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Guest Post: A Brand's Largest Social Media Obstacle

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by Samir Balwani
Would you believe me if I told you that most of the time the reason a social media campaign fails is because of a single obstacle? What if I told you the brand itself was the reason?
Interestingly enough, a brand's point of view, and culture can be sabotaging their online marketing.


Why It Happens?


I've made a pretty bold statement, saying that brands shoot themselves in the foot, but why?
The first is the stereotypical follower brand. These brands enter the social space because their competitors are. Without a real reason for connecting with consumers, the brand has no drive to foster their relationships. Most of these campaigns are lackluster and fall apart after a few months.
Many brands know they should be in the social space but their culture prohibits them from taking risks. An aura of fear permeates every decision, and the tried and true wins out over innovation.
These brands introduce a host of problems. Most importantly they don't invest in innovation. Since it's difficult to directly assign or forecast ROI in social media, money is never spent on it.
Social media is cheaper than print; true, but it is not free. Without resources, especially human resources, a social campaign will have no longevity.
Secondly, fearful brands are deathly afraid of failure. A savvy brand will realize that by humanizing itself, mistakes are understood, and with proper PR can be managed. But a brand that is too afraid to fully engage, never truly humanizes itself, always portraying itself as above its consumers.
Another stereotypical brand is the one that just doesn't understand their own consumers. Many times employees are insulated from store customers, and the disconnect between vision and reality grows.
A major part of social media is connecting with consumers. A brand that cannot or will not recognize their consumers is doomed for failure.
Overall, a brand may place brand reputation over users engagement. In this instance, the brand is naive to the changes in marketing.
Consumers trust brand advertising less and less; instead they are looking to friends and family for recommendations. If a brand doesn't recognize the importance of tapping this organic marketing, they'll continue to see a decline in their brand reputation.
It's important to realize that just entering the social space isn't enough. Social media requires a corporate paradigm shift, a chance in culture that places the customer above all.

How to Change


The first step a brand can take is to start with calculated risks. Use that "my competitors are engaging online" mentality and put it to good use.
Are your competitors campaigns exciting or intriguing? Are customers engaging their brand? Is this a space that consumers want to egnage with a brand?
Once you've found that there are consumers online looking to engage the brand, begin investing in social media, especially for human capital. Use these employees to begin building your social media profiles.
At the same time, begin shifting your brand culture. Transparency, openness, customer service, and altruism describes a positive social brand culture.
Realize that in order to truly take advantage of social media, the brand must make a number of fundamental changes from the top down. Most brands don't make these changes, and see little return from their social marketing.
Many make the changes, but do it wrong. For those committed to social media, a consultant can be invaluable. A consultant with diverse experience can help guide a brand through the transition, while helping build strategies to build a brand presence online.
Please, don't enter the online world because you saw your competitors, or because a magazine wrote about Twitter. Take the time to understand the space, recognize the importance of engagement, and really dedicate yourself to the new marketing shift.
samir.pngSamir Balwani is an Internet marketer who helps businesses create effective web strategies. With a degree in political science and economics, Samir takes a unique approach to new media marketing. He posts regularly on his blog, "Left the Box". You can also follow him on Twitter and get his newsletter.


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Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, a monthly contributor to Entrepreneur magazine, the author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content (Wiley, 2014), and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules (Wiley, 2012). Ann co-founded ClickZ.com, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

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Comments

  • by Navah Thu Jul 9, 2009 via blog

    Great thoughts, but how would you recommend a B2B business to market to the end user? And, how would you track it? Thanks!

  • by Samir Balwani Thu Jul 9, 2009 via blog

    Navah, I'm not sure I understand what you mean. Why don't you contact me from my site and we can chat. Thanks!

  • by gianandrea facchini Fri Jul 10, 2009 via blog

    Samir, great post about the need of a strategic approach to social media, an approach where time and timing are crucial to reach the goal.

  • by Michelle Chun-Hoon Fri Jul 10, 2009 via blog

    Mistakes and obstacles are brought about when entering the social media world, but research, motivation and management can limit the number of mistakes and help overcome those obstacles. There are many benefits and opportunities to be taken advantage of in the social media world. You made some good points here and I completely agree that the customer should come above all.

  • by Becky Pearce Sun Jul 12, 2009 via blog

    This post is right on. The challenge is that a company's culture is virtually impossible to change. In my experience, social media initiatives are being pushed by an individual who really believes in it and that individual is rarely top mgmt/owners. So not only are they working solo but they don't necessarily have the power or influence to affect major change needed.

  • by Shenan Reed Mon Jul 13, 2009 via blog

    Samir - I think you are correct in the need for human capital as an investment needed to make this happen. I would encourage companies to look internally first before searching for a "social media expert". You don't need someone with a big price tag to take on the ownership of this position, you need someone who is curious, engaged and actively gets the space. Of course the help of a digital agency that can provide guidance can't hurt either. That said the brand should always drive the voice, but that voice is best heard if it's human.

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