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The Top Six Reasons Companies are Still Scared of Social Media


1- Employees will waste time with social media.
Many large corporations block their employees from accessing the Internet altogether. Others try to block employees from accessing personal email or social networks like Facebook during work hours.

In May, 2009, according to emarketer, there were 29 million smartphones in the United States. That's a lot of Internet access available to workers everywhere - and employers can't stop us from accessing the Internet - on breaks, at lunch, in the bathroom, you name it.

The value to workers of having Internet access - in terms of research, communication, and speed - is far greater than the threat of lost productivity. Companies have a right to make policies and rules about personal use of the Internet, but blocking it during work is just stupid.

2- Haters will damage our brand. "What about the haters?" is the first question that comes up at my corporate and conference social media workshops. "What if people say bad, mean, nasty things about our brand?"

Well, there may be things you need to change about your brand, and in that case, you should thank them for letting you know what they are. Then you should make changes.

If you have built an online community that includes people who don't hate you, that community will rise to your defense and they will handle the problem for you.

Bonus Link: Starbucks Social Media Monitoring & Community Help It Survive Brand Attack

3- We'll lose control of the brand.
Listen up: every person with a computer and even a tiny skill level has the tools to make their opinion about your brand heard by other people. They're already talking about you.

Message control is an illusion. Give it up.

Your workers are talking about you in closed Facebook groups designed to keep you out so they can talk about you in peace. Your customers are emailing, Tweeting, Facebooking, and that old standby - calling - their friends about their experience with your brand. You don't have control. You might as well join the conversation. At least that way you can influence what is being said.

4- Social media requires a real budget! It's not really cheap, or free.
While many social media tools are free, knowing how to use them takes experience and perspective.

The boss' friend's high school or college kid can't integrate social media into the company's overall marketing. That requires experience and perspective. Having a large social network and a stellar online reputation helps too.

Just as there are carpenters who can knock together a book shelf and master carpenters who can create objects of genuine and lasting beauty, there are thousands of social media gurus (of all ages) who've never worked for an actual client. Hire them at your own peril.

Geoff Livingston said it beautifully in a recent post:

"Parroting and/or reporting what you see on the Internet does not equate to actual savoir faire. Nor does it make someone fit to offer insights or counsel."

Bonus links:
Brand Week: Kraft Shells Out $12 million for a Trumped up Double-Stuffed Oreo Campaign
David Berkowitz: The New Pricing Model for Social Media
How much does a social media campaign cost?

5- They're scared they'll be sued.
Oh puh-lese. Next!

6- They're scared of giving away corporate secrets or that information on social networks will affect the stock price.
If you don't already have a social media policy, you need to create one.

If you don't trust your employees to talk to customers, or to represent the brand, you need to look at 1) your hiring practices, 2) your training practices,

Bonus links: Everything you need to know about corporate social media policies Does your company have a corporate social media policy? IBM and Sun Do Jeremiah Owyang The Variance of Corporate Social Media Policies
All content copyright B.L. Ochman, Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, with the attribution: By B.L. Ochman, What's Next Blog, and a link to the post
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Join The Conversation

  • May 8 Posted 6 years ago janhin (not verified)

    I agree with the first reason about employees. But the percentage of being damaged and being sued is lesser than being popular and getting more sales. So I think it's still good to use social medias in your business. 

    -- Liv Boeree

  • Aug 23 Posted 6 years ago sophia11

    Simply want to say your article is awesome. The clarity in your post is simply spectacular and i can assume you are an expert on this field.

    Regards, Black Men

  • Jun 28 Posted 6 years ago camellialan (not verified)

    Aw, it was a top quality content. Actually I would like to write like this as well - taking time and real energy to bring about an excellent post... however what can I say... I procrastinate an awful lot and by no means appear to get things completed... simulation assurance auto

  • Jun 9 Posted 6 years ago jessiebruce I am afraid companies are still scared of social medias till now...
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  • whatsnextblog's picture
    Sep 29 Posted 7 years ago whatsnextblog Nadine - "The haters thing also scares them. I try to explain that people are going to hate you anyway, but at least with social media you broadcast your own point of view" So well stated! And in my experience, the stronger your community, the less impact the haters will have on your brand. Starbucks is a perfect example of that.

     Lynn: I will be quoting you to clients forever :>)

    "Well, two years later, we hit our 1 millionth hit on the blog.  We have resident haters who comment regularly, but sometimes someone else will tell them to pipe down.  Many of the things people were scared about didn't happen.  And we've been able to bust some myths that have popped up over time. "

     Thank you so much for sharing that!


  • Sep 29 Posted 7 years ago DonRua

    I would add a 7th reason for those of us in regulated industries.

    I think it's a wonderful post, and spot on with what I've seen while helping to pull together a social media strategy for corporate, employees, and independent field sales in the financial services sector.

    The biggest missing challenge, the one with real teeth in it, is the regulators. We are scrutinized very closely post Sarbanes-Oxley, and it will get heavier. We are monitored by regulators who have the power to bring down punitive damages, and reach back into time to say "you should have put XX policy in place 3 years ago" with their fines. I value the need for regulation, but currently it is coupled with no clear guidance from the regulators regarding social media. If we step forward with a policy, and after the fact, say a year from now, they think we should have done differently...ouch! There are expectations for pre-approval of any content changes, retention/archiving of any page after any change, and more. There are baby steps to approach the issues, but often they gut much of the value of social media. For example, online "testimonials" are considered taboo by regulators in some areas, so what does that do for LinkedIn Recommendations, end-user "great post, right on!" comments, or even chicklet ratings and bookmarking gadgets that put a stamp of endorsement on the content. It's an exciting time, and we're working through the challenges, but I would put this as a clear 7th key obstacle to social media enterprise use. There are some new technologies being put forth, though untested in the courts, but I would also like to see some enterprise solutions from the platforms themselves.

  • Sep 27 Posted 7 years ago LynnDean

    We launched a blog at the Transportation Security Administration two years ago, and people thought we were crazy.  They thought we'd get nasty comments from people who hated us, rants from employees and lots of other scary things. 

    Well, two years later, we hit our 1 millionth hit on the blog.  We have resident haters who comment regularly, but sometimes someone else will tell them to pipe down.  Many of the things people were scared about didn't happen.  And we've been able to bust some myths that have popped up over time. 

    It's hard to have a government blog, and one in security even more, because sometimes you can't answer the question due to classified info.  But we do our best and we don't put press releases on our blog.

    Some days are rougher than others, but it's a fun thing to work on.



  • Sep 26 Posted 7 years ago GSocial Loveeee it. So very true. Bump into concerns like this daily and produced many of the same answers. Thank you.
  • Sep 26 Posted 7 years ago ThomasJackson Oddly enough the U.S. Coast Guard has been much discussed in the press for their use of Social Media to get the word out.  Most social medial can't be accessed from inside the USCG domain. 

     Coast Guard very much has a love / hate relationship with the social media.  Our blog has played an important role as the mouthpiece of employees who fear reprisal and retaliation for speaking up when there is an issue with "the brand."

    Coast Guard is on they only branch of the military that does not have an Inspector General by statute to protect the governments interests.  The small size of the service lends itself to the "you're with us or against us," mentality.  Fear of reprisal is rampant and can be seen today in the modernization effort that has surprised the Commandant of the Coast Guard at the 11th hour with details he was unaware of.

    Admiral Thad Allen the Commandant, pushed so hard for modernization that many of his flag officers, senior officers and staff so feared for their jobs and promotion opportunities that none were willing to speak up.  Decisions were made that resulted in changes much deeper in the service than he had intended and have now resulted in what Vice Admiral Currier the Chief of Staff of the service calls the 60% solution.

    My point here is that social media has become the Inspector General and been forced to be the footprint of transparency for the agency.  Staff in the Commandant's office report to that Admiral Allen learned of several details of his own modernization program over the past few weeks from our blog, not his staff.  That doesn't make for a happy Admiral according to his staff.




  • Sep 25 Posted 7 years ago LitaLoeschCox

    Great discussion and I agree with the comments made so far. If someone is going to bash your brand, steal your industry secrets, sue your butt, that will happen with or without Social Media. Employees waste time with or with out Social Media as an excuse and the old adage, "you get what you pay for" is true if you don't have some kind of budget for Social Media Marketing & Strategic Plan.

    I love Social Media, have had great success, learned a lot about how to improve my business and given me many opportunities to connect with people I otherwise would not have contact with in my profession. I also love Social Media Today!

  • whatsnextblog's picture
    Sep 25 Posted 7 years ago whatsnextblog Thanks for these thoughtful, and spot on, comments. This post really seems to have hit a chord with a lot of people.

     Yes, education is important, but it's exasperating, at this late date, to be met with skepticism in the corporate suite. The social media train has left the station.

     It does seem that non-profits have embraced social media, often with stellar results, and corporations can't be far behind.

    Me, as always, i'm looking at what comes next.


  • Sep 25 Posted 7 years ago MargieAlbert I work with corporations and non-profits and you are correct. Many are hesitant for all of the above reasons. I like your style of writing and agree with many of your points!  It remains important for us to take the social media world seriously and address the many issues you list. Don't skip over #5 and make sure your policies address the legalities. It's not that hard but some will not be as intuitive as others. It's all about being transparent and sincerely having your heart in the game. Non profits are noted for "heart" and most of us trust them until we're proven wrong. Corporations have the opposite challenge- most of us believe they are "heartless" and not to be trusted and must prove themselves worthy. And most of us can spot insincerity immediately. Transparency and Sincerity are key.
  • Sep 25 Posted 7 years ago NadineBonner I think this post resonates because we've all been in the position of explaining social media to someone and getting a blank look in return. I work in the nonprofit world rather than corporate. When I explain how social media will give them a better vehicle to get the issues before the public and policyemakers, they are afraid to go off into uncharted waters. The tried-and-true is not working, but the new thing is too scary to justify an additional expense.

    The haters thing also scares them. I try to explain that people are going to hate you anyway, but at least with social media you broadcast your own point of view.

  • DavidHarlow's picture
    Sep 25 Posted 7 years ago DavidHarlow Good post, but ... you scoff at legal, do you?  Well, folks need to face those internal challenges, and I offer myself as a resource: Exhibit A - The lawyer-consultant who gets it.  Bring me in when you want to pull together key stakeholders, educate them about the pros and cons, throw legal into the mix, and get rolling with a campaign.  Check out my post, focused on health care, but more generally applicable, too: The Lawyers Don't Always Say No: Bringing Legal into Social Media Strategic Planning
  • Sep 24 Posted 7 years ago StevenShultz

    Well, here's one place that seems to be outright embracing social media for all the benefits it provides:  

    San Diego Airport uses innovations and social networking to communicate

    Low budget gov’t blog wins over C-suite

  • whatsnextblog's picture
    Sep 24 Posted 7 years ago whatsnextblog This post really seems to have struck a chord with a lot of people.

    Really, i think it's more than loss of control. It's worry about doing it wrong and being thought foolish; fear that sr management won't allow enough time for a groundswell to grow.

     It's been exciting to see so many thoughtful comments from so many smart people all day today.

    Thanks guys! you rock!


  • Sep 24 Posted 7 years ago JoanDamico Good post.  I hear these excuses all the time.  For help with developing social media policy, the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) has a nice Ethics Toolkit available for download.  (It's on the right nav bar under "downloads.")

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