When social media first became the “in thing” for business, it was hailed as the ultimate marketing tool. Now that the honeymoon is over, the realities of social media marketing are settling in. McDonald’s was the victim of a Twitter incident where users posted nasty – and false – stories about the fast food giant. While the stories were fake, the mob of angry customers descending on select locations was very real. It was PR nightmare on a level with the old Coke/new Coke debacle of the 1980s. Are the benefits of social media for business worth taking that risk?
Taking the Good with the Bad
Social media isn’t inherently bad or “evil.” In fact, an argument can be made that the risks of avoiding social media all together far outweigh any risks. Social media does, however, tend to attract “bad consumers” or bring out the worst in competitors looking to take you down a peg or two. Think of it as corporate bullying. So, why does this happen?
• No Guilt – People tend to look at saying something nasty in cyberspace as “OK” because nobody gets physically hurt.
• Everybody’s Doing It – The most common reason to justify anything is to say “everybody else is doing it, so why can’t I.” A consumer or a not-so-nice competitor may use the same argument.
• Relative Anonymity – It’s difficult to trace reviews or posts online, especially if created with a fake account from multiple locations or posted without a name associated with it.
• No Accountability – There is a feeling of invincibility online. People tend to say, post, or tweet nasty vile things they would never say in person because they feel that there are no consequences.
Figure Out How Social Media Fits Your Business
Social media is not a one size fits all approach to marketing. Just because one business has success with a particular marketing strategy via social media, doesn’t mean that the same strategy is going to be effective for your business. Ask yourself the these two questions:
1. What are the risks to my business by using social media as a marketing tool?
Determine how prepared you really are to use social media as a marketing tool. Many businesses hop onto the social media bandwagon without fully understanding what they are getting into. If the risks are too great or there are too many unknowns for your particular business, you may want to either skip it for now until you can deal with your concerns or ease into social media on a more subtle basis.
2. What are the benefits to my business by using social media as a marketing tool?
Forget about saying “because every other business is doing it.” What works for one business doesn’t necessarily work for your business. If, for example, you are looking to explore new markets, social media can be an excellent way to branch out beyond your familiar customer base.
While there are clearly certain risks with diving into social media, the risks of avoiding social media are even greater for a business. Social media is a powerful amplifier when it comes to getting a message out instantly. There are inherent risks associated with such readily accessible technology, but this is true of any form of communication between a business and the public. The key is to build an effective social strategy that works best for your business.