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Your business won’t survive unless you embrace social media.

Countless business owners have heard these words. Is there any truth to them? Perhaps in some instances. But in far more, social media, no matter how important, is still something that should be approached thoughtfully and strategically.

The truth of the matter is that social media isn’t right for every business, and not every business is ready for social media. How do you know if your business is ready? Here are five signs it isn’t.

You think Facebook and Twitter are social media.
Popular online communities like Facebook and Twitter are a big part of the social media landscape, but if the first thing you think of when you think 'social media' is a handful of websites, you should probably hit the brakes. Social media is about much more than specific sites; it has far more to do with the way your business can interact with customers and stakeholders using the internet.

You don't know where your customers are online.
Consumers may love the hottest social media sites, but do your customers and stakeholders? If you can't answer that with a confident 'Yes!', jumping into social media head first is sort of like jumping into a pool before you know there's water in it; you'll soon discover that what you need isn't there.

You're new to online marketing. While there's nothing inherently wrong with making social media your first destination on the online marketing train, pragmatically-speaking, social media probably isn't the best starting point for a business that is new to online marketing. After all, determining whether a social media initiative is succeeding (eg. achieving goals, producing ROI) in many cases requires coming up with ways to 'quantify' data that is really qualitative. Needless to say, that's a particularly tall order for a company that hasn't even experimented with forms of online marketing that are entirely quantitative, such as paid search.

You're unwilling, or unable, to put a value on your time. Signing up for a Facebook or Twitter account may be free, but managing a social media presence isn't. Businesses that won't consider the cost of the time invested in social media to be a real cost with a real dollar value have unrealistic expectations and in my opinion are far less likely to sustain their social media initiatives over the long haul.

You see social media as a panacea, not as a channel. Social media may have the ability to do wonderful things for your business, but it's not the miracle diet pill of the marketing world. In other words, it isn't going to double your revenue overnight, make your customers happier with a snap of the fingers, etc. At the end of the day, no matter how powerful social media is, it is still but one channel.

Photo credit: adobemac via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 14 September, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2429 more posts from this author

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Jonny Wilde

Nice post, good sense check, but to be honest I wouldn't call social media a 'channel' as I feel that word often makes a client gravitate it into their other marketing channels... picky I know, but the understanding is key here.

about 6 years ago

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rory

Personally I'm sick of people thinking Twitter & Facebook are 'social media' there is definitely more to it than a poke and a tweet. 'Interaction' is the key the the 'social' part ingaging with clients should be the focus not how many 'fans' you have.

about 6 years ago

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Cijo Abraham Mani

Social Media is one channel among the tremendous marketing resources available online. Social Bookmarking can gain backlinks but can't gain huge sales directly. There are lot of channels which don't even bring one sale directly, but still those channels are important. There needs to be a specific social media strategy before you jump onto it. Do a good amount of intial research. Know where your customers are. How active your customers are on each medium ?. Use the intial research datas when you are preparing the strategy. You should never put all your eggs in a single basket. Use each medium based upon the business. All businesses are not the same and every activity is not going to give the same response. Everything depends on the customers and market you are targetting.

about 6 years ago

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Michael Odza

I agree with Jonny that social media is much more than a channel -- at least if understood most effectively. Patricio's signs are definitely indicators, but the key underlying factor is whether or not a business, from leader to staff, understands that the relationship with customers has changed. It is no longer a one-way arrow of message from seller to buyer. (That arrow still exists, of course, and that's what the familiar channels are for. You can indeed force an arrow through social media, but using sm that way is not the highest, most effective use.)

As has been said many times, never more clearly than in The Cluetrain way back in 2000, markets are conversations. With social media, the conversation is more than 2 parties and bi-directional; it is multi-party, multi-directional, and if you're not engaged with social media, you'll never know it's taking place without you!

Read Charlene Li's Open Leadership for more details!

about 6 years ago

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Claire Thompson (claireatwaves)

Lots of wisdom here - it's not for everyone, although there are some things people should be doing as due diligence.

Not sure I'd go as far as to say that you shouldn't engage if you're new to online marketing. A lot of new businesses go to social media instinctively, especially owner managers, and do so very successfully.

But all of the points about time, and not forcing people to be there just becasue they 'must'/not finding the right communities are bang on!

about 6 years ago

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Gabriele Maidecchi

"Your business won’t survive unless you embrace social media."

Wow I actually never heard these words but they seem pretty funny (in a sad way) to me.

Jokes apart, I agree on considering social media more than a bunch of websites and as an additional channel through which engage your customers, and I especially get sad when I see companies using SM channels just as an additional spam strategy. If you're not gonna bring interaction and engagement in it, there's no point at all.

Channels like Twitter and Facebook surely aren't meant to give you results the day after, they should be part of a long term strategy you should (and hopefully had) laid down carefully before even starting altogether.

about 6 years ago

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NJ

At last - someone else questioning this social-media marketing fad. 

about 6 years ago

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Laura Bazile

Excellent post! Love it and comments here have the same quality. Should we add the "time" question as well? being aware that once you have chosen the right tools/partners..., you will need time ... not too long ;-) before bringing sale.

@Cijo - I am with you a 100%! never put all your eggs in a single basket and I am a strong "research" believer as well.

about 6 years ago

Brett Relander

Brett Relander, Founder & President at Tactical Marketing Labs

Social media is certainly much more than Facebook and Twitter, it's more of a choice in the way you do business. I could compare a healthy social media marketing focus to a healthy diet. It's good alone, but much more effective when combined with other measures. Brett Relander Tactical Marketing Labs

about 6 years ago

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Martin Soler

In the hotels industry especially the smaller indepedent hotels Social Media is key and in a totally different way than for large brands. It's about connecting to potential customers and getting out of the polished look but rather add a human touch to the whole thing. 

Everything that interacts with users and potential guests is social media, and in hospitality it is even more important than regular product sales. 

about 6 years ago

Nathan Fulwood

Nathan Fulwood, Head of Marketing Technology at Realise

I'd add another one:

If it takes a committee within your business to get a change to the website approved or an advert signed off, you're likely not going to be able to keep up with the pace that having real conversations demands.

about 6 years ago

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Randy Miller

While certain tech savy customers/markets may think that Twitter and Facebook are old news, the general public is still playing Farmville and has no idea what a Tweet is.  Long term I see social media as  being a part of every business marketing plan, but each industry will adopt it at different degrees and in their own timeframe.  Thanks for the article, it's certainly something to think about.

about 6 years ago

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: Joe

Excellent post! Love it and comments here have the same quality. Should we add the "time" question as well? being aware that once you have chosen the right tools/partners..., I thanks blogger.

about 4 years ago

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: Joe

Excellent post! Love it and comments here have the same quality. Should we add the "time" question as well? being aware that once you have chosen the right tools/partners..., I thanks blogger

about 4 years ago

Nathanael Vanderkolk

Nathanael Vanderkolk, Director at Smart-SEO

Great information! Smart-SEO is totally agree with you.

about 3 years ago

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