So even big businesses are struggling to make sense of social media. Why am I not surprised? Because way back in November 2007 I predicted only the top 1% of businesses on Earth would realize the full potential of social media…
The root of the problem is lack of knowledge and know-how. There are only so many social media gurus / rock stars / experts that any one person can stand before fleeing in desperation. And in most cases, these self-proclaiming genii are too busy comparing the size of their Twitter followers to really care about educating the very businesses that are stood around, just wondering what the hell social media even means.
Put simply, solving the problem at source is the long-term fix.
So I hate to say I told you so, but .. well, I told you social media was going to be a massive problem for many businesses, and if the thoughts of Tom Smith from Trendstream are anything to go by, even the big brands are struggling to get their collective heads around social media:
“… we still operate in a system defined by the old media world and consequently big brand involvement is still in the main tentative and sporadic.”
Does that sound familiar? It ought to — a lot of businesses are just reluctant to learn new methodologies.
Tony goes on, in typical linkbait style, to highlight 6 reasons why big brands struggle with social media. I’d like you to read those 6 reasons. Consider them as your homework, because the following is going to be an expansion of. So pay attention at the back!
1. Social Media is often viewed as just another marketing channel
We all know that some planning is required when it comes to advertising and long-term marketing efforts. But social media requires a more “hands on” approach, which forces businesses to edge their seats closer to their customers, talking straight, shelving the canned responses, the gimmicks and the platitudes.
Essentially, what we’re talking about is social media forcing businesses to be reactive to their customers’ needs in a very direct and fine-grained way, as well as thinking on their feet.
None of these things are bad things, but they’re things that present unique challenges that some businesses will see as being a needless expenditure of energy for an undefined and unquantifiable return.
2. Social Media does not fit into current structures
Because social media bestrides so many different disciplines — and the larger you go in terms of business size, different departments — it’s a logistical struggle just to get the heads of marketing, PR, communications, content production and web development in the same room at the same time.
For me, this is the reason smaller media-based businesses will always do better; because many of their staff are already familiar with much of what social media encompasses.
My feeling is, some business is going to make the leap and pull their marketing, PR, communications, content production and web development departments under the umbrella of a new business division whose overarching theme is social media. Just don’t ask me when that will happen, or who it migth be. Maybe it’s already happened?
3. Communities and content are global
A client of mine has to be very, very careful / mindful of the political issues related to their marketing efforts within the different regions they occupy within the European Union; what works in Britain might not work in Germany or Italy.
However, if you’re a big business, your first goal is to accept that the very epicenter of that business is your brand and the perception of that brand amongst your customers, as well as your partners, suppliers and even your competitors.
With social media, some things can become unintentional successes which you, as the head or marketing, or PR, or even web development, might have little or no control over. The kind of success that spans those very regions you’ve been told you can’t compete in, for inter-regional political reasons.
Further to this, if you’re in the music industry, you’re subject to many various and truly Byzantine copyright laws of each country.
Do you just go with the flow, or do you try and halt what you didn’t start?
So when the benefits of social media are considered in their broader and more holistic context, they can look like a whole heap of trouble.
4. Social media needs a long term approach
Tom segues nicely between points 3 and 4 in the sense that validates my additions. To build those communities, big businesses need to coordinate their efforts in ways that they probably haven’t before, and on a scale they’ve probably not considered, or thought possible.
Sure, there’s a plan that draws together the efforts of different divisions within those companies. But social media is much, much more detailed, nuanced and subtle, requiring far more real time interaction.
What happens to the long-term plans if you’re reacting to a nebulous customer feedback loop that’s forcing changes to your strategy on a weekly or even a daily basis?
5. No guaranteed results — 6. The metrics are new
I see points 5 and 6 as having a relationship. Could we not make an argument that because the metrics are both new and broad that the results are harder to establish? Furthermore, could we not draw in point 4 and say that those very same results might not begin to show signs of success in the same financial quarter within which their originating strategy was put into motion?
I still firmly believe that the vast majority of businesses will not get penny one from social media for a long, long time — the way that many businesses operate simply precludes social media from doing anything of any value, regardless of the merits and benefits.
Over here in Britain, many businesses are simply ignoring social media all together. Further compounding matters is the recent economic downturn which will force many businesses to concentrate on known channels, rather that the unknown of social media.
However, over the longer term, social media will come into its own, as:
- the benefits become incontrovertible;
- social media tools have a deeper penetration amongst customers and the public in general, and;
- the tools and ways of capturing the metrics become simpler, easier to integrate within the business and more cost effective to pursue.
That time is not now. But the signs are good, given Twitter’s recent entry into everyday parlance.
Are you a business considering social media for the first time? Why not join the hundreds from all over the world who’ve download my FREE ebook: The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media.
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