Why Companies are Afraid of Social Media

“We don’t do social media, because people might say bad things about us,” the executive said. “If we have a Facebook page, people might leave negative comments on it.”

“They’re already saying bad things about you,” I said. “Whether you’re on it or not, people are complaining about you, and they’re telling as many of their friends as they can.”

The rest of the conversation went as expected. Reason after reason. Excuse after excuse. We’re not on social media because. . .  we don’t do social media because we. . . it’s only for young people. . .

In No Bullshit Social Media, we listed 28 different reasons companies are afraid of using social media: no money, no experience, no guaranteed results, we’ve never done it that way before, yada yada yada.

There are any number of reasons why companies are afraid, and there are only a few reasons why they shouldn’t be. But these reasons trump all the excuses any business can ever come up with.

1) Social media is not going away. It’s not a fad. It’s not something we’ll forget about. Social media has been brewing for the last 30 years, when Compuserve and Prodigy started as community bulletin boards. Or even before that when real computer bulletin boards were introduced in the 1970s. Companies may come and go, but real-time communication isn’t going anywhere.

2) Social media has gained wide acceptance faster than any other medium. It took radio 38 years to reach 50 million listeners; television took 13 years to get 50 million viewers. Facebook, on the other hand, added 100 million users in 9 months. Social media is only going to grow and get a stronger foothold in the way we communicate and receive information and news.

3) Social media is inexpensive. Facebook is free, Twitter is free, blogging is free, assuming you’ve got the time and knowledge to use it. If you don’t, you can hire people to manage it for you. It’s no different from hiring in-house or outsourced professionals to manage your TV ads, your websites, and your trade shows. The only difference is once you hire social media people, your overhead is mostly finished; the tools don’t cost anything to operate.

If you hire someone to produce your TV ads, there’s still the costs of actually creating them, and then buying the airtime. You can hire people to manage your trade shows, but you still have to pay the added costs of booth space and rentals, going there, working it, and coming home. Plus expenses.

4) Social media marketing can be measured. One big difference between social media marketing and regular marketing is that we can measure social media marketing through tools like Google Analytics and SocialMention.com (both free) and Radian6 and Vocus (both paid services).

How do you measure a billboard? How do you know how many people drove by, read it, and bought your product? How do you measure a TV commercial? How do you know how many people actually sat through the entire commercial and bought as a direct result? How many walked away after 20 seconds? 10 seconds? How many people never even saw it because they changed the channels?

With social media, we can tell who read a blog post, clicked a link, and then made a purchase. Mainstream media can give you estimates and guesses, but they can’t actually count. Social media can tell you how long someone watched a video or visited a website, when they clicked away, and where they went. Mainstream media can only guess at the numbers of viewers, listeners, and readers.

Social media marketing isn’t going away. And while it seems like everybody is using it, there are still hundreds of thousands of businesses that haven’t even considered it. It’s not too late to start. It’s not too late to create a Twitter account or a blog, and then talk directly to, and hear directly from, your customers. There’s nothing to be afraid of, and there are plenty of people to help you get through the rough spots.

Erik Deckers is the co-author of Branding Yourself: Using Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself, and most recently, the co-author of No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing. He is co-owner of Professional Blog Service, a ghost blogging and social media consulting agency in Indianapolis.

Your CEO Should NOT Know Social Media

My friend Nancy Myrland has posed an interesting question on her blog, Should a CEO Be Fluent in Social Media.

No.

Nancy’s post (which was based on a Mashable article by the same headline) makes a good point that a CEO should get social media.

After all, says Nancy, the CEO is the face of his or her company. They should be able to use the tools that allow them to have relationships with the customers.

Still no.

Okay, “no, unless.”

Unless it’s a small company, where the CEO is doing a lot of the day-to-day work, they should. Basically, if you’re a CEO, and you still have to set up your own booth at a trade show, then you need to be able to use social media to converse with your customers.

You also need to know how to run payroll, fulfill shipping orders, edit your website, balance your books, and use the photocopier. (Handling the social media is the least of your worries.)

But if your company is large enough that you barely know the names of the people who work two levels below you, then no, you shouldn’t. You have people for that. As a CEO, you’re barely fluent in how to make the products or services you sell.

Manufacturing CEOs don’t know how to build their products, their floor managers do. Automotive CEOs don’t know how to design cars, their engineers do. Entertainment CEOs don’t know how to mix albums or edit movies, their producers and editors do.

(I doubt that any of them can work their phone system or make photocopies without yelling “Jaaaaa-nettttt!! Can you fix this stupid thing?! Damn technology, whatever happened to the good old days?”)

Frankly, I don’t want these people using social media. They have work to do. They should be running the company, not worrying over every detail in accounting, HR, and marketing. And social media.

More importantly, I have seen what happens when someone who barely understands how his or her administrative assistant sends an email decides they’re going to get involved in some of the deep-level marketing decisions. (It’s just not pretty.) When it comes to social media, it takes a lot of coaching just to get them to understand the technology. Understanding why they should do it is even harder.

But most importantly, CEOs are busy. Their time is worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars per hour. They make more money scratching their nose than I make in an entire day. I don’t think they should be actually operating the company Twitter account, writing a 500 word blog post about their latest product, or making status updates on Facebook (“I’m on a motherf—ing boat, y’all. No srsly, I’m taking the Bored of Directors (haha!) out on a deep-sea fishing trip. C-ya L8er, loosers!”).*

If they want to do their own Twitter account, or have time to blog while they’re traveling to and from exotic locales on the company jet (a la Sir Richard Branson), let them. But they’re the exception, not the rule.

However, you small business CEOs, this doesn’t let you off the hook. You absolutely need to know how to do this. You’re already the marketing, bookkeeping, and HR department. And as much as you think it’s going to add to your workload, this is a great way to grow your company, hire employees to take care of the marketing, bookkeeping, and human resources.

And then you can take your board of directors out on a deep-sea fishing boat. Just make sure you bring most of them back.

(*Yes, I know I spelled “losers” wrong. I did that for hyperbole and comedic effect.)

Photo credit: Stalin (Picasa)

How the Internet Has Caused the Current Economic Situation

When it comes to the economy, I think we’re missing the point.

The old system is broken. Let’s talk about that.

There are arguments about what to do to help ease the burden of the current recession. The Democrats got their big stimulus package, the Republicans want more tax cuts. It’s the same debate we’ve heard for the last 30 years. Yet, it seems to me that something much bigger is really happening right now. There is a change that is much bigger than stimulus spending or tax cuts. It’s the Internet.

The Internet has totally disrupted our traditional economy. It has wreaked havoc on traditional industries. Having worked in the travel industry back in the ’90s, the change started immediately with the introduction of the Internet. Travel Agencies started going out of business. Now one can argue it was the loss of commissions on sales of tickets that started it, but as soon as on-line agencies began to replace the corner travel agent, the final nail in the coffin was in place.

Travel is not the only industry where this disruption has occurred:

1. Newspapers – going out of business
2. Music Industry – total disruption of music distribution
3. YouTube – you can watch anything and everything and be entertained for free
4. Airlines – who wants to fly when you have webex or gotomeeting
5. Automobiles – who needs a $30,000 car when you can work from home now.
6. Retail – why fight traffic at the mall, when you can shop online?
7. News – traditional 1/2 hour news has never been the same
8. Microsoft – Open Source is killing their business

There is a lot more going on in the world economy. The stimulus packages and tax cuts are not the solution to our problems right now. I think first, we need to understand that we are going through a major change in the global economy that is being driven by the Internet. Traditional industries are under pressure because they want to continue to be faceless corporations in the age of information. Customers may know more about their products or services than they know about themselves because people are talking about them.

Take the case of the automotive industry. On the whole, the majority of Americans do not have much sympathy for US automakers. They have watched as the industry has not really done much over the past 30 years to change its ways. The unions are unwilling to change their behavior, and neither is management. They should ask themselves why their competitors have fewer labor-management problems.

The big nameless corporation is dying. The age of the Entrepreneur is here today. The Internet is driving this new age. People have to change their ambitions from getting jobs to creating jobs. Or, understanding that they have to take a more proactive role in their employment. The age of hiding behind your job is over. People need to understand we live in a global economy, not a local economy. Education needs to be part of the culture, not the pariah it has now become. Everyone needs to participate in education, not just teachers and students.

Throwing money to treat a mortal wound, or cutting taxes without cleaning the wound before it is treated, will not save us. We need real change. We need a radical approach. First, we need to recognize that we are entering a new economy. Let the old one die.