The 5 Biggest Social Media Obstacles

Do not hire a pet rock as a social media consultant.

Do not hire a pet rock as a social media consultant.

It’s hot!

It’s all the rage!

Everyone is doing it!

The pressure for companies to dive into social media is at a fever pitch.  Every company today is talking about social media and how to integrate it into existing marketing and communication programs.  It’s the one area of communications that companies aren’t slashing in this down economy.

But stop and take a deep breath.  Consider first the five biggest obstacles facing most companies as they get ready to leap into social media pool.  Work out these issues (and then hire a trusted partner to help guide you to success) and you’ll be ready to get in the water.

Obstacle #1: Stop shouting at everyone

Companies have been engaged in one-way conversations for so long that some of them have lost the ability to listen.  Social media is a conversation.  So if you only want to talk (or worse pretend to listen while you wait to talk again) then perhaps you should go back to advertising or email mail marketing.  The first step in any good social media plan – is to listen first.  Knowledge is power.

Tap into social media channels – like YouTube, Twitter, online forums and Facebook – and listen to what people are already saying about your brand.  There are many great products for monitoring social media channels (and some are free).

Obstacle #2: Don’t be afraid of open and honest dialogue

You will make mistakes.  There will be negativity directed at you.  The only question is when.

Someone at your company will tweet something inappropriate.  A Facebook status update will reveal a company secret (probably a minor one).  A blog post will offend a long-time customer.  You’ll get an irate customer posting horrible things about your product or customer service on a forum.

One of these things – or something similar – is likely to happen.  Social media is a new communications platform – not only for those creating the content, but for those ingesting it.  We’re all learning the rules – and the rules are constantly changing.

The real measure of a company is how it reacts to the mistakes or negativity.  Apologize if necessary.  Don’t be punitive with the offenders (unless, of course, it is truly egregious).  You get points for being open, honest and transparent.  In the end though, you strengthen your brand by correcting mistakes with dignity (and admitting when you’re wrong) and tackling tough issues and criticism with grace.

Obstacle #3: Reject the idea of putting technology before strategy

Someone on your team is going to say: “We need a Twitter plan” or “We need a strategy for Facebook.”  This is a path you should avoid.  Don’t start with the technology – start with your business goals.  What do you want to accomplish with social media?  What audience are you trying to reach?  What do you want to tell them?  Strategy first.  Then once you have an overall plan – then its time to create a specific plan for which platforms and channels will best help you accomplish those goals.

The social media landscape is changing all the time.  Will Facebook be here in five years?  Probably.  In 10 years?  Who knows?  But web communication isn’t going anywhere – in fact, it will become even more powerful.  If you develop a social media strategy with your business goals front and center then the platforms simply become tools to help you succeed.

Obstacle #4: Bigger is not necessarily better

This is the mentality of advertising.  PR agencies have known for years the power of niche markets.  That’s why PR agencies have expertise in developing programs targeted at vertical markets.  Selling an innovative technology to help dairy farmers increase production?  Then Dairy Today is probably a better place for your story than the Wall Street Journal (at least if your goal is to increase visibility among your core customer demographic).

The social web is the best place to find niche markets – and tap into the already existing communities devoted to these niches.  Here is where you’ll find your most active and passionate customers.  Why shout through a bullhorn hoping that a small segment of your audience will be interested in what you have to say when you can find those interested customers right out of the gate?  How do you find them (see Obstacle #1: Listening!)

Obstacle #5: There is an audience for everything

Do you know there are groups on Facebook of people who self-identify as vampires?  Do you know there are communities, groups and blogs dedicated just about every topic under the sun – from green tea and alien abductions?  So don’t fall into the trap of many companies that utter these ridicilous statements: “But what are we going to say?” or “Who is going to want to listen to us?”

You’ll be surprised.

If you have a good strategy (and a strong consulting partner) and you can avoid these five obstacles then your company is ready for social media – and all the amazing things it can do for your brand.


  1. Twitted by larsbas - June 12, 2009

    […] This post was Twitted by larsbas – […]

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