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From the largest of brands to the mom-and-pop store down the street, it seems like every business is setting up a social media presence of some type.

And for good reason: everywhere you look, somebody is extolling the virtues of social media and what it can do for businesses.

But social media, like most channels, has its limitations.

When looking at making an investment in social media, here are the five things social media can't do that businesses should keep in mind.

Make you cool

Long gone are the days when being on Facebook or Twitter meant you were ahead of the curve. Today, 'everybody' is on social media, meaning your social media presence is only as cool as you are.

Create great products & services

The feedback you receive from social media can in some cases help you improve your product and service offerings, but social media in and of itself won't turn crud into quality. That, at the end of the day, is always going to be your job.

Quash criticism

Having a presence on Facebook or Twitter can enable you to respond more quickly and effectively to criticism, but being active in social media will not enable you to eliminate all criticism.

In some cases, the responses you give to criticism leveled at you via social media can only make things worse.

Provide free marketing

Signing up for popular social networks may not cost you a cent, but that doesn't mean that social media is 'free'. Building, growing and maintaining a social media presence always requires an investment in time, and for every business, time is money.

Improve your customer service

For many companies, social media has become an important customer service tool. But don't be confused: great customer service is provided by people, not tools.

If your customer service staff isn't capable of helping customers with their problems regardless of the channel, a Twitter account won't change that.

Patricio Robles

Published 22 July, 2011 by Patricio Robles

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

2378 more posts from this author

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Sean Walsh

Excellent point re. criticism. Brands need to be weary about going into social media without doing some response planning for negative sentiment.

What your customers say to you is increasingly becoming more important than what the brand is saying. Emotive brands and all that.

about 5 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

I think a lot of businesses were hoping that social media was the "magic bullet" for all their online marketing needs, but it is not. Just like any other marketing tactic, you get out what you put in. Having a social profile doesn't mean you'll succeed, it is what you do with it that matters!

about 5 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

On the criticism front, for me social media has to be integrated into your Customer Service framework. It's a customer communication channel and therefore, as you point out, you've got to know how to handle comments and criticisms originating via this channel.

I've seen evidence that companies are looking at social media for customer service but there is still gap in thinking whereby service levels aren't thought through and there is no clear process for escalation of problems.

thanks
james

about 5 years ago

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carleasing

Thanks for this interesting article.
Social media is a tool for enhancing customer service and should not be assumed to be all without active response to customers' needs. I've dropped a feedback to an airline Facebook page before only for their social manager to delete my feedback and later blocked me from writing them. It's a shame! Absolute poor customer service... Businesses should not expect customers to only praise their services on their online pages, but also expect some criticisms which when properly handled would fetch them more popularity and amount to new patronage.

Hope to always visit your blog for more interesting articles!

about 5 years ago

Neil Warren

Neil Warren, Publisher at 2N Media Ltd - ModernSelling.com

Yep - move over "marketing collateral" and step forward those "trusted advisers" (and I suggest "eselling" - the book - as a good start point).

about 5 years ago

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Sean Price

Interesting read, was chatting to a client this morning discussing how they may use Social Media as a channel for customer service but indeed it does boil down to the point of its the people NOT the tools.

You can have terrible customer service reps and giving them tools like Twitter/Facebook to use does NOT make them great customer service.

about 5 years ago

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Wholesale Suppliers

Great article, I was wondering why no one brought up the topic. Patricio, excellent timing and excellent post.

about 5 years ago

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parideluginillo

Thank for the post!=)

about 5 years ago

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Lauren Cooke

I agree with this post, and it is refreshing to see someone not waxing madly lyrical about the "magic" of Social Media.

Don't get me wrong - I think the virtues of Social Media are well worth most businesses considering at the very least. However, we are always careful to push the fact that Social Media isn't a magic band aid (or, as it happens, a mysterious realm only understood by the expensive experts), but a real, interesting communication medium that should be a part of the markeitng mix rather than the be all or end all.

almost 5 years ago

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Alan Charlesworth

Hi Patricio ... it is no criticism of your article – which raises perfectly valid points – but us 'old timers' can remember similar comments being made about websites around 1997/98/99. Of course, we didn't have social media to get the message across in those days :)

almost 5 years ago

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Innes

It depends which way you look to the customer service aspect. I see twitter as a way to stay in touch that bit more and also add that all important personal touch.

almost 5 years ago

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George Engelberger

Oh man, I couldn't agree more. You would not believe how many agencies have opened up "specializing" in social media around my area. It's great to see more and more businesses increase their social media presence but they should not treat it like the return of Jesus Christ. Simply having it is not enough and even actively doing things with social media won't save a bad product/service. While ad campaigns will integrate social media, it cannot be singled out as the solution or even the most vital component.

almost 5 years ago

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Rob Golledge

I agree with 4 out of 5 of the points above and the bit about how Social Media won't make you look cool made me smile.

But I do think Social Media can help with Customer Service. True it is a tool. But the telephone is a also a tool and many organisations' Customer Service lives or dies by how a company uses such vital tools.

In our business we don't currently offer a Twitter support service, but it doesn't stop those from monitoring the Twitosphere from helping customers who are struggling with an issue in some way. Before Twitter we wouldn't have heard about the problem except through the official channels - and sometimes customers can't be bothered to report a matter. Now we can respond quickly and help make things right for our customers. And that is what great Customer Service is all about.

almost 5 years ago

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Leasebam

I receive so many emails about social media training and how it will transform your business. It just isn't true, there are certain types of websites or businesses this works for,examples being energy drinks, pop bands for but most it doesn't. I just can't see people following the tweets of a solicitor, or funeral director. Be sensible and only invest the time that will see a genuine return

over 3 years ago

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