submit to reddit

Hugh_Network.pngBy B.L. Ochman
This morning, a friend asked me, “are there any companies that shouldn’t use social media?” And the answer, without a doubt, is yes.
While social media has gone mainstream, and shiny new objects from GPS-based networks to social gaming and social shopping; velvet rope social networks, real-time reviews and augmented reality browsers have gained traction, there are still some situations where none of these tools and tactics will work.
Social media is not the answer when:
1- You need to generate a high volume of sales in a short time. Social media can create trust for a brand, but building trust takes time. Over time, social media can help a brand create sales, and those sales can be tracked. Don’t count on making next month’s quota because you started a Facebook page.
If you need sales in a hurry, think about direct mail, sales incentives, and advertising. Hint: all of those will work better if you have spent the time building relationships.
2- You need a quick fix for a tarnished reputation.
Social media can sometimes provide quick results for a company that’s already a star. When a well-loved company like Zappos, or Google employs social media, its loyal fans and followers pay attention.
However, there’s a lot of desperation in a lot of corporate suites these days, and many companies seem been convinced that a social media campaign can provide a quick fix to sagging sales or reputation issues. Sorry, nuh, uh.
3- You don’t have a realistic budget.
Building a site that incorporates interactivity, allows user-generated content, and perhaps also includes e-commerce doesn’t come cheap from anyone who knows what they are doing.
Even taking free software like WordPress and making it function as an effective interactive site, incorporating e-commerce, creating style sheets that integrate with the company’s branding, takes more than time. That takes skill, experience, and money.
Producing meaningful results from social media requires the time and expertise of people who really understand both your business objectives and the strategies needed to reach them. Unfortunately, many companies look at social media as an experiment and don’t commit time, money, or expertise to creating a multi-faceted, multi-channel approach.
Business initiatives without sufficient resources – in social media or anywhere else for that matter – are doomed to failure. If your resources are limited, there are better ways to spend them than single channel social media toe-in-the-water experiments.
I’m not saying there’s never been a company that pulled off a successful one-off social media stunt, I’m just saying I wouldn’t want to put my clients’ eggs in that basket.
4- You don’t have top management buy-in
Social media requires a way of thinking that includes willingness to listen to customers, make changes based on feedback, and trust employees to talk to customers.
The culture of fear (of job loss, of losing message control, of change) is ingrained in corporate cultures. Top management has to want to allow change.
5- Your customers don’t use the Internet as their main form of communication.
If your customers’ purchasing decision makers don’t use the Internet on a pretty constant basis as a main source of information – and, there are still fields like where people don’t – you probably won’t be successful reaching them through open social networks.
6- Your company doesn’t want to listen to its customers.
The key to success in social media is willingness to listen, react, and change. “What if people say bad things about us in comments?” is a question that comes up a lot. My answer is “that may mean there’s something you need to change.”
B2B or B2C, from Dell to Starbucks to Ford, SAP to Siemens, IBM to Intel, companies that let consumers interact with their brands repeatedly report that both their brands and their sales are strengthened.
7- Lawyers have to vet every word your company says publicly.
Social media conversations happen in real time. If your attorneys won’t allow comments on the company blog, or let executives respond to questions in social networks, you’re not ready for social media.
Before you get stick your corporate toe in the social media pool, consider the caveats. If you don’t ever want to get wet, stay out of the water.
Illustration by Hugh Macleod, gapingvoid