15 reasons why companies may fear social media

MarcMeyer
Marc Meyer Digital and Social Strategist, DRMG

Posted on January 28th 2009

Last night I was talking with Rachel Happe and Leigh Duncan-Durst on Twitter  and we were discussing  the following statement I made:

Some industries have built in fan bases and thus are naturals for social media implementation, so .. why the delay? Fear? Lack of expertise?

Fear of social media.  It's more prevalent than you think. Sure some will say they are waiting for the true ROI to shake out. That might be true, but I doubt it's the main reason.

Leigh brought up some great points:  “Is it Fear? Resources? Ignorance? Unwilling to be transparent?” She goes on to add without mentioning industries, “that some large orgs. are terrified of the VOLUME of feedback and detractors so much they can't see upside.”

Can you imagine being so burdened with the fear of negative press or negative reaction, that you, as an organization, are paralyzed into doing nothing?

Leigh concludes: “They are just not comfortable with that level of transparency. Turning a  blind eye negates the opportunity to turn around negatives…Treat customers with respect, respond - and identifyadvocates too!

Rachel then adds: I think the biggest inhibitor of adoption of new tools is that people are overwhelmed and don't have time to play with them. Sometimes I think you have to drag people into a room and make them play around with the tools until they are comfortable.

I couldn't agree with them more!  So lets review this. Are these the things that are holding companies of all sizes back from utilizing social media?

  • Fear
  • Lack of experience
  • Ignorance
  • Waiting for ROI
  • Lack of Resources
  • Unwilling to be transparent
  • Lack of time
  • Confusion
  • No Money
  • Unawareness
  • No expertise
  • Lack of leadership
  • Terrified of feedback/truth
  • The “newness” of  it, going to wait.
  • High degree of skepticism

What else can we add to this list? How many of these are really legitimate?

      

MarcMeyer

Marc Meyer

Digital and Social Strategist, DRMG

Currently Marc is working with Accenture to raise awareness and drive engagement of the Accenture Interactive practice. Prior to that Marc was the social media practice lead at Ernst and Young, one of the world’s leading professional services organizations. Before joining E &Y, Marc was the Digital and Social Media lead for 2 years at Digital Response Marketing Group, a social media and search marketing agency in Naples, Florida. Previously, Marc had been consulting for the Direct Response Marketing company, Emerson Direct, for almost 7 years. At various times he had served as their Director of Internet Marketing and their Director of Social Media. In both roles, Marc was able to leverage his experience in marketing, sales and technology to a degree in which companies actually did not “glaze over” and just nod their heads when he suggested a new approach to creating digital content, a different social media strategy or a simple SEO tactic

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Comments

yarnmaven
Posted on January 28th 2009 at 8:09PM

I think these are all valid reasons many companies, non-profits and government agencies don't engage in Social media.  I might ad from some experience that some fear loss of control of their message.  What they fail to understand is that control of their message is an illusion.  The conversations ABOUT them is already going on in the ether, they just don't know it and they could be helping their brand/cause by being a part of the conversation.  These entities are spending resources on damage control rather than being proactive and building their reputation.

 

fabilella
Posted on January 29th 2009 at 6:02AM
As a company, you don't need to be afraid of social media to not want to use it. Some companies my not see the value and don't want to be evangelized. Some companies have deep enough pockets to do it just to "make nice" with the social media community. They can write it off.  We have nothing to fear but social media itself...
MarcMeyer
Posted on January 29th 2009 at 8:21AM
@Julia. One of the points I brought up with Leigh was that why not own the message or the forum or the social net that revolves around your company? If they are going to do it anyways and you provide the platform for them, then perhaps you can monitor, sway, influence, evangelize etc directly to your champions and your detractors. Yes you can monitor outside of your box, but as Leigh mentioned, perhaps we all need to start thinking, "Beyond the box"?
Jen Zingsheim
Posted on January 29th 2009 at 8:49AM
One more reason, and I suppose it fits under 'Fear,' is Legal. I'm constantly surprised that social media advocates either skim over this topic, think it isn't significant, or that it's just another barrier that can be overcome. Legal departments in companies exist to do one thing: protect the company from risk. Engaging in social media *is* risky. How risky depends on a lot of factors. 

I also think that there is an assumption--an incorrect one--that companies aren't listening if we don't see them engaging. In other words, the assumption is that just because we don't see them engaging means that they "don't get" social media. This is a false leap. There are plenty of companies that are listening but have decided not to engage for a variety of factors. There is nothing wrong with that.

Social media is a tool, and a small one, for communications. It's more relevant to some industries than it is to others, too. A B2B company that manufactures steel tubes used in factory construction has little reason to engage in social media--what little benefit they could possibly gain is outweighed by the commitment needed to do social media right. A company that makes a B2C product like candy bars has a far greater need to participate, as its audience is present in large numbers on the web. Social media advocates who push the idea that social media is right/needed for all businesses risk overstating their case and will ultimately lose credibility. Please note that I am making a distinction here between listening and engaging. All companies--even the steel tube manufacturer example I listed--should have some sort of listening system in place, even if it's simply a Google Alert.

Thoughtful post, very interesting.

Jen

MarcMeyer
Posted on January 29th 2009 at 9:08AM

@ Jen you touched on some great points. To me listening is just the first step, but to listen and not act on it seems to be almost irresponsible. Deciding not to engage? I don't know, I have to believe that if they are listening, that there might be or have to be some type of engagement at the other end. But you may be right. I don't know. I know it would be tough for me to go through the trouble to listen and not engage, especially if it was something I could either take advantage of, or correct.

In regards to B2B, I partly agree that we just don't jam social media into any situation and assume it's going to work. But let's not forget there are a ton of elements of social media that a B2B business might be able to use, they are only limited by their ability to implement and creativity. But then there is also the assumption that they have someone perhaps in house, capable of doing it. Which most, at the present moment do not have. Great food for thought.

Jen Zingsheim
Posted on January 29th 2009 at 12:18PM
I'm familiar with a number of companies that are monitoring with no plans to engage, for a variety of reasons. For some, it simply isn't cost effective. The bulk of those they are trying to reach are far more accessible through other channels, and the online audience is very small in comparison, so to do social media "right" wouldn't make sense (dedicating the internal staff to engage would take them off-task from other work, and hiring the work out isn't a budget option right now). There are other companies that monitor for public opinion on matters relevant to the company--think regulatory issues, or taxation issues--where the conversations are informing them on public views, but it's indirect, so there's no need to engage and quite frankly would be viewed with great skepticism (and viewed as weird/creepy) if they did so. Then there's the troll/hater factor. If a community or group hates a company--let's use the example of Halliburton, for kicks--there are precious few minds the company will change (if any, really), and engaging with ardent detractors on that level is a waste of time.

And, I agree with your point regarding B2B--that there are a lot of elements and that there's likely something that would work well. But, I think in this economic environment, most businesses are focusing on the nuts and bolts of P&L, and that there has to be a strongly compelling reason to change things at this time.

Again, great post and a lot to think about as social media moves forward.

GrantAdams
Posted on February 2nd 2009 at 2:40AM
Another interesting take on why marketers should fear social media.

I found this interesting.

MarcMeyer
Posted on February 2nd 2009 at 5:08PM
Grant, thanks for the link- I especially like this comment, "Today the marketing director of a global technology company told me he didn’t want to get involved with social media because “we don’t want to lose control of the message."
Posted on August 31st 2011 at 3:13AM

I think a lot of companies fear the lack of control in social media. A minor customer service slip could 'go viral' and have a damaging effect. Companies should not be afraid of engaging their business in social media since almost everyone is into social media.

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arbaz90
Posted on July 27th 2012 at 1:13AM

Social media is tool by which you can generate huge traffic to a perticular website,the main three reason behind companies may fear social media is Lack of experience to generate traffic,waiting for ROI as ROI cannot be generated overnight and confusion regards to the social media.
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