I have done some social media surgeries for small businesses, helped consultancy clients, and talked to groups about social media for business-to-business (B2B) use – mainly in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector, but also last week to people in the facilities management world (Martin Brown and I led a fringe event at the BIFM annual conference in London).
Judging from the questions and the discussion at such events, there is considerable trepidation about starting to use Web 2.0, while lack of knowledge is also holding people back. I see these points have been repeated in some recent research about use of of social media in marketing.
An inability to measure outcomes and the risk of reputational damage are among the concerns that prevent organisations making the most of social media as a marketing tool, says an article, Fear of the unknown, by Peter Swabey in Information Age last month.
It cites research undertaken in partnership with online moderation tools vendor Tempero, showing that 68% of respondents’ organisations are using social media in their marketing – mainly through social networks like Facebook or Twitter (only 10% of these respondents – IT, marketing and business leaders from public and private sector organisations – used their own branded social networks or Web 2.0 platforms).
Looking at respondents’ views on barriers, risks and shortcomings of social media as a route to market, the survey found lack of staffing resources to be the number one obstacle (cited by 44%), with ‘budgetary constraint’ and a ‘lack of in-house knowledge’ also figuring highly.
The second most frequently cited barrier was the difficulty involved in measuring outcomes and proving value. This is perhaps surprising given the numerous monitoring tools that exist (in many cases, it is easier to measure the results from web-based activities than from more conventional marketing and PR). People need to find the right tools and measure the right metrics to suit their organisations and their objectives.
‘Concerns over brand reputation’ were cited by three in ten respondents as a barrier, with negative publicity a major fear. To me, this is not a barrier or a reason to block access, but a reason to be prepared. As well as harnessing technology to monitor how the organisation’s people are using social media, it is vital to put in place appropriate policies and procedures – augmenting existing guidelines on appropriate use of IT and the internet – and providing training and guidance on responsible use of the various social media platforms that the organisation chooses to engage with. It also about integrating social media so that the messages are aligned with and reinforced by what is projected through other PR, marketing and corporate communications channels.