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stop social mediaThere are hundreds of statistical guides showing the beneficial effects of having a presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and any number of other networks, but the despite all the buzz there still seems to be a lag in adoption, with a large amount of small to mid-level businesses choosing to opt out of the social sphere.

It’s easy to assume this is down to a lack of knowledge regarding the benefits, but are there legitimate obstacles which are making companies decide that social media isn’t for them? 

I decided to look at some of the more common issues facing groups deciding whether or not they need a social media presence:

1. I don't trust staff with my message.

If you really want to have a successful online social media presence, then it’s important that you trust your team, something which many CEOs still seem to be reluctant to do. It’s easy to brief your marketing team on what you want to say and how, but more difficult when it comes to controlling the tweets of entry-level staff.

One of the most important things you need to understand about social media is that it isn’t about controlling the message. There’s no room for shouting ‘we are the best’, instead, you need to ask people ‘What do you think?’

You need to stop seeing the separation between customers and employees, and instead treat them as a fluid group with interchangeable properties.

By employing someone in the first place you are committing to a relationship that should be based on mutual respect and trust. If you refuse to trust your workforce with your message, then you are either employing the wrong people, or you aren’t spending enough time on internal communication and training to make sure they are proactive when it comes to promoting the company.

If you're worried that a large percentage of your staff will say things that will damage your reputation online, then isn’t it time you looked into why they’re so disgruntled in the first place?

If you really, honestly feel that you’re opening yourself to negative sentiment, then you need to be online and dealing with it directly, not ignoring it in the hope that it goes away.

2. We don't have the resources.

Because it’s often seen as part of marketing, there’s an implicit assumption that social media means promotions, ads and targeted campaigns. While there’s definitely room for all of these as engagement tools online, if you don’t want to transfer budgets from offline then you don’t need to.

Being truly social involves listening, learning and talking.

It’s perfectly acceptable to use your Twitter or your Facebook entirely as a customer service and information point, as long as you make a concerted, earnest effort it will still have major brand value.

3. It’s a distraction.

One of the abiding myths is that as soon as you unlock that firewall, people will spend the entire day yakking on Facebook. You don’t pay them to talk! Or apparently, to think. Again, if this is a genuine issue then you probably need to seriously rethink your employment policy.

Stop and think about it for a second.

Do you let people have their mobile phones with them in the office? Do they have a phone on their desk? They don’t spend all day talking there, so why should Facebook be any different? (It is after all, perfectly easy to track internet history.)

No one who's half way decent at their job is going to waste their entire day on social networks, and to claim they will is at best rather insulting.

Allowing your employees to see what's happening online can be inspiring, can help them see their place in the larger organisation and how their efforts help, and allows you to communicate with them in real time and let them offer opinions. By training and integrating staff into the process you'll have people ready to promote the brand and will receive a better understanding of how things work 'on the shop floor'.

4. It’s hard to track ROI

This is an old argument that goes back to the dawn of marketing.

Instant ROI’s are hard to find, but long term engagements are often far more valuable.

If you are sales-minded you may struggle to understand the purpose of a department without a direct return. Instead, you need to understand how this will add value to your sales.

Customers are no longer willing to be passively sold ‘at’. Instead you need to realize that there now exists a two-way street between you and your customers.

Ignoring customer input will make you seem arrogant and uninterested, something you cannot afford in an open market.

Besides, there are plenty of ways to measure social media success

5. It’s too diverse.

Many people dipping a toe into the social media sea are a little overwhelmed by all the channels available. There’s an initial panic as you struggle to comprehend how you can possibly appear everywhere.

Relax. You don’t need to be. Have a think about your business, do you have lots of video? Tons of great images?

No? No problem, neither do I. So get on Twitter instead, say hello, and ask your staff if they’re on there as well.

One of the major challenges you will face will be staff engagement, so send a CEO level email requesting everyone who is on Twitter follows you, and make an active attempt to search them out. Once you’re all engaged you can start working out buzz.

Consider making social media a fundamental part of your hiring policy.

6. It’s a security risk.


Let’s say you’re a major defence contractor. You assign your Twitter feed to the office junior. What is he going to tell people that’s a security risk? “Making tea for PM of Tajikistan”

It’s a question of planning.

Hire someone who knows what they can and cannot say in public. Don’t assign either the office junior or the internet-unsavvy CFO, instead, get a well briefed SM Manager.

Likewise, if you feel that someone contacting you online is suspicious, check them out before you reply. Filtering is easy and inexpensive so use it.

You aren’t required to reveal anything you don’t want to online, so any security risks are negated simply by having someone with a little common sense in control, and frankly, that should be a fairly obvious requirement from the get-go. 

7. We have nothing to say

Finally, it’s still common to run across people who aren’t connecting because they don’t feel they have anything interesting to say.

Reading social media guides online, you’d be forgiven for assuming that you need to be Keats to keep your customers engaged. Luckily for you, they’re already interested in your product or organization, so just letting them know when the sale starts or that the website has a new widget is enough.

Yes, you’ll get more value if you have extensive blog content that’s relevant, interesting and newsworthy, but it isn’t a prerequisite.

The best thing about social media is that it’s entirely personal. There are a few rules of general etiquette but none you wouldn’t employ in real life.

Just be open and share and you’ll do fine, and if you honestly can’t think of anything to say about yourself, then talk about other people. Comment on their tweets and posts and you’ll be just as valuable and interesting to them.

The increasing adoption of social media does represent a culture shift for business. Those who excel will be the ones who realize that brand recognition and identity is now a collaborative process with their customers.

Yes, it can be difficult to relinquish control over your message, but it certainly isn’t impossible. Ultimately the entire process is a trust issue. If you trust your product, your team and yourself, then there’s no reason you can’t have a successful, useful social media presence.

Matt Owen

Published 14 July, 2010 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

Comments (16)

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Paul Keers, Axon Publishing

"Trusting your staff" is not simply a matter of the manner in which they promote the company. Staff cannot be expected to know the background to, and wider consequences of, company stories. Has a client given permission for a story concerning them to be Tweeted? Is a new development under wraps until it has been commercially exploited? Is a story embargoed? The immediacy of social media means there will be major problems unless the issuing of such stories is controlled.  

over 6 years ago

Matthew Curry

Matthew Curry, Head of Ecommerce at Lovehoney

Actually,for me it's none of these. We use social media for customer service, but not for explicit marketing. You might say "oh well customer service in the public domain IS marketing", but let keep the two separate for now,

Anyway, the reason behind this is:

  1. I don't trust an agency to be able to deliver this. I've sat through so many presentations where the obligatory Social Media slides gets wheeled out. I have a horrible feeling that many agencies are rubbing their hands with glee, as vast spends that don't have a clear ROI are now somehow allowed? It's Media Value all over again.
  2. Similarly, every "Social Media Strategy" presentation I've seen is actually just "cool stuff we want to do"
  3. Social Media at the moment is very "we can so we will" rather than having a definite objective and success criteria. We saying "well, you're customers are already having these conversations" without actual monitoring and numbers to back that argument up, is nonsense. Unless I have something that I want to achieve, and that social media is an obvious channel to achieve this in, then why am I doing it? So I can attend all the cool social media parties? 
Until this stops being hype, until you don't get a thousand autofollows on twitter if you mention it, until every agency under the sun doesn't tack Social Media onto their skillset because they can set up a twitter account, until it becomes a way to achieve objectives, part of the strategy, something that can be costed and whatever metric measured, it won't get past board approval.

over 6 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Both very good points there, Paul - Certainly all staff can't be expected to know everything about every aspect of the business, but they can be trained to be broadly 'on message'. I wouldn't suggest that you let random staff members tweet story-specific information - that's a job for your highly trained and board-level informed Social Media Manager. What you can do is allow staff to speak about their daily experience, there's no need to give anything away when saying 'Working on our great new web app this morning'. That statement contains no specific data but it lets your listeners know you have an updated web service in the works. Similarly ' getting the store ready for next weeks sale -some great bargains!' (apologies for the appaling generacy of those two btw!) Staff should be trusted to excercise common sense in this area. Matthew - good point, Personally I'm against the idea of having an external agency carry out Social Media tasks (sorry agency people!), if only because it stymies the system and removes a lot of the immediacy required for a campaign to work properly. Social Media strategies do need to be results driven, however it is worth considering SM channels for broader goals such as 'drive more traffic to site', or ' receive better customer feedback'. I agree that there's a lot of hype - the 'we can so we will' attitude is certainly not useful in the long term. Instead, consider your wider business and single campaigns - can you get wider promotional mileage from social media? For example, if you have a number of outlet locations then a geo-location service may provide a useful outlet for you. It's also true that there are unfortunately a lot of people making it up as they go along, partly because SM is still a fairly new arena, this is a problem but it is one that's changing quickly as the hucksters get caught out and dropped. A clear strategic axis needs to be drawn and considered before embarking on a campaign, but if used correctly there is easily as much value in SM as there is in traditional marketing. I do however feel that the statement 'your customers are already having these conversations' is true - but yes, research the issues and choose your weapons carefully first, don't just leap in head first.

over 6 years ago


Gary Day-Ellison

Great stuff. Really thorough.

over 6 years ago


Andy Xhignesse

A great post Matt, thank you for your input!

While the points raised are all valid my experience is that the single most challenging barrier is our most precious resource, time. It's not too difficult in most instances to find capital resources to support SM engagement, just yesterday I wrote about trade show spend and it might be a good place for an organization to begin looking for resource re-allocation. Whether the resources come from new money or re-allocated budgets is not really the issue, time is since most SME's are very focused on their core business activities.

WRT to the ROI question, I offer two points. First, it is critical that a company be able to attach a value to online activity in order to be able to justify said activity. For example, what is the value of a vistor to a website? Or, what is the value of a visitor that engages with some offer on the website? If you know the volume of business your online initiative generates, and you know the number of visitors and relationship engagements, these numbers are very simple to establish. Once established, they become powerful metrics in the determination of any SM actions that drive these numbers. Second, most often I've found that a critical failure of SME corporate online development is the significant lack of opportunity for a visitor to convert and become a lead of some sort. Just like your post here has offered value, companies need to realize that visitors to their site want value, so give it to them! Make offers that will resonate with THEIR need, and the ROI will become very clear.

Thanks again for this offering, l look forward to reading more.

over 6 years ago

Henry Elliss

Henry Elliss, Digital Marketing Director at Tamar

Brilliant post, Matt - though I can think of about 50 more, all of which there are good arguments for too. Most of the ones you listed point to more obvious underlying problems with the organisation - "I don't trust my staff" being one of the key ones! :D

over 6 years ago

Geoff Andrews

Geoff Andrews, Lead Generation Manager at Kumon Educational UK

Some great points in this post which echo how members across the organisation can contribute to SEO strategies by being mindful within their role.

over 6 years ago


Tom Huxtable, CRO at EngageSciences

Great post Matt. One of the main reasons why companies have not got involved in social media marketing is because of the question 'where do I start?'. I would argue that it has been easier to implement a social media monitoring program - because there is a plethora of paid and free tools that can help you do the 'listening'. When it comes to social media marketing things get a little bit more tricky - we can get our message out by unleashing the combined voices of our employees, we can sign up for some advertising on social networks, we can work on our blog, we can integrate Facebook to our website, but what are the best ways to drive a marketing campaign that supports social engagement?

Social networks by their very nature support the sharing of information, so for me the real benefit of social media marketing is tapping into this. You can create great content that will become 'spreadable media', but that is difficult, and often expensive, although there are some great companies out there like Oddcast helping in this respect. However a far easier tactic is to package your campaign in proven templates that lend themselves to leverage the viral nature of social networks. Sweepstakes, competitions, coupons/groupons, quizzes are all types of promotions that work in this regard and can drive an engaged social following.

EngageSciences are developing a platform that packages this end to end, so businesses can create social media campaigns in minutes. For more on this subject see the post, "Why viral promotions will eat Google's ad revenues' at http://www.engagesciences.com/readytoland

over 6 years ago


Sam Ford

Good points, Matt, and good points in your comment, Richard. However, I would point out that many companies would be best served with a steady stream of content out there rather than just investing in those few videos you hope will "go viral." Spreadable media refers not just to Old Spice videos but Tweets that get picked up, a blog post that gets a lot of passalong, a piece of content that gets referred to in many blog comments or debated on forums, and so on. Sometimes, I think companies put all their eggs in one basket (one video, a big gimmick, etc.) that may end up failing. What's most surprising when you put content out there regularly is that the things you might think will get a lot of pickup won't get noticed and then something you don't expect to resonate will really start getting spread...

over 6 years ago

Andy Headington

Andy Headington, CEO at Adido LimitedSmall Business

For me, the answer is your second point. Most SMEs have enough going on without having to dedicate someone to 'listening and interacting' with their target audiences online. To have conversations isn't something you can do that quickly or easily so it requires man hours to make it work. With some SMEs there is still a belief, in much the same way as around ten years ago with websites, that just having a Twitter or FB account is somehow going to get them loads of business or followers. I've lost count of the amount of Twitter feeds I've seen with 19 followers and last updates from three months ago. It all comes back to a lack of time. If they don't have it, then they shouldn't even start.

over 6 years ago


Tom Huxtable, CRO at EngageSciences

Sam - totally agree. My point was creating great content like an expensive video you hope will go viral is actually a hard thing to do - and often it does not catch on. However there are more tactical viral campaign templates like doing quizzes, contests, coupons/groupons, sweepstakes etc, that are all examples of formats that lend themselves to getting attention across networks, yet don't require expensive investment at all. Using our templates you can create these types of campaigns very simply. It is another weapon in the armoury of a marketer hoping to use social media. 

over 6 years ago


Sam Ford

Thanks, Richard. I think the "more tactical" options you mention are not necessarily less strategic, either, if they are done well. The key might be a mixture of both: some big campaigns along the way that get people's attention, alongside a steady stream of meaningful content and thinking from the brand. Now, to Matt's point about resources, what we would do in an ideal world may not be possible in reality. And I very much agree with Gary...we don't want to put too much emphasis on all that should be done (quantity) and not think toward quality. I think part of the issue in frustration is the belief that there's some cookie-cutter way to get a massive audience, and I put some of the blame at the feet of the logic of "viral marketing" and the way we often use that word...That's another subject for another time perhaps, but it's a issue I've focused a lot of my time on over the past year or two and is part of a book project I'm working on at the moment with Henry Jenkins and Joshua Green.

over 6 years ago


Bangalow Accommodation

For me I think Point 7 is the main deterrant. You don't want to bore people with the day to day stuff but also often overlook what is truly brilliant about what you do and how you do it. It's all about trust I agree, but more so about CONFIDENCE.

over 6 years ago



I think consequence lies on every part and dealings of a business. Understanding the process and value of social media makes it worthy for just a little risk involved. The benefits of a short message implies such a great impact.

about 6 years ago



Again, great post.  I know people have heard it before, and i know that people will hear it again, but utilizing social media marketing correctly is extremely important, yet difficult.  We see big cooperations these days with a weak Facebook following, a dead blog, and an outdates website.  Image is everything, and if companies aren't willing to invest a little bit of time and money into a good online presence, then they are missing out tramendously!  We love how you hit on big employers and CEO's who are hesitant on giving control to other people to optomize their online presence; nevertheless, their concern is justifiabe.  Countless times, companies get burned because of what they put out online and to the media.  There needs to be a trust relationship between the people incharge of the online media outlets and the CEO of the company. Feel free to join in conversations parallel to this at our blog at http://ideasthatbuildbusiness.com/ .  In this ever growing Social Media based Marketing world, there is still an emense amount of research and discussion to be had.  Love the articles and insight, keep it coming!

about 6 years ago


Michael Currey

The web and emerging technologies and trends are always tough to sell, it's all very complicated for those not spending all their time on the internet. Until we can take the time to really communicate with our customers and gain their trust sales will be driven by early adopters eager to get in on the ground floor and those afraid to be left behind.

With all the different sites with their unique capabilities and uses it's almost too much for any one person to to know comprehensively. There are always some things that we won't be able explain easily so much like a doctor giving you advice on your health issues, we need our customers to trust us.

I'm always looking for ways in which I can give my clients visuals in the form of graphs and tables and Google Analytics is a great place to start. I'm also giving Kout a try but a great too to use for Wordpress blog owners is a plug-in from my friend Nina at ninanet.com that gives you hard to get data on FB users who "like" your blog posts so you know exactly who they are even (and especially) non-friends.

almost 6 years ago

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