5 Reasons Your Social Media Strategy Will Fail

I’m normally an optimistic person and maybe I should have titled this “5 Tips to Make Your Social Media Strategy Succeed,” but sometimes pointing out the negative side of an issue is more effective. Nonetheless, here are five ways brands go wrong when creating social media strategies for their businesses:

You think Twitter will solve all of your problems: One of the biggest mistakes companies make is focusing too much on tools like Twitter and whatever the latest fad is. Substitute Twitter with a Facebook fan page or branded YouTube channel and the result can be the same: failure.

Social media is about people and relationships. The tools change every day. What doesn’t change are customers’ expectations of the brands they love. When a company can focus on exceeding customer expectations using the channels currently available to them, they are more likely to succeed long term. Today, that may very well include a Facebook and Twitter presence. That’s completely acceptable as long as there is a long-term integrated strategy to leverage with other customer touch points. The smart brands are also identifying the tools and networks that are gaining momentum in the marketplace and preparing their organizations for these shifts.

You work in a silo: Organizational silos have been around since the birth of modern-day business. The biggest problem with silos is the lack of internal sharing and external message consistency. When marketing doesn’t talk to PR and PR doesn’t talk to marketing, or when various business units are off creating stand-alone micro sites, the end result is fragmented marketing programs with no integration.

Facilitating a cross-functional meeting or at least having some level of governance across the organization will help alleviate this problem. It will force business units and marketing organizations to collaborate with each other and look for opportunities to integrate. Also, having a governance model or a set of social media guidelines will ensure that all employees are trained properly before engaging on the social Web. This also ensures that there is some level of consistency or direction.

You’ve done no research: I see this all the time: Brands create Twitter accounts or Facebook fan pages just because everyone else has them. While these tactics may not be a bad thing, they could prove worthless if there’s no significant research. The last thing marketers want is management breathing down their neck and questioning why all their Facebook fans are just employees of the company.

Organizations need to first identify if their brand is the topic of any relevant conversations happening out on the social Web. Studies on demographics, technographics and social graphics are also important to help better understand how a particular segment of consumers behave within certain networks. With the right research, a brand can then start developing an action plan.

All you do is listen: Listening is good. It’s a fundamental characteristic in building strong relationships. Tools like Scoutlabs or Biz 360 allow for brands to monitor the online conversation and solicit feedback about their products or services.

But listening for the sake of listening is worse than not listening at all. Smart marketers are now using this feedback to know when and where to engage with consumers on the Web. However, listening by itself is only half of the equation. Marketers must not only listen, converse and engage — they must act. By taking the collective knowledge and feedback from the community and using it as source of innovation and change, they will have the opportunity to create strong brand advocacy. Brands like Intel, Starbucks and eBay have been doing this for quite some time and it has proven to be successful. 

You lack storytelling: Every brand has a story. The problem is that many marketers just don’t know how to tell it correctly. Even today, many marketers are still caught up with flooding the intranets with press releases and one-way marketing communications often approved by legal and the brand police. Others believe that you can tell a full brand story with a single piece of creative.

Successful storytelling is much more. It involves conversations and participation. It involves a brand embedding itself into communities that are important to them. It’s when consumers develop a new language around the brand, and the brand embraces and learns it. It’s not only the full gamut of every communications channel either, but every customer interaction as well, both on- and offline.

Successful storytelling is flexible, adapts and is not afraid to highlight “customer stories,” even if those stories don’t necessarily reflect the “brand promise.” In fact, when the meaning of a brand evolves and this is embraced, only then will it become relevant.

Social media is not a fad. It’s not a game and it’s not just another Twitter account. If a brand really wants to be successful in this space, it needs to look holistically at its own organization, reexamine customer expectations and then figure out what’s going to work long term within the social landscape.

Michael Brito is vp, social media at Edelman Digital. He can be reached at Michael.brito@edelman.com and you can follow him twitter.com/Britopian.