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.