There are thousands of social media authors, experts, consultants, mavens and gurus.
Some of them are self-proclaimed, preaching on top of a soapbox about the wow and now of social media. Others have earned the right to preach and share their encouraging messages, but too often it’s only the “good word” of Social Media. They’re all preaching – they need to fill their donation plate – and they’re all making money when you buy into social media. By the way, thank you for purchasing my book on social media.
It also appears there is no shortage of books, articles and whitepapers showcasing the success stories of businesses using social media to meet their goals. Every story has a happy ending, and someone gets something you wish you had in the end. Like statistics, there are more than enough success stories for you to reference (p. 229 in Satellite Marketing) to make your case to choose social media. But what most will not share with you is the cold, hard truth of it all.
One of my mentors has been Keith Hall, the CEO of Leadership Advantage and an all-around great guy. Keith and I worked together for years, and as our personal friendship developed, Keith would share his wisdom as my “Dutch uncle.” Very to-the-point and for my own good, he would tell me all the things I didn’t want to hear but needed to know.
At times, I didn’t want to hear anything other than that I was right – I had an idea in my mind – but in the end, his insight was on point and it served me well. So, for that same purpose (for your own good, with your best intention in mind), I’m going to tell you NOT to use social media for your business.
Not what you were expecting? Neither is social media.
Reason #1: Your audience isn't there.
Social media is current and trending as a communications channel, but that doesn’t guarantee the people you are trying to reach are there. Pew (2013) reports 87 percent of Americans are online, which means 13 percent are not. Of those 87 percent online, 26 percent don’t use social media. Depending on your audience demographics and psychographics, there’s a good chance they’re not there.
Before you invest any time in developing a social media presence, be sure your audience is using social media and you know where they are. The Internet is a big place, and just because Facebook is your favorite social networking service doesn’t necessarily make it the best starting place for your business.
Reason #2: Social media doesn’t work for every business.
Despite popular opinion, social media marketing does not work for every business. And no matter how much using social media to communicate makes sense to you, it has to make sense to your audience or it just won’t work.
You have to be in an industry that uses social media to communicate, and you have to use the right type of social media. If you can’t communicate with the people and share information in a public space, it doesn’t make sense for your business to use social media.
Reason #3: There are easier ways to get in front of your audience.
One of the biggest attractions for businesses to social media is the potential audience, but one of the biggest myths is that you can get one.
“Social media is not the powerful and persuasive marketing force many companies hoped they would be,” concludes Gallup Inc. U.S. companies spent $5.1 billion on social-media advertising in 2013, but Gallup says “consumers are highly adept at tuning out brand-related Facebook and Twitter content.”
If you do include social media in your communications plan, utilize it as part of an integrated marketing plan. Connect social media with advertisements in print, promotions on television, sales on radio, events on billboards and targeted digital campaigns online.
Reason #4: You don’t “get it.”
I see business after business create a profile or a page, upload a logo and some pictures, then plan to figure out what they’re going to do with social media. Then… nothing. While it sits idly, it acts as a giant billboard telling people you don’t know how to use social media for business and you don’t have a plan.
Despite all the definitions and metaphors, sometimes people just don’t “get” social media – and that’s okay, just don’t them put in charge of the decision-making or execution. We each have a role on the team, and everyone can’t play quarterback (obligatory sports reference). If you don’t understand why somebody you don’t know wants to be your friend or why someone you don’t know “likes” your page, then social media is not for you.
Reason #5: Social Media is not free.
Social is the IKEA® of media. It’s the DIY (do-it-yourself) of communications. You have to pick something you think matches the current setting, in a size you think is going to fit, that serves the purpose for which it’s selected. The out-of-the-box cost is cheaper than other choices, but it’s not free. You have to pull it down from the shelf. You have to wheel it down the aisle. You have to strap it to your car, get it home safe then up two flights of stairs. When you finally get it home, you have to try and build it with tools you’re not sure how to use, with directions that just don’t make sense. What seemed like such a value can cost so much more in the end.
Social media is a lot of things, but it’s not free, it’s not a magic bullet and it isn’t going to fix a bad business.
Reason #6: You can’t find the ROI.
My father taught me something was either a cost or an investment. A cost is something you spend money on and then it’s gone. You have nothing to show for it. An investment is money you spend, and you get something in return. Before you run to social media, ask yourself, “What will have to happen for my business on social media to realize a return on investment?”
If you can’t tell somebody where your business will find the ROI, then you should not use social media for your business.
Reason #7: Shit happens.
There are issues unique to social media that most businesses never consider until after the fact or until it's too late. Even with the best of plans, what happens when something goes wrong? Something, on some scale, always goes wrong - then what? You find yourself on the front of something with a headline that isn’t flattering. You turn into the butt of a joke, and suddenly, there are a lot of questions about “How did this happen?” and “Who is to blame?”
A Fair and Balanced Report
I know I’ve presented social media in a hard light, and I’ve provided numerous reasons – based on my knowledge and experiences – not to use social media for business. Perhaps this is a bit odd for an author who is teaching a webinar about how to use social media to create engagement, but not from your Dutch uncle who has your best interest at heart.
Too often, media, especially social media, share stories of success that are too good to believe: shortcuts to 1,000 fans, tips to getting 10,000 followers or “how to make a viral video” that gets 100,000 views. That usually does not happen.
Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t have success using social media to create engagement – that’s what I’m teaching in my upcoming webinar and in my book. As you move forward now in deciding if and how to use social media, you do so with eyes wide open.