Social Media has an amazing ability to cripple the most capable people.

Individuals who excel in their chosen fields can fall to their knees in despair when they try to implement social media in their business. Why? Over the last 10 years I have consulted with and worked in many companies both big and small and from what I have experienced, there are 3 reasons why social media for small business fails and brings the most talented people unstuck:

1. Fighting over where social media sits within the business

More often than not, social media will touch multiple areas in a business, such as sales, customer service or marketing, and this is where the problem lies – one department will want to ‘own’ it. From my experience, social media is a channel of communication with the target audience, as a result it is a marketing communications channel. Pure and simple. Now, I know sales people will get up in arms over this but let’s break it down. Social Media, like all forms of marketing promotion talks to the target audience, no matter what the strategy is (and this is the case for B2C and B2B business). Even those in professional services that implement a thought leadership strategy are striving to convert one audience member into an advocate at the least, and a sale at best. When implemented correctly all social media activity should take the audience member back to the company website or into store to convert them into a sale. This is exactly the same thing TV advertising, print advertising, PR and every other form of old school advertising does, or should do. Ask yourself, where does the responsibility for TV ads etc sit? There is no other way to slice or dice this, believe me I have seen companies try – the result, marketing gets hauled into a meeting when it all goes horribly wrong and told to fix it. Annoying when the marketing team should have been involved all along.

Solution: Align the social media strategy with the overall business strategy. By default this will bring a common focus across all sectors within the business and keep everyone striving for the same goal – brand development, business growth, relationship building and customer acquisition or retention (the same as all marketing communications).

2. Not understanding the social media world

Using social media in your personal life doesn’t equate to understanding how to use it in a business sense. If I had a dollar for every time I heard – ‘my friends only use Facebook during the day’ or ‘I don’t know anyone who uses Twitter’ I’d own an island, seriously. I have witnessed first hand high level executives and business owners cut down a social media strategy or reject it outright because it didn’t match how they or their spouse/children/neighbour uses it. Regardless of the fact their spouse/children or neighbour may not be the target audience. With around 1 in 4 people using social media globally, chances are your target audience is using one or more platforms prolifically. The secret is to align the right platform to the target audience – and if this is a platform you don’t use or have not even heard of, you have to let your ignorance go and get on it.

Solution: Know who you are targetting then invest some time researching where this audience is hanging out, then listen to their conversations. This will give you invaluable insight into which platforms they favour and help you understand why people use social media (see below).

3. Not understanding why people use social media

Just because you are there to push your wares, doesn’t mean your audience is there to buy them – just yet. Content is one of the key drivers for successful social media activity and getting the mix of content right is a challenge for all businesses. Understanding and having respect for how and why your audience uses social media will help you build a stronger, more robust community and when the need arises, a customer – because they will know of you, like you and want to transact with you. So what is the right mix. Whilst there is no hard and fast rule on this, let’s use TV advertising as a guide (stay with me here). During a 30 minute TV show, there is roughly 8 minutes of scheduled advertising and 22 minutes of entertainment, news, education or sports programming. This equates to rougly 27% of selling versus 63% of content. If you use this as a rule of thumb for your social media activity you should aim to deliver content that entertains, informs etc 63% of the time and ask for a sale the other 27%. Simply put, for ever 10 posts, around 3 are asking for a sale.

Solution: As above, listening to how your audience engages on social media will help you understand why they are there and what engages them. Keep your finger on this pulse and you will be delivering relevant and targetted content in no time.

Do you know any other reasons that cause small business to fail at social media, we’d love to hear from you?

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