6 Reasons You’re Not Rocking Social Media

You know the value is there in social media, but despite your best efforts (or what you think are your best efforts), you’re still struggling to attract anyone. What’s going on and how can you change your social media luck? Below are six reasons SMBs often fail in social media and how you can turn it around.

Stop me when this sounds familiar.

You have no framework: Perhaps the largest reason small business owners fail to see an ROI with social media is because they jumped in without creating a social plan or framework for what they were trying to do. Social media may be ‘newer’ (in theory, anyway), but it’s still a marketing channel. That means before you go into it you want to develop a framework for your objectives, know how you’ll achieve them and determine the key performance indicators you’ll note along the way to make sure you’re on track. Walking into any marketing channel without a clear plan for why you’re there is a recipe for disaster.  Make sure you create your strategy BEFORE you try to implement one.

If you need help putting things in place or figuring out how/what/where you should be tracking, the folks at Web Analytics Demystified and Altimeter Group put out a free white paper on social marketing analytics that includes some really powerful information. I recommend you give it a read.

You don’t have great content: This is a biggie. If you’re finding it difficult to engage people through social media, then it may be a sign that you’re not giving them enough to engage with – ie you need better content! Content in social media incorporates everything from your tweets, to status updates, to the posts you publish on your blog. It doesn’t matter how likable, charismatic or helpful you are online, if you’re publishing things of little interest, no one is going to care about the content OR your brand. You may want to use competitive intelligence tools like Quarkbase or Daily RT to see what pieces of content competitors have had success with, Google’s Keyword Research Tool or Google Trends to find out what people are searching for or work on your copywriting skills to help you write more engaging tweets and posts.

You’re targeting the wrong site/audience: Finding customers in social media does not mean creating an account on the largest social media site and setting up shop there. It means finding the site where YOUR people are most apt to talk about you. And that takes understanding where it is your customers hang out on the Web. It doesn’t matter how many millions of users Facebook has if your target demographic spends it’s time on BallHype. Or, even worse, offline. If you’re using Google Analytics, you can check your referrers to see where social media visitors are coming from or you could do something really crazy and ASK your customers which social networks they use and, if they’d be willing, for their usernames so you could “connect” with them.

You put the wrong people in charge: A good degree of your success in social media will have to do with the person(s) running your social media campaign. Brands that tend to do well are the ones that are personable, humble, and that genuinely enjoy talking to people and being social. If that person is not you or someone inside your organization, then you may have a difficult time attracting anyone. Customers can generally tell if an employee likes what they’re doing or finds having to talk to people as enjoyable as making a return the day after Christmas. They want to engage with people who are, themselves, engaging. If that’s not something you can deliver, then consider hiring someone to help you, whether it’s a new employee or a social media marketing company.

You’re not listening: There are two different kinds of companies in social media. Those that listen, and those that sell. Companies who engage in the latter typically have a difficult time gaining traction. While you can definitely use social media to target customers and sell to them, you have to develop a relationship with them first. You need to know who they are, understand their wants, and then give them something that actually has value to them. This is one of the biggest point of differences we see with Facebook Fan Pages that do well, compared to those that do not. Pages that succeed are the ones who are able to leverage personal relationships with customers to offer them something they’re actually interested in. And they can offer that because they’ve listened. They’ve used Twitter Search to hone in on conversations, they’re watching brand mentions on Facebook walls, and they’re making improvements in real-time. That’s the power of social media – the ability it gives you to bob and weave in line with what your customers are asking for.

You’re just ‘dabbling’ with it: If you spent twenty dollars a month on your television ads, you probably wouldn’t be too upset when they don’t convert for you. Of course they’re not bringing in droves of customers; you’re not really using television. You’re just ‘dabbling’. Well, if you spend nothing on social media, then you’re going to see the same return. And that’s where many small businesses are right now – they’re ‘dabbling’ or ‘experimenting’ in social, but they’re not dedicating any resources to it. They’re not hiring people to do it, they’re not investing in real campaigns, and they’re not paying for tools that will help them monitor and benchmark what they’re doing.  Just like with anyone else, the investment you put in is going to dictate the value you get out of it. Small business owners who ‘dabble’, should expect to get dabbling results.

Above are six of the biggest reasons I’ve seen for why companies don’t get as much out of social media as they could. What have been your experiences with it?


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

30 Reactions
  1. Most social media efforts won’t create a community, but instead will tap into an existing community online. That makes it doubly important to go to the sites/networks where your ideal demographic are already hanging out. Then when you contribute good content and add value, you’ll be welcomed into the community and people will be more receptive to offers (they may even ask for them).

  2. Thank you, Lisa.

    You make some great points. No dabbling, that’s for sure.

    Can’t become obsessed either, I suppose.

    How the heck can we all find a place in the middle?

    The Franchise King

  3. Lisa,

    Your article really addresses the situation I am in right now with social media. The biggest problem I am dealing with is finding out where “my people” hang out on the web. Because I am trying to break into new markets asking existing customers will not help. I do use Google Analytics but I did not know it was possible to see which web site my referral hits are coming from?

    I am going to bookmark this article and work on implementing your great suggestions!


  4. Fantastic advice and all true but I would like to add that another reason you might not be “rocking” is that you haven’t given it enough time. Social media develops an inertia and it takes a plan, some sweat, and some time to yield results.

  5. “Listening” to the Wrong people is actually a HUGE one.

    Many people “Think” they are doing the right thing because they are following the advice of the wrong people avbout social media.

    Nice Post!



  6. We RT your article…thanks for insight…@socialnetguide

  7. #7: You forget to be a human 🙂 meaning trying to emulate corporations and big brands

  8. Its those very dabblers that expect big results with so little investment of time, resources and someone to show them how it all works. Shocked that a couple of tweets a week will never bring in droves of traffic, they give up – or keep dabbling for nothing.

  9. Fantastic article Lisa Barone! Thank you for setting it straight.

  10. I completely agree with Lara Dickson and her comment on dabblers expecting great things without fully committing their efforts in social media. Tyler WebCPA is also right in the fact that he says it takes time to see any results. Like any relationship, it takes time to build report within a community and it takes even more time to build business relationships. I think the #1 reason people are falling short on a return is because they don’t understand the “social” aspect of social media. Social media services shouldn’t be used solely as self promoting mediums where individuals can talk about how awesome they are but as forums where niche communities can be an open forum where individuals connect with one another. From personal observation, it’s not just the “dabblers” who don’t see expectations come to fruition. It’s the people who don’t make an effort to connect with a target market such as customers, clients, or other professionals who don’t get anything out of social media.

  11. It’s obvious to me that “YOU ROCK” Lisa, great article! Love the “Between the Eyes” approach 🙂

    @CBRELongBeach (@TheRECoach)

  12. Good stuff…I’m glad to see you calling out social media as communications vehicles that should have their own strategy. I do see one missing point – most traditional media were, by their very nature, “push” focused. Push simply doesn’t work effectively on here. It’s important to not only have a plan, but to have a plan that is well matched to the vehicle. And also not to underestimate the time, effort, and monetary investments it will require to do it right.

  13. LA (Leslie Anne) Palamar

    Very thoughtful, level-headed article Lisa. Love the focus on Social Media as it relates to marketing. Would be interested in your perspective on Social Media as it relates to sales. There is definite overlap, but I’m sure you have some additional insights to share.

    Will be following you on Twitter and will be back to visit your site.

  14. Hi Lisa, great list! I might also add ‘marketing integration’ with R&D, industry events, product launches, PR activities, ad campaigns. Many people think of the framework and content as being exclusive to the SM channel, never bringing the entire brand to life.

  15. Denise Toussaint

    I understand the website thing, however just to play devil’s advocate, I for one, find all this “fan us on facebook” stuff a real pain in my butt. I did not join facebook to get bombarded with requests for free advertisments and regardless of wether I know the business well or even frequent their locations I will not fan them. Furthermore, Twitter is a very sad exercise in self importance. It has given people these 140 word billboards to make themselves feel important. My days are too busy to follow anyone on twitter. So, with all that said, I feel all of this social media stuff right now only works with a small segment of the population and if your target market is older or if the products and services you offer don’t lend themselves well to the “social scene”, don’t waste your time right now. Focus on the things you know work.

  16. Excellent points, Lisa. I guess it comes down to a very simple statement… social media: don’t wing it! Unfortunately, too often than not, people do try to wing it, get dismayed at the results, and then claim that “this social media stuff” doesn’t work. But, of course, we know otherwise.

  17. great article – you definitely have to give things time to develop. People think because of the immediacy of social media that the ROI should be that way too. well it’s not. You have to nurture your campaign just the way you would any other type of product or project.

  18. Amanda Wodzenski

    Great Article.

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Just like any other media – social media should be part of a comprehensive marketing plan and business plan. Many small businesses consider this “free” advertising. Businesses need to consider costs, opportunities, and opportunity costs when putting their plan together.

  19. 1. Social media strategy should be aligned with the overall marketing strategy.

    2. Social media strategy should have a target audience

    3. Social media strategy should also include ways to measure the performance

    Great post


  20. I think most of those reasons can be linked to your content reason. If you aren’t listening, your content will be poorly affected. Your content is directly related to who you target and if you are just dabbling in it, there your content will suffer as well. You’ve listed some great tips here though!

  21. Lisa, I think you hit the nail on the head with this post. I have many clients that have come to me after working with the “wrong people”. Many small businesses aren’t sure of who their audience is and where they are online. And many marketeers aren’t really sure where to find them either. As the web grows in the ways it is used the number of unqualified individuals will as well. It is unfortunate. Great post!

  22. Great article, Lisa.

    You make a great point about just dabbling in social media. I see so many people follow the crowd and begin a social media campaign assuming there will be results in 1 week. They give up and begin to doubt the power of it. I work for an SEO business, Pear Analytics, and I see how influential social media can be, but there is a catch. What I have noticed is that you have to be totally immersed in it and hit multiple social network channels. It is time consuming, but worth it!

    Another point I want touch on that you mention is content. Not only does the content of your campaign have to be solid, but if there is no home base, such as a website to link back to, then it falls apart. Good SEO can help with this problem. You don’t even have to purchase expensive SEO consulting. In fact, my company is about to launch our new free web page analyzer tool.

    I invite your readers to sign up for our beta release of our re-enginnered free SEO analysis tool and look forward to any feedback.

  23. WOW you hit the hammer right on the head

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