Is Social Too Hard For Most Businesses?

Is Social Too Hard For Most Businesses?

Social Media is Too HardOver the past week I’ve seen an amazing number of what can only be called “missteps” in social and it got me wondering whether being social is just too hard for most businesses. In particular what has amazed me is the number of those who have been less than careful with their social presence who are supposed to be in a position of advising others on the use of social media – marketers and PR companies in particular.

Social Is Too Hard

Economically times are tough. Every one is pressed for time. The “do more with less” philosophy is running rampant and driving business is what is expected of everyone at a company. It seems that in reducing the amount of time any one channel receives being social has become too hard for a lot of businesses, particularly businesses who are supposedly associated with being social. This is a worrying trend. What seems to be missing from these organizations is the understanding that while social media are channels through which you can communicate, the receivers at the end of that channel have to be nurtured, relationships have to be built, trust has to be gained. All of that takes time, time that apparently cannot be spared by these companies.

Over the past week I have seen small businesses berate and argue with customers on Twitter, large PR company employees use their personal Twitter accounts to comment disparagingly about people, conference organizers make demands of speakers in return for nothing and small PR companies use Twitter like a Press release outlet. Are we all so rushed that we have given up even the pretense of being social? Are we all just so desperate to get our message out that we don’t care about the image we portray?

Has Social Become Too Hard For Us?

There is no doubt that being social is hard work. It is time consuming and can sometimes lead to disappointment. Anyone who has been in business longer than five years knows that this has nothing to do with social media. Before Twitter we went to events and networked. We would “work” the room, dipping in and out of conversations, hoping that someone might be interested in what we did for a living and  maybe just maybe we would make a useful contact that we could nurture into a lead and eventually a sale.

Many people still work this way, without the help of any social media channels and do it well. They take the time to develop relationships. I know Car sales people who are selling cars to the third and fourth generation of family members and have been in the business 20+ years. They don’t use Twitter or any other social media channel, the build relationships. For them being social is as natural as breathing. Perhaps social isn’t too hard, perhaps the technology is making us lazy?

Social Isn’t too Hard

The reality is that social isn’t too hard, but it is time consuming and of course there are plenty of automated tools out there that will make tweeting, posting to Facebook or Google Plus or your blog less time consuming but those are just the media. The real success stories in social come from those who actually nurture relationships. Finding that even people who align themselves with “social” as part or all of their business failing to recognize this fact is a trend that I find concerning.

PR companies that berate their audiences, small businesses that argue in public with their customers, Tweets that start with “For Immediate Release” and conference organizers that threaten to pull sessions if speakers don’t use their social networks to promote the conference should be things of the past. I’ve always been an advocate of content being king, but the ace that trumps it is relationships.

Is Social Too Hard for you?


image used under CC Licence by meehanf
About Simon Salt

Simon Salt has been creating online content since 1993 and blogging since 2000. He is an author, speaker and digital strategist. He can be found on most social networks as "incslinger". When he isn't working he is either taking photographs or riding his motorcycle - sometimes at the same time.

  • James Ball

    Hello Simon, I stopped in because of your title…and I would agree that yes, social is too hard for most businesses. I have in fact bet the farm on this one statement. I have worked in this space for quite some time as a consultant, blogger, guide, mentor, etc. to small business. I have walked the true path as a purist; always seeking to educate and elevate understanding. I did this with every intention on helping to facilitate the integration of new media and small business.
    What I see and am willing to admit is that as I look into the rearview to check up on past clients…99% have crashed and burned. This is echoed by my peers in this space who are candid with me.
    I see that you provide social media services to businesses. Perhaps you have seen a change lately. Maybe more and more are coming to realize that try as they might, they just can’t do all of this on their own. No?
    You confuse me a bit, and I’d love it if you could defend this statement, “The reality is that social isn’t too hard…”
    Look Simon, if social media truly matters to a small business (and I say that it matters to ALL small businesses where search results may have an impact on their bottom line and or competitiveness….search, SEO, social, mobile – all melding and gelling anymore, won’t you agree?), how can one be expected to do all that he can to deliver value, deliver great experiences, grow his business as only he can….and make sandwiches or do whatever it is in this world that he has set out to do?
    I never would “do” FOR these people. I felt that none could better and more realistically represent Steve or Phil and their business online better than Steve or Phil.
    Now, and over the last year I have changed my spots and my tune. I’ve built a company that exists ONLY to provide fractional human beings – skilled “Web Operatives” to these small businesses. I don’t think small business will EVER embrace the digital marketing of their own web presences. Much like a small business needs a CPA or an Attorney, I think an outsourced human being will be the way that history remembers that small business grabbed and leveraged the awesome power of what the web can deliver.

  • Megan Ching

    Great post! I’ve already passed it on to several people who work in hospitality/tourism and are involved with social media.  My colleagues and I have found that social is most successful when you are intentional about building relationships and sharing information. 

    I cringe when I see businesses who simply push out press releases or scripted posts on a semi-weekly basis for the sake of having social media.  We’ve been fortunate to build relationships with our followers and those followers have become ‘advocates’ for our company – if someone posts something negative/incorrect about the Monorail, those ‘advocates’ are the first to speak up for us.  It’s wonderful!  We enjoying sharing information and swapping content with other attractions in the area – our social community has been very supportive and has helped us grow and expand.

  • Chris Burdge

    I’ve wondered the same thing recently Simon, as I look back at many of the business owners that have attended my workshops and conferences. I’m sure they all attend with the best of intentions but for whatever reason not all end up creating and implementing successful social media strategies.  

    I think an interesting exercise would be to analyze 5 that are doing it well and 5 that aren’t and see if there are any patterns in terms of the type of business, type of person, etc. 

    Off the top of my head I know those that are successfully leveraging social media to grow their business through creating, nurturing and growing relationships, are those people that a) have a ‘social personality’, b) enjoy the technology (or at least don’t have a mental block around it), c) are in it for the long haul and don’t see SM as a quick fix that they give up on if it doesn’t produce quantifiable results in 3 months. 

    Would make a great theme for a panel at SMC12 next June…

  • tom hammarberg

    interesting observation. The ease of access and use, and the relative anonymity of the Twitter/Facebook stream mean that many appear to forget they’re talking to people. Those that do use these tools to genuinely engage have their efforts hampered by the limited space to converse and build trust.

    All the subtleties that we pick up on in face to face conversation that would steer a conversation are absent so we effectively tweet/post in a vacuum. No wonder many resort to using social media as a broadcast channel.

    I wrote about this in regard to Twitter a while back and unfortunately don’t see it getting any better.

    From Jay Baer’s latest post it’s clear there’s a worrying trend.
    Ultimately do we have to accept that Twitter isn’t actually a social media channel any more?
    Once we accept that, we can better manage our expectations for Twitter and other platforms


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