Many businesses still fear Social Media

steve olenski
Steve Olenski Sr Creative Content Strategist , Oracle Responsys

Posted on November 8th 2010

Remember the movie Animal House?

Of course you do... and if you don't, get out, leave right now for I have nothing more to say to you.

Ok, I'm kidding but I'm thinking the majority of folks have at least heard of the movie, yes?Image

Well there's a great scene, among many for sure, where John  Blutarsky, AKA Bluto is trying to rally the Delta fraternity to action against Dean Wormer and his Double Secret Probation. At one point he exclaims:

"This could be the greatest night of our lives, but you're gonna let it be the worst. Ooh, we're afraid to go with you Bluto..."

Now, take this line and translate into Social Media speak...

"This could be the greatest way for us to get more sales, engage our customers, really make more money, but you're gonna let it slip right on by. Ooh, we're afraid to try Social Media, Bluto..."

How else can you explain the fact that of the 726 small businesses surveyed by the American Express OPEN's Fall Small Business Monitor only, ONLY 40% indicated they use at least one Social Media platform?

Yes, that number is up from the 10% who were using Social Media last year but...Not even half are using ANY form of Social Media?


One word: FEAR.

Nearly two years ago Marc Meyer, in this very forum, wrote of the 15 reasons why companies may fear social media.

Among the reasons listed...

  • Fear (remember that whole "only thing to fear is fear itself" mantra?)
  • Lack of experience
  • Ignorance
  • Waiting for ROI
  • Lack of Resources
  • Unwilling to be transparent

Along the same lines of "Unwilling to be transparent" I wrote a post for Social Media Today entitled Why a Negative Review Can Be a Positive Experience.

And don't think this fear applies only to small businesses, either.

Earlier this year, Econsultancy wrote a story titled "CNN's irrational fear of social media" whImageich included a quote from CNN U.S. president Jonathan Klein:

"...the competition I'm really afraid of are social networking sites." Why? They're "an alternative that threatens to pull people away from us."

Now obviously the context of the CNN fear is different than that of a small business but... fear is fear and for many, many reasons, people still fear Social Media.


You tell me...

Why do you think people and companies and businesses both far and wide, both small and large, fear Social Media?


steve olenski

Steve Olenski

Sr Creative Content Strategist , Oracle Responsys

A regular contributor to Forbes, among other publications, Steve was named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred. He is currently a senior creative content strategist at Oracle Responsys. He is a also a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing and co-author of the book StumbleUpon For Dummies. Follow him on Twitter@steveolenski or at the nearest coffee shop.The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle Responsys.

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Posted on November 8th 2010 at 6:04PM

Nice article! Social Media Marketing believe it or not has been around since the days of business or trade being barter of animals or fur for whisky or tobacco. Social Media Marketing is really Social Interest, word-of-mouth and popularity of the masses or world. Now with technology Social Media Marketing is seriously about to explode and the voice, power and influence of people cannot ever be ignored. 

I understand the "fear" of not just small-businesses but Baby Boomers and whole families as they see the derailment and erosion of high-streets, mom-and-pop stores and whole industries right before their eyes. Now children no longer want plastic toys, stereos or radios they want IPods, IPads and Smartphones where they spend very little time talking or communicating with "humans" verbally but more texting and sexting through their new modern world of Gen Y communication.

Again, I understand the "fear" of companies and individuals as I too have learned over ten years ago what it means to leave the offline world behind and embrace the online world that is a roller-coaster of new-learning, thinking, consumerism and behaviour. The way I see it is this, if Rupert Murdoch with his BILLIONS and years of business knowledge and expertise purchasing MySpace and erecting "pay-walls" cannot tame the social consumer and Internet what chance is there for us all? 

The only way through the maze of Internet or online business is INNOVATION + SOCIAL MEDIA POWER. This is what has turned Facebook and Twitter from zero into BILLION DOLLAR companies. So workforce training, new business models and modern Internet thinking is a must.



Posted on November 9th 2010 at 7:10AM


Thank you for a thought-provoking and creative post. As a senior at the University of Southern California studying public relations, the importance of social media to today’s brands is evident. My generation has been raised to adapt to new technology, both a strength and a weakness at times. Your post offers a fresh and relatable take on the use of social media; who doesn’t love Animal House? Your allusion was a great way of looking at the fear of social media. As more and more social media jobs are becoming available to me and my classmates, it is interesting to see the other side that has not embraced this new channel of expression.


You quote CNN’s U.S. President Jonathan Klein who said social networking sites are “an alternative that threatens to pull people away from us.” Whether businesses decide to become competitive in the social media world or not, these opponents will still be there. Is there an actual downside to becoming involved or is it just irrational fear? Also, currently CNN has over 1.3 million followers on Twitter. Klein seems to be capitalizing well on his “competition [he’s] really afraid of.” Is it possible to be afraid of social media while using it so effectively? If you compare this irrational fear to others, such as children’s fear of monsters, do you think it is comparable to say businesses will outgrow this fear like children do? In my opinion, the most significant reason you listed of why companies are afraid is unwillingness to be transparent. In your opinion, how do companies overcome something like this in order to use Twitter or Facebook to their advantage? I would love to hear your take on all of this! Thanks again for a great post.

Posted on November 9th 2010 at 9:31AM

I think it's probably less about fear and more about a lack of understanding of how to 'do it' and how to measure and demonstrate the value it brings.

Posted on November 10th 2010 at 5:06PM

Great post Steve! Something that I hear from my business clients is that they feel that they are so far behind the 8-ball. They feel that there are so many businesses that are so far ahead of them that they will never catch-up. In reality, getting engaged in social media now is not about catching up, it's about using best practises, smart tools and being far more efficient than the trailblazer organizations. There are so many lessons to be learned from past mistakes that can make a new account successful.

I also hear a lot about the technology intimidatoin factor. The technology that comes so easily to the social media savvy is a foreign language to most people. It's about putting the right team together with the right skills to make a successful account.


steve olenski
Posted on November 10th 2010 at 6:50PM

Thanks Dawn...

Your point re: "getting engaged in social media now is not about catching up, it's about using best practises, smart tools and being far more efficient than the trailblazer organizations" is spot on... GREAT point!

And of course its about having the right team around you...

Thanks again!
Steve O


Posted on November 11th 2010 at 10:19AM

Indeed, connection with social media can lead to great success for business. A lot of enterprises are already engaged. I can't understand why a lot of businesses didn't try it still. It seems to me that they are really scared. Though, what are to be afraid of? Success and development are very important for any business, even small. And not only for business, for any person as it's an inseparable part of human nature. Let's have a look at the achievements of the Internet companies. They offer more and more services. Even loans can be taken online through particular <a href="">payday loan comanies</a>.

Posted on November 12th 2010 at 10:26AM

Is it fear?

many clients of mine need a little help to get started, just because they are overwhelmed with choice.Time to analyze the opportunities is often not available. I know that time is a matter of priorities. But I also know that making the budget is quite high on that list. The direct results of DM or TV ads is still easier to calculate and to monitor for many.

When helping them to get started, the mere fact that already hundreds or thousands on the web are talking about them without them even knowing it  is the best eye opener. Just typing in their own company name in a social media network, and seeing that others have taken the time to share thoughts on their products or services amazes them. Of course , the most amazing part is that many of these hyves, facebook groups, etc. are not about complaining, but about liking the product. Or better: loving it!. Making use of what is already out there, especially the fans (or so called super promotors), is a knife that cuts both ways: itr makes it easier and cheaper to get started and the effectiveness of any activity is always higher amongst fans than amongst the masses of those who do not know you.

Yes, the possibilities have been out there for many years. But it is like the development of the internet itself: only when you see an example of the use of social media in your sector, by your clients or with your channel partners, the insight emerges. Not all companies are innovators. Those adopting social media as one of the possible channels, will not belong to the group of laggards for the coming 10 years. Let's all support the early followers

Adi Gaskell
Posted on December 9th 2011 at 5:27AM

Fear is one of the 6 F's mentioned in the book The Social Organization.  It takes you through various phases of social media within companies:

  1. Folly, when managers think social media is a waste of time
  2. Fear, when they're scared about the damage it can do
  3. Flippant, neither fear or support.  Lip service is paid to it.
  4. Formulating, where the importance is realised and plans are made to utilise social media
  5. Forging, where people integrate social into their daily lives.  That's the whole organization, not just the CM
  6. Fusing, where community is integral to everything the company does.  Very rare.