics move out of date and interest.

  12. I guess companies who hire social media specialists don’t really need to know everything, that’s why they hire outside help. My clients said they’d much rather pay than try to learn everything themselves.

  13. Quite true points. Social media is a trial and error pursuit, and it’s about fostering relevant content and at the same time creating a genuine and effective connection with your followers.

  14. All very true examples. A good post to which to refer management teams. Perhaps some other adds include:
    1) There will be setbacks and missteps
    2) Expect the grumpy old man (complainer) to trip your pony
    3) There will be things you wish you’d done differently, but that’s hindsight.


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  18. Interesting list. Personally I think it comes down to the following: “There are no shortcuts for success” and failure with social media and other marketing strategies is often the wrong expectations.

    Everything is about “grunt” work and that is why passion and commitment is so important. If you love what you do you will not see it as work and spend those extra hours on communicating your message.

    “There are no traffic jams on the extra mile” (I think this i Brian Tracy).

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  20. A reflection on the last point – the ROI of social media is hard to measure, but so is the ROI of a lot of the other marketing activities which we do (and can cost considerably more – brochure production, I’m looking at you). Also, most social media platforms have the opportunity to enable some form of web analytics – yes, you’ll probably not be able to link a sale 100% to your, for example, twitter account; but you’ll definitely be able to have a handle on it’s importance. Anyway, a lot of your activity on social media is about customer service – you know it’s a good idea, but it’s hard to calculate the ROI, what ever the platform is.

    1. John,

      Good point about ROI – something that I think most people overlook but, nevertheless, expect social media to provide. Thanks for the comment. Mark

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