As much as there is all this hype about businesses getting into social media, there are still a vast majority of companies that have not made the step – and that’s perfectly normal if you consider that a majority of [especially smaller] businesses still do not have an internet site.
Are companies right not to get into social media? To the extent the lack of a social media presence is as yet a determined choice, there are indeed many good reasons why not to get into social media. Some of the reasons are about timing, some are philosophical and others yet are a function of the business sector and objectives.
9 1/2 reasons why to avoid social media
If many of these reasons could be turned upside down and, in their reverse, be reinterpreted as the best ways to approach social media marketing, there are plenty of unadvisable situations where social media may indeed not be the right investment. There is no way for this to be a definitive list, and for each reason, there are counter examples and qualifications that need to be made. All the same, herewith the top 9 1/2 reasons that I believe warrant not investing in social media.
- Your product is illegal or ethically questionable. The main insight for this is that activities on the internet are highly visible and/or traceable. In an increasingly interconnected world, consumers/punters are unlikely to want to publish brazenly their involvement in a seedy, illicit activity. Moreover, certain governing bodies of ‘borderline’ industries are clamping down (sex, gambling…), while for other legitimate industries (tobacco, alcohol…), they are making social media marketing much more restrictive.
- Your clients are not present or active. While there are well over a billion people signed up to one or other social media network, there are still many people who are not present and even more who are not active in social media. Here are a few examples: a club for Fortune 500 CEOs (and most of the C-suite executives in those companies), the hyper affluent (and more mature), the hyper busy, the hyper lonely, people without a computer or smartphone… By some reports, the hyper rich segment is only 60% on social media, compared to 95% of all those on the internet; that said, there is growing evidence that the hyper rich may be more easily swayed by social media than other segments in buying luxury goods (per Pam Danziger at Unity Marketing). The key is knowing where they “hang out” and social media may not be the go-to place.
- Your product is hyper niche. If the number of clients you have you can count on your fingers — or the price point is ludicrously high (luxury yachts or airplanes) — it is unlikely that social media is the best investment. You will know exactly who are your clients and how to contact them. Media is to reach (out) to people. Social Media is to reach out in a socially networked way. A well-placed telephone call, business lunch or attentive personal service may be the better avenue.
- Your company is overly product-oriented – and not sufficiently client centric. The litmus test is whether there are well-organized channels for gaining, listening and acting on ongoing customer feedback. If the product is king and R&D operates as a closed-off kingdom, the opportunity on social media will be dramatically diluted. The perfect counter example is Apple.
- Your customer service offline is terrible. If your customer service is not good offline, there is no way that establishing a Twitter customer service line will help. In fact, it will only exacerbate the problem.
- Your internal corporate culture is rigid, overly fretful. If your company operates with fiefdoms and teams work in silos, the lack of internal cross-departmental cooperation will be damaging in terms of speed and fluidity of engagement online. Another good indicator of when not to get into social media is when the top executives do not have or plan to have their own social media presence. Even if this is the case for many companies that have a social media strategy in place, the risk is that the senior executives will be making decisions without truly grasping the nature of the business. Intelligent as senior executives may be, the act of doing it themselves brings the understanding to a whole other level. Far from clamoring for the ideal (e.g. that the CEO has her own blog), there are many ways an executive can usefully and efficiently learn the ropes and provide value by participating online.
- Your company has no internet site. This point depends on the company, sector and objectives. I have, in the past, vouched for launching a Facebook page rather than your own internet site, especially for a startup or very small companies. But for the other companies, if you don’t have an internet site of your own, a place where you can invite people to come (to find you, make conversions, even purchases), you will likely struggle to find a benefit (read: return on investment) to a social media program. Understand me: the sole purpose of a social media strategy should not be to drive traffic to your own site. That said, an internet site can no longer operate in a vacuum, as a place for grandstanding and arrogant one-way communication. The more your internet site includes social components, the more likely the experience in social media will be optimized.
- Your singular objective is to generate likes or gain followers. This may seem trite, but what if Facebook turned around and started charging businesses for their fan page? Then, in the beat of an eye, brands would be forced to figure out the real value of their presence. Going in with the entirely wrong attitude (ie. not looking to engage, enjoy conversation, accept criticism…), venturing into social media is likely to invite heartache, if not failure. Building a fan base is not the same as building a database. It is relatively easy to throw money at getting short-term likes (see my piece on link-like-love); the challenge is converting that like into a true fan, convert and advocate.
- If you are only in it for a short-term burst... Similar to the issue of being desperate, if you enter social media for a limited-time burst, the chances are high that, at best, nothing will happen. At worst, you can get called on it (i.e. you get shown up for being shallow-minded). Getting the right “voice” in social media is far from easy and it is unlikely that the digital marketing team will get it right, right away. More likely, the brand will need some trial and error, time and a little sense of humor. It will take time (internally and externally) to develop an effective social media strategy.
And the last 1/2?
Your product (or service) is not up to standard
. If you are going to get into the social media act, make sure that your product is up to snuff. If positive word of mouth can be amplified on the web, there is nothing more virulent on the web than bad word of mouth. This is only worth a HALF, because it is absolutely true for any business and is only accentuated by social media.
Bottom link: you have to be good!
Would love to hear your feedback! Have I missed out any points? Disagree with me?