This blog post is an excerpt from my forthcoming book on social media marketing…This chapter discusses the risk factors in social media marketing. The book’s version is considerably more detailed.
Perhaps the biggest risk in social media marketing is diving in without a strategy. Too often, companies jump on the bandwagon without first developing a plan. The second worse risk is having the wrong strategy. A social media marketing strategy requires research, observing and planning in order to develop a plan which can succeed and can be measured.
Another risk marketers run is to ignore social media. I often hear from marketers “we plan to get into social media somewhere down the road.” That’s not a bad strategy if they are listeners in social media. But, if they are totally ignoring the existing communities and conversations already taking place, they are potentially ignoring threats and opportunities TODAY.
Lack of Understanding
I believe the biggest risk any organization faces when considering using social media is a lack of understanding its potential and the (mostly) unwritten rules of social media marketing. The interesting thing about this comment is that social media is an evolving platform, yet there are fundamental components and characteristics in place which are very black and white (with a few shades of gray). Organizations who come to understand the social, viral and technological characteristics of social media have the greatest potential to achieve positive experiences.
Lack of Top Down Support
Understanding social media starts at the top of any organization. Isn’t that usually true of most new business ventures? For a large corporation with thousands of employees, it’s not totally necessary for the CEO to understand social media for successful experiences. Staffers can experiment with social media, but they risk getting embarrassed if something goes awry and the CEO learns of it. In fact, the possibility of the CEO learning about a negative experience from social media is extremely high due to its pervasive nature. So, while I believe the CEO doesn’t necessarily need to be on board with a social media experiment in large corporations, I strongly advise it.
Throughout the course of history, there are countless failed marketing experiments. As consumers we have been witness to some failed marketing experiments – remember the DeLorean car? How many Super Bowl commercials can you remember from companies still in business (other than Budweiser)? And, of course, there are gazillions of failed marketing experiments we’ve never heard of in market niches with no consumer exposure. So, it behooves most organizations to venture into social media conservatively. I’m talking about the proverbial dipping your toe in the social media waters.
Poor Allocation of Time and Resources
Another risk is not spending enough time at it. Organizations that choose to embark in a social media strategy must allocate time to it. When it is considered additive, the risk of abandonment is high.
Poor Definition of Roles
A related risk is not redefining job roles to reflect a commitment to using social media. If you consider social media marketing additive, then who do you add it to? Once a social media plan has been developed, or a successful trial has been completed and you’re ready to commit more to a social media plan, I recommend a formal review of people’s job description and in most cases revising job descriptions.
Not Having the Right People on the Bus
Once the roles have been defined, documented, discussed and everyone is on board, the heavy lifting begins. In most cases, some heavy lifting has been in place for some time, but now you are in a better position to turn it up a notch. But, what if you realize you don’t have the right staff for social media marketing? The fact is some people just don’t understand social media. Sometimes the barrier is demographic, but most often it’s just a “don’t get it” mentality. Or, worse yet, some may just resist it for any number of reasons. There are still many people who are stuck in a paradigm, and they are not ready to shift to the social media paradigm.
It’s your job to recognize who may embrace using social media and who may shun it. If you are not the manager and you want to convince management to begin using social media, you may have a tall task ahead of you. But, you should look for the same openings I’m describing here.
Measuring Results Poorly
As your social media strategy progresses, you want to measure progress or results. A big risk is measuring the wrong metrics or not measuring at all. The key is to develop a strategy that allows you to measure something that is meaningful. Measuring the wrong metrics that don’t correlate to your strategy is potentially dangerous. Likewise, attempting to measure prematurely is potentially dangerous. Depending on your social media strategy, results can take months to develop and to blossom. Measuring results over a sustained period of time is the key to measurement that matters.
There are risks in using social media, but the potential benefits are outstanding. The risks outlined here should not dissuade any marketer from harnessing the collective power of social media.