Five reasons corporations are failing at social media


rocket“It's not rocket surgery.”

That malapropism became a bit of a mantra at last week's Inbound Marketing Summit.

Social media isn't complicated. When you boil it down it's about listening to your customers, being helpful by offering your knowledge and giving them interesting content to share and thereby advocate for you. The IMS speakers shared several case studies (yes, too many of them mentioned Comcast and Zappos) on how organizations have embraced social media to connect with and built trust and affection among customers. None of the examples required hyper-specialized knowledge or technology for a company to connect with people.

So why is it so difficult for so many companies to successfully integrate social media? I dug through my (30 pages of) notes to try and find some themes in what the speakers shared and came up with a this list of why organizations might be getting hung up.

1. They can't talk about anything broader than their own products

Chris Brogan shared how Citrix Online created the Workshifting community to address the rise of telecommuting and remote work. Sure, it ties in with Citrix's GoToMeeting/Webinar/PC product line, but the blog isn't a commercial for its products. The same holds true for Kodak's photography blog that Chief Blogger Jenny Cisney talked about. It's about photography and creativity in general, not about Kodak cameras. Greg Matthews shared how Humana developed the Freewheelin bicycle sharing communities with plenty of online and “real life” components to the program. Bicycles don't have much to do with health insurance specifically, but they are about being healthy. If a company is only talking online about its specific products and not looking for ways to connect to the bigger picture, it's pretty difficult for people to be engaged.

2. They listen to customers but don't take any action

If you're going to listen to your customers, you'd better be ready to do something about what you hear. Valeria Maltoni noted that if a company creates an online presence that's open and allows customer feedback, it creates the expectation that the company is going to do something with that feedback. Worse than not being heard is being heard and then ignored. Paula Berg from Southwest Airlines shared how a simple blog post stating the airline was considering assigned seating amassed tons of customer comments showing a lack of support for the idea. This feedback changed the direction of their internal debate and led to a new boarding procedure that maintained the open seating arrangement.

3. They aren't calibrated internally with the technology

Jason Falls chastised corporate Web sites for being little more than online brochures. Customers expect interaction. Content creation is key to social media success, and every company should have a Web site with a content management system that allows for quick, easy content creation without the IT department needing to recode a Web site. Anyone in the organization should be able to publish via a CMS. And companies can't expect to have a strong social media presence when social sites are blocked internally to employees.

4. They're not framing risk accurately

Dharmesh Shah reminded us all that a corporate blog has never been fatal to an organization. NBC cameraman Jim Long said the often a company's entry into social media is a clumsy, shotgun blast and that there's an equal chance of looking foolish by having a ham-fisted marketing department launch a social media presence as there is if a rogue employee “goes off” on Twitter. The risk of social media is not abated by not participating. And really, while there have certainly been some hiccups and miscues along the way, social media has yet to be the undoing of any company.

5. Their internal culture isn't aligned for social media success

In Shiv Singh's presentation, he discussed how the customer should be at the core of the brand. When policies, procedures, products and processes become more important than the customer, there's no way social media efforts can be effective. When your employees are more concerned with what's in or out of their job description than doing the right thing to help the customer, that's not a culture that's likely to build trust and advocacy for your brand. Yes, Zappos was cited time and again as a case study, but largely because it has a culture that makes social media work. All of its employees are focused on customer service at the core. The same holds true for Southwest Airlines.

I could go on and on. So many of the speakers at IMS shared great examples of simple, effective social media strategies that have humanized organizations and allowed them to build better relationships with customers. But time and again companies are either rejecting social media or participating in a way that defeats the purpose.

It's not rocket surgery.

Image via Flickr user StephenHackett

Share/Bookmark
Link to original post

Join The Conversation

  • Apr 1 Posted 6 years ago PhamGiaiKhoi Good post, keep up posting.
    du hoc uc
  • Mar 16 Posted 6 years ago rajsinha Great post Amy. I’m not able to attend IMS myself and have been following it through blogs and tweets. Your list is very useful and I will be referring to these reasons when educating my own clients.
  • Oct 21 Posted 6 years ago prblognews

    Amazing 'legs' on the dialogue here.

    There are real success stories in the use of social media by corporations - especially in the banking industry. Take a look at Wells Fargo's blogs, YouTube page and very active/interactive Twitter streams. Consumer banks are really leading the way in social media, and they have many compliance issues, obviously, but they are finding a way to make it work and they are realizing the benefit by making 'customer service' interactive.

    As the masses adopt social media to a greater degree, then presumably corporations will be forced into it ... presumably. The first step for companies may be a one-way Twitter stream of non-interactive Facebook page. That's okay, for a first step toe-in-the-water.

  • Oct 21 Posted 6 years ago amymengel

    Kent - Your point about the receiving versus sending nature of Social Media is a very good one. Trying to "be social" while only allowing for one-way, broadcast communication is unlikely to ever produce real engagement.

    Wendy - Thanks for the call to action and the reminder that social media can create positive results for organizations who so need to get their stories out there.

    Nobuski - Thanks for your opinion. I think people like to buy things from people they know, and not faceless companies. Jenny is putting a personal face on Kodak. She's being helpful by providing fun ideas for creative photo and video (no matter what brand of camera you have). I'm much more inclined to buy a Kodak product (and actually recently did) because I know and have interacted with Jenny. So maybe in some ways Jenny is a "sale woman" but Kodak probably wouldn't have gotten my sale without them having had a social media presence.

  • Oct 18 Posted 6 years ago WendySoucie Amy et all,
     
    Great dialogue here, not sure if its solely the topic or that all of us are looking for the best way to make corporate America listen.  Maybe the question is not why or why not corporations are human or whether they "get social media."  Maybe we should just leave them alone until they are more receptive to the concept. After their customers have all left or when their competitors are snagging market share left and right, perhaps it wouldn't be such a hard sell. Finding those companies that are ready, willing and able to embrace social media is our task.

    I would like to suggest and even challenge each of the individuals who commented on this post and at your blog.  Do this - take on - pro bono - one non-profit who already understands the "human part," who does not typically have the bureaucracy and is desparate for help of any kind to ensure its message gets out.

    If each one of us as proclaimed "social media consultants" offered to help these underdogs and documented these positive stories, think about the power of that message.

    Think about the power of the results.  Not just more airline seats sold, not more computers sold, not more shoes.  Instead clean water for communities with unsafe drinking and sanitation food for starving children, mentors for kids without parents; cures for people with disease. 

    Yes social media has a lot of power, but lets out our money and time in some good places too. Then you will have the best kind of positive stories to move and motivate corporate America to use the tool as it should be.

     Wendy Soucie

    http://www.xeesm.com/wendysoucie


    I am starting with www.projectgirl.org.  We used social media to win a grant from BestBuy and plan to do more.  What about you?
  • Oct 18 Posted 6 years ago WendySoucie Amy et all,
     
    Great dialogue here, not sure if its solely the topic or that all of us are looking for the best way to make corporate America listen.  Maybe the question is not why or why not corporations are human or whether they "get social media."  Maybe we should just leave them alone until they are more receptive to the concept. After their customers have all left or when their compeititors are snagging market share left and right, perhaps it wouldn't be such a hard sell. Finding those companies that are ready, willing and able to embrace social media is our task.

    I would like to suggest and even challenge each of the individuals who commented on this post and at your blog.  Do this - take on - pro bono - one non-profit who already understands the "human part," who does not typically have the bureaucracy and is desparate for help of any kind to ensure its message gets out.

    If each one of us as proclaimed "social media consultants" offered to help these underdogs and documented these positive stories, think about the power of that message.

    Think about the power of the results.  Not just more airline seats sold, not more computers sold, not more shoes.  Instead clean water for communities with unsafe drinking and sanitation food for starving children, mentors for kids without parents; cures for people with disease. 

    Yes social media has a lot of power, but lets out our money and time in some good places too. Then you will have the best kind of positive stories to move and motivate coporate america to use the tool as it should be.

     Wendy Soucie

    http://www.xeesm.com/wendysoucie


    I am starting with www.projectgirl.org.  We used social media to win a grant from BestBuy and plan to do more.  What about you?
  • Oct 18 Posted 6 years ago KentVincent

    It seems that much of the discussion surrounding social media deals with the 'send' or outreach side and very little with the 'receive' or react side.  No matter how many pathways or vehicles emerge, the receiver or "perceiver" has not learned how to open up a branch head or clone his or her mouse hand into several others to plug into the media washing over him.  Ten years ago I saw an executive secretary print out the daily emails to her boss so that he could page through them (I assume she tossed the obvious spam and many other pitches.).  And yet we still think we can access and influence the "decision maker"  with these gimmicks.  It reminds me of the now very mature telecom dilemma of still being bound by that same handheld device with the 3 by 4 key raster as the choke point both inbound and outbound.

    Much of this social media development or research will continue to be done by the trusty assistants who report on the trends and extend a sticky frog's e-tongue out to the outside world to feed or be fed by the new social media.  At the same time the decision makers will remain hermetically sealed in their inner sanctums out of reach, even if they can boast of 37,000 followers on Twitter.  Note that I know of two CEOs who have dropped out of LinkedIn, Facebook and other sites because they received too many solicitous requests, most of them many degrees of separation  removed from them, if not downright strangers.

  • Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago JeremyVictor I'd like to offer a sixth -

    6. Organizations have become so lean due to the recession that even to execute a "non rocket science" activity is difficult.

    While we are nearing the end of the recession, the last 12-18 months has been difficult for companies big and small. Think about the scenario everyone has been dealing with - do all the same work that existed before with 10-30% fewer people. And now introduce something that, "If you’re going to listen to your customers, you’d better be ready to do something about what you hear."   

    Companies may actually be making a well thought out strategic decision not to engage in social media right now for fear of not being able to live up to customer expectations and causing dissatisfaction and lost business.

    We'll be learning a lot more about how difficult it is in the coming months as organizations begin to retool to make social media an integral part of running their business vs. it being a marketing program to try.   
  • Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago ScifiAliens One thing I can predict with confidence: most of the businesses that 'get it' or understand their target customer and genuinely want to reach them will take the time and effort to learn about and engage in social media and networking. Those who are more interested in the dollars than the human beings will continue to fail to 'get it' and their businesses will suffer for it, which will ironically reduce the number of dollars coming in.

    As an author I realize my readers are interested in a lot more than just my novels. Some of them are surprised when I pay attention to them but it's the best advertising around. The human equation has to be factored in, whether it's old school-face to face-or through the Internet.

    PS: Rocket Surgery sounds like a great sci-fi concept. Can I use it?  :-)
  • Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago amymengel Wow, great comments and discussion continue to pile up here and at the original post on my blog.

    I appreciate everyone weighing in.

    @Wayne - I agree that small business often have it easier when jumping in to social media. Often small companies have less rigid cultures and are naturally closer and more connected to their customers, which is what social media helps reinforce.

    @Chris - Your point on 54% of companies blocking social media at work is so frustrating because in that study roughly the same percentage of companies said that social media was a good way to build relationships with customers. It goes to what @Lori and @Internet Strategist said about companies not trusting their employees to represent them. But employees are going to whether they do it at work or not.

    @Kirk - thanks for the link to the eBook. I'll have to check it out.

    @Kevin - Um, thanks. I think.

     

     

     


  • Loraine Antrim's picture
    Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago LoraineAntrim Many companies see creating a social media strategy as a brain drain and time vacuum.  In large corporations finding the right people to create and implement a social media strategy is not difficult, but as you go down to the SMB space, companies might not be able to spare the people-power or commit to the time ( it is a time-suck after all).

    I think the more companies see the benefits of a social media strategy, the more will come on board. Great post Amy. Thanks.

    Loraine Antrim


  • Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago KevinHorne

    OK, so let's rewrite the headline AND the post.

    "One Reason Corporations Are NOT DOING Social Media."

    They have decided other initiatives are more important to invest in.

    [end of post]

    You can thank me later...

  • Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago JonathanSalemBaskin Whoa, I just had an acid flashback to the late 1990s, when we were all buzzing about how most companies had failed "to do CRM correctly."

    Scary.

  • BrettGreene's picture
    Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago BrettGreene Great post.  It's amazing what a difference it makes when a company engages in conversations and listens rather than continues to broadcast information about themselves.  It seems like common sense, but eludes most businesses.  People talk to people and most companies blow it by messaging to people instead of talking with them.
  • Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago KirkCheyfitz

    Amy, this is a great post and the discussion is terrific.

    Here's the core of my comment: Thinking and strategizing about social media, as you say, is not rocket surgery. But actually doing it — executing it reasonably well for a large, multi-brand company — is both rocket surgery and brain science. Not easy, even in a well lit room.

    Most of our clients and most large marketers get the theory that they need to be human, genuine, customer-centric and interactive. They especially get the advantages of spreading the word using free or virtually free media; that's a much better price point than 30 seconds on prime time TV (even if TV worked, which is more problematical). In some sense, the meta-strategy is the easy part.

    The most pressing need in this space is for detailed answers to the nitty gritty questions of execution: What is my brand's social media voice? How do I structure approvals? When do I respond? What do you mean "real-time publishing"? What do I talk about? Whom do I listen to? How do I attract the right crowd (the crowd of my best customers and potential customers)? And so on. That, it seems to me, is the rocket surgery part.

    We've tried to deconstruct some of the rocket surgery bit in our Story ebook on social media listening, which is the first of a series. I would love to hear about other well ordered approaches to the day-in-day-out tactical dynamics of publishing in social media for large clients.
  • Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago DougRock

    We work with a number of large corporations and one of the challenges their respective marketing depts. often struggle with is identifying their audience. It's not uncommon for the true audience to be the individual or group the marketing team reports to. The internal customer trumps the external customer, despite eye-rolling protestations to the contrary. 

    The mistake of systemically delivering messages, through social mediums or traditional ones, that placate upper mgmt. as opposed to providing education and dialogue that resonates with those who purchase or use a company's products or services happens all too frequently. Hence the 3,200 Tweets on Widget 5.3 as opposed to the few and far between concerning value.

  • LoriJ_VA's picture
    Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago LoriJ_VA

    Speaking from the employee side, I think corporations are missing one important fact.  Social media has leveled the playing field and many employees like myself are very active in the social media communications world.  Even when my employee won't let us blog or tweet or whatever, I still have a blog that where I post my thoughts anyway.  Now granted, I am very careful not to post company secrets or speak negatively of my co-workers and the like.  But to me this is just being a good human.  I want my blog or tweets or facebook to be about information, education or fun.  So when my company CEO really pushed for everybody to get involved in a fundraising walk, I put up my own photos and talked about how we were training and by default the company got mentioned because that's who sponsored our group.  Get it?  Coporations don't have as much control anymore as they think they are protecting whether that be customers or employees so why not join what you can't stop.

    Just my two cents.

  • LoriJ_VA's picture
    Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago LoriJ_VA

    Speaking from the employee side, I think corporations are missing one important fact.  Social media has leveled the playing field and many employees like myself are very active in the social media communications world.  Even when my employee won't let us blog or tweet or whatever, I still have a blog that where I post my thoughts anyway.  Now granted, I am very careful not to post company secrets or speak negatively of my co-workers the like.  But to me this is just being a good human.  I want my blog or tweets or facebook to be about information, education or fun.  So when my company CEO really pushed for everybody to get involved in a fundraising walk, I put up my own photos and talked about how we were training and by default the company got mentioned because that's who sponsored our group.  Get it?  Coporations don't have as much control anymore as they think they are protecting whether that be customers or employees so why not join what you can't stop.

    Just my two cents.

  • GrowMap's picture
    Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago GrowMap The largest issue for Corporations and even many other businesses is control: they don't want to risk having their employees or representatives say anything embarrassing.

    Another is that many really don't want to listen or address issues their customers bring up. This is obvious in industries such as airlines and phone companies.

    Now is the time for companies to make a choice. Will they take the risk of being real and open up two way communications or are they going to see they can survive even if they continue to talk at consumers instead of with them?

    Unless your company has a virtual monopoly taking the "safe" road may lead off a cliff.

     

  • Oct 16 Posted 6 years ago ChrisWalker

    @cfwalker27 - Amy, great post.  

    Better SM execution is very important.  Driving adoption through CEOs office is also critical.

    Marketing pros are doing great job of selling one another and driving SM adoption in their domain, but there is much work to be done in selling the CEO.   

    As reported this week in Computerworld (http://ow.ly/tkoL)- 54% of organizations block social media use at workplace.    As also reported, Facebook and Twitter adoption have slowed dramatically in last several months.    

    For company adoption, this is partially driven by productivity and security fears (some well founded) and CEOs not understanding or relating to the critical benefits.    CEO calls IT, IT says employees spending an average of 1.5 hours a day on Facebook, CEO says turn it off now.

    We hear a lot about ‘CEOs not getting it.’   Marketing pros can drive this in the right direction if they stop selling each other and start selling CEOs.   Know your audience -- we work with CEOs every day and a simple argument works â€“ it’s all about SALES.    

    SM = authentic conversations with customers = increased SALES and customer retention.       No SM = elimination of customer conversations = ignored sales opportunity and customer attrition risk.

    Another argument that sticks --- social media forces companies into a customer voice selling culture.     Listen to your customers, talk WITH them about what THEY want to talk about, and integrate that feedback into everything you do.    All CEOs strive every day to stay close to the customer, and SM is tremendous way of enabling that.

    Thoughts?

  • Oct 15 Posted 6 years ago WayneAttwell I think it's actually easier to get smaller companies to genuinely embrace social media as a marketing vehicle than corporates. Less red tape and butt-covering. The impression I get is that many (certainly not all) corporates that are jumping on the social media bandwagon are doing it as windowderessing, and not out of a genuine desire to contribute & share with a community of like-minded individuals.

    They won't last too long in this space I suspect. Anyway, great post Amy.


  • Oct 15 Posted 6 years ago KatieIngraham Great post- #1 is a great point. Nobody wants to hear you talk about yourself and how great you are... those are the most unpopular guests at a party, and its no different online.  
  • CaroleMahoney's picture
    Oct 15 Posted 6 years ago CaroleMahoney Good post- I would say 1, 2 & 3 can be overcome- however that is only if 4&5 can be changed. As Oscar stated- changing internal culture is never easy, smooth or fast. Hopefully the realization of what social media is and should be for corporations will help that along...
  • Oct 15 Posted 6 years ago SethLuacsh @slucash - Great post. We see the "product-first" theme time-and-time again. Not only in social media but with all sales and marketing activities. Also, couldn't agree more that many companies "talk" instead of "listen." And I'd go one step further: you've got to ASK your customers and prospective customers what's important to them and then incorporate that into your company voice to improve sales. A former manager of mine always said, "there's a reason we have 2 ears and only 1 mouth!"

     


  • Oct 14 Posted 6 years ago amymengel Thanks for all the wonderful comments and adding to the discussion here. I really liked what John and RMSorg alluded to about patience - too many companies want a just-add-water solution and expect that if they create a presence on social media sites a community will instantly follow. But it does take time.

     Bev and Charles make good points to - culture is very important and a lot of companies just don't have the kind of culture that allows them to take full advantage of social media. They don't want to give up control or they don't want to trust their employees to represent them.

    Thanks for weighing in.

  • Oct 14 Posted 6 years ago prblognews

    Amy: Yes! on your comment:

    "In all, I think the larger point is not even that companies don't get social media - it's that they don't know how to be human, be helpful and get out of their own way. Social media exposes that."

    Public relations and social media cannot alter behavior or change deep-seated company culture. It has to be a decision from the top down, integrated throughout the organization that humans are at work and play here, not a big-brother company. Personally, I think your headline is entirely appropriate and relevant to the contents of the blog post. Still, we should not be above sensationalist headlines to grab attention, just like the 'regular' media. HEADLESS BODY FOUND IN TOPLESS BAR.

  • Oct 14 Posted 6 years ago LaneEckert These is a really interesting topic. I often wonder why some companies don't participate in any social media. I feel like it is a great way to communicate with clients and really form a relationship. I think some companies would really benifit from this and I think Charles Lau said it best with "It is common to see social media is being rejected by companies. That's because companies are not engineered to have that kind of personality right from the start." It does take a little something extra. Social Media can be a very personable way to socialize.
  • Oct 12 Posted 6 years ago amymengel

    Sorry I misunderstood you. I guess the headline and the post weren't the best match. Post titles are always the hardest part of blogging for me - how to balance capturing the essence of what the post is about with making the title compelling so that readers (who are so accustomed to skimming, as you sad) will actually want to check it out. Guess I still need a lot of work in the title department...

    Thanks for your feedback. 

  • merubin75's picture
    Oct 12 Posted 6 years ago merubin75

    Amy,

    Please re-read my comment. I didn't say your post was childish. In fact, I praised it. I said your HEADLINE was attention grabbing and didn't match the tenor of the post. I question anyone's motive for choosing headlines that are deliberately sensationalistic when it doesn't match the content.

    Bottom line, you have pointed out some incredibly good examples for other marketers to emulate.  I just could have done without the snarky headline. In our Googlified culture, people (sadly) don't read. They skim headlines, and at best, they'll completely miss the good stuff contained in your post. At worst, they'll shrug this off as yet another example of a blogger slamming corporate social media ... again.

    ...Michael

  • Oct 12 Posted 6 years ago amymengel

    @merubin75 - I am tired of the meme, but the reason it's still around is a lot of what @prblognews said - many companies aren't structured to make social media work at all.

    I sat through IMS listening to all of these great case studies of what certain companies were doing right. A lot of it was very positive. I didn't want to write another "this speaker said this, this company did that" conference recap post. So instead I focused on why -- if all these speakers were sharing all these great case studies of how easy and effective it is to "do" social media -- are so many companies not making it happen. I tried to match what the speakers were saying with my own experiences in corporate communications and came up with these five themes (and there's really plenty more) as to why organizations aren't making it work. Then I showed how each of those reasons was addressed or debunked by one of the conference speakers.

    In all, I think the larger point is not even that companies don't get social media - it's that they don't know how to be human, be helpful and get out of their own way. Social media exposes that.

    I'm sorry you thought the post was childish.

  • Oct 12 Posted 6 years ago prblognews I'd like to be positive but the reality is that I run up against a wall time and again with companies that want to run a Tweet through compliance for six months and then decide it's not a good idea. Social media ain't rocket science, it's common sense. But if companies operated on common sense lawyers and bureaucrats would be out of work.
  • merubin75's picture
    Oct 12 Posted 6 years ago merubin75

    Am I the only one who is getting tired of the whole "companies don't get social media" meme?

    The headline here is completely misleading, "Five reasons corporations are failing at social media." And yet your story is actually extremely positive and demonstrates exactly how companies ARE getting social media. Did you really have to go for the sensationalistic attention grabber?

    This is really an indictment of our whole industry. It just makes us all as a whole sound childish and mildly schizophrenic.  In the same breath we're blaring out, "YOU GUYS SUCK!" we are also begging and pleading for them "PLEASE LISTEN TO ME."

    Anyone else up for some positivity? It's time to start telling companies what they're actually doing right, acting as their champion, and help spread some love.  Our industry will actually thrive and live longer.

  • Oct 12 Posted 6 years ago JoannaLord Great post Amy. I see so many of these time and time again. Number 3 seems especially prevalent since social media seems to have been sold as a high return, low invest marketing tactic. Companies aren't aware that setting up strong social media initiatives involve site revamps & technology updates. I think you hit the nail on the head when you wrote, "But time and again companies are either rejecting social media or participating in a way that defeats the purpose." Luckily, social media is still in it's infancy in regards to small business consumption & application, I think we will see more and more companies correcting initial mistakes and utilizing social media correctly soon enough. :)

Webinars On Demand

Whitepapers

  • February 05, 2016
    Facebook contests and campaigns are powerful ways for brands to engage with customers in social. They encourage social sharing, spur user-ge...
  • December 15, 2015
    New Research to Drive Smarter Social Strategy It’s no secret that social moves fast. So our research and analytics team mines social data,...