There is no lack of focus on social media success stories, even though we keep talking about the same ones (e.g. Old Spice, Dell, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, etc.) over and over again.
But what about social media failure? There’s little attention paid to campaigns and programs that drop the ball, blow up or, frankly, are a waste of time and money. The thing about failure is it shouldn’t be shoved into the corner and alone. Failure needs to be scrutinized, explored and studied so we can understand how to create successful efforts.
Here are some of the leading reasons why success can be so elusive:
1. Unrealistic expectations: Like anything new and exciting, many companies have completely unrealistic goals about what social media can achieve. It can’t turn good products into good, it can’t transform your brand overnight, and it can’t turn bad customer service into stellar customer service. By setting the bar way too high, companies set themselves up for disappointment.
2. A failure to execute: There’s a lot of talk about social media but far too often not a lot of walks. Everyone gets excited about social media strategic and tactical plans but when it comes to actually implementing them, the ball gets drops. This usually happens after the novelty of social media wears off. It stops being exciting, and start to become a daily grind. Let’s be honest, social media on a day-to-day basis is hard work with little glamour, which explains why execution can be so challenging.
3. A lack of transparency: It is impossible to reinvent yourself on social media. A company can’t suddenly embrace a new identity. Instead, it needs to use social media to gradually change how it does business and deals with customers. But at the same time, it has to be true to itself.
4. Too much of a focus on sales: Social media not about the hard sell; it’s a soft sell environment. There is lots of talk about how Dell has sold several million dollars of products on Twitter but people forget that Dell’s total revenue is more than $50 billion, which makes its social media sales a drop in the bucket. Companies that try to use overtly social media to drive sales as opposed to provide value-added information about their products/services or engage with customers will fail.
5. Un-social goals such as boosting Twitter followers or Facebook “Likes”: Social media isn’t a numbers game; it’s a platform to build relationships and your brand, and encourage conversations with existing and potential customers, employees, suppliers, etc. Getting lots of followers or “Likes” is a dividend of having an engaging social media program.
6. Too much attention paid to creating something to go viral: It is difficult, if not impossible, to create something that will go viral on social media. Something that goes viral has as much to do with luck and being in the right place at the right time as it is about great content and creativity.
7. Trying to be all things to all people: This is otherwise known as the “shotgun approach” in which a company embraces lots of social media tools to establish an extensive presence. What often happens is they spread themselves too thin and, as a result, do everyone in a mediocre way. A better approach is doing fewer things but doing those things as well as you can.
8. The lack of a corporate champion. Since social media is a relatively new corporate activity, it is important to have someone within the organization who can lead the charge every day. This is someone who believes in the potential of social media at a time when there is more focus on return on investment.
9. Bad or not enough content: There is lot of focus on the tools but the content is still king, and that includes social media. Without a steady supply of content (blog posts, tweets, updates, video, photos, contests, etc.), it is difficult to engage consumers on a regular basis. That being said, content is not easy to create but it can be a great investment.
10. A lack of social media talent to operate programs: The tools let you do lots of different and interesting things but people use and power them. Without good and experienced talent, social media efforts can be for naught.