Why Are Brands Underutilizing Social Media?

It’s easy to criticize brands for underutilizing social media (especially if you’re an “expert” like the tens of thousands on LinkedIn), but from our experience, it really comes down to two things.

Don’t let this picture deceive you.  People aren’t underutilizing social media because of my poorly Photoshopped image of the Twitter bird as Flavor Flav (original pic courtesy of Radio Grenouille).  No, they’re underutilizing social media because of TIME and Money (sorry, we didn’t have a cool picture of money).

More than a few media outlets have picked up on the fact that many CEOs aren’t using Twitter or other social media channels, and each week, I seem to get bombarded by a new marketing group of experts who wants me to pay to come to one of their conferences to learn how to use social media effectively.

Side Note:  We’re not sure how all of these people have become experts so fast or we’re not considered one too.  After all, we’ve handled social media and digital PR strategy for brands ranging from lux auto manufacturers to furniture brands to snowboards and eco-initiatives.

In our collective experience, which I’ll say is pretty solid, the top reasons people are underutilizing social media in their marketing campaigns are time and money.

On the time front, a good campaign (and not everyone needs a good campaign… lots of people do ok with less than mediocre ones) takes effort to plan.  You can either choose to blast out Tweets and send me a Facebook update every single day about how you posted a new colorway for your Fall 2010 sock collection, or you can take the effort to put some strategy behind your program and hit the right people, at the right time, the right amount of the time.  And if you’re not a social media expert (like we are!), you’re also going to need to take some time to learn about the ins and outs of these channels… factor in about a week if you’re a quick study.

The other main factor we see in brands underutilizing social media is money – human capital, finances needed to secure an outside firm to help, etc.  Although there doesn’t necessarily have to be a hard-cost media buy with social media (we’ll post later about those “pay to play” digital PR programs) execution still requires some sort of resources that you pay for in one way or another.

Your social media execution should not be left to an intern or junior colleague who is knowledgeable about what Farmville is, but won’t know how to handle negative posts, develop a strategy, see around corners, etc.  Likewise, if you have a mid-level employee manage your program, that’s adding onto their workload or taking away from another area.  There’s also the option of having a small consultancy such as BBPR or a larger firm, such as our friends at New Media Strategies, but regardless of who you use, expect to pay something for help executing in this “free” space.

To sum it up, yes, many brands are underutilizing social media (and probably aware of it).  At the same time, many are most likely also underutilizing advertising, press release blasting media relations, guerrilla events and their own website.  While these “experts” are well meaning, they should also take a step back and realize that utilizing social media isn’t as easy or “free” as we’d all like to think.  Heck, we haven’t updated our “free” blog in more than a month!


~ by doubleb on January 21, 2010.

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