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June 13, 2013
What Is Your Brand's Excuse for Not Using Social Media?
As an active user of and believer in social media, I find it amazing to hear that some brands don’t currently use social media and don’t plan to any time soon. Over the last few years, I’ve worked on several social media consulting projects for a variety of different brands and just last week I spoke at a B2B manufacturers’ conference in Manhattan about how social media impacts their industry. These are the reasons I most often hear for not using it:
  • “We don’t have enough people to manage social media.”
  • “It’s not in our budget.”
  • “Our target isn’t using it, so why should we?”
  • “What if we get negative posts or comments from people?”
  • “The legal department won’t let us. It’s a liability.”
  • And so on and so on…
I see very few legitimate explanations as to why companies or products aren’t in this game, so I decided to do some research and gather more information directly from the source: brand managers. I received responses from a variety of business people and marketers, each with interesting reasons for not using social media. The responses fell into three main categories:
1.     Our product is boring
2.     Don’t/can’t see the value
3.     We sell spy gear
Allow me to elaborate and respond to each of these so-called excuses.
Excuse #1. Our product is boring and no one talks about this kind of stuff on social media.
A couple of the specific products mentioned were kitchen cabinet hardware and contact lenses. I argue against the thought that no one talks about these products on social media. My rule of thumb is that if people have actual face-to-face conversations about something, they also have these same conversations via social media.
Rebuttal #1. I personally have been in the market before for each of these products and have asked (in person) friends, family, and/or experts for their advice prior to the purchase. I could imagine posting something on Facebook asking for advice about these products as well. I know I am only a focus group of one, so I did some additional research using SocialMention.com (a free social media search tool). I searched for “cabinet knobs” and there were 57 mentions within the last week and the results also indicated that this term is mentioned every two hours on average.
I ran a similar query for “contact lenses” and there were 136 mentions in the last week with a mention every 47 seconds on average. Based on these quick research results, I would say that even though your product is boring or is a commodity, people do talk about most anything online. I’m confident that these brands could find a way to narrowly focus in on their targets and become a part of these social media conversations in order to build their brands and drive business. A tactical example would be to set up Twitter search for “contact lenses” and if someone Tweeted, “Where’s the best place to buy contact lenses?” you could respond with a link to your brand’s website. For cabinet hardware, you could set up a blog that offers tips and suggestions for updating your kitchen.
Excuse #2. We just don’t see the value in doing social media.
This rationale often comes from small businesses with only a few employees and/or brands targeting a very niche audience. They feel they don’t have the resources to manage the ins and outs of a social campaign and don’t believe that the time invested will return the appropriate revenue. Or, they think their efforts will be wasted on the masses since the size of their distinct audience is so small.
Rebuttal #2. I’m confident that a focused social media strategy could be designed for 99% of all brands — one that is manageable with limited resources and one that will reach a very narrow audience. The great thing about social media is that you can hone in on a very distinct group via the outlet(s) you choose, the key words you monitor, the content you post, and the comments you make. You can also design social media plans around your resource requirements — it can be as big or small as you want it to be. Another thing to keep in mind is that social media results may not always be measurable in terms of revenue, but it is a great way to improve/protect your brand reputation and engage in dialogue with loyal customers.
Excuse & Rebuttal #3. I have to say that I can’t seem to come up with a good rebuttal against the “we sell spy gear to those that want to catch a cheating spouse, so no one wants to follow us on social media” excuse (see www.CheatersSpyShop.com). This is one of the few good reasons I’ve come across for not being on social media. I could see how people wouldn’t want to be associated or seen interacting with a brand that offers spy gadgets to uncover infidelity.
Today, social media is becoming an important way of doing business and isn’t just a sideshow or one-off marketing tactic. Keep in mind that social media can also be used by brands to enhance sales and lead generation processes, handle customer service inquiries, perform market research, monitor competitive activity, improve human resources efforts, manage investor relations, and boost internal collaboration and communication.
I love a good challenge. So if you have any other arguments against companies or products using social media, please offer them in the Comments area below and I’ll do my best to counter or maybe even add to your argument. 

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Emily K. Howarda marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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