Social Media Adoption – 5 Barriers to Success

Last week I spoke at the social media and sports summit in Nottingham organized by the UK Sports Network. The name of the half day conference was ‘Breaking down the barriers’ as many in the UK sports industry are still tentatively feeling their way into social media. Keeping with the same theme, here are five of the barriers I have encountered when talking with sports clubs, but they apply to any organizations that are new to social media.

1. Too much social media hype

Social Media HypeIt is getting very hard to ignore the social media bandwagon. Each day brands and organizations are being bombarded with stats showing that Facebook now has more users than there are stars in the sky, businesses are making millions of pounds through Twitter and more people are watching YouTube than TV. The result has been many organizations jumping on the bandwagon without doing the necessary planning to work out how social media can help the overall business . It is easy to see the opportunities with social media and sales and marketing teams are always going to jump on these, but taking a step back, developing a clear strategy for social to: help sell more stuff, create better dialogue with the customers or improve the service will be far more valuable in the long run.

2. Social media marketing is mislabelled

The boss still thinks social media is something his teenage daughter wastes her time on when she should be studying! Sound familiar? I think social media is currently mislabeled and (hopefully) will eventually become another channel that businesses use to connect with their customers. Businesses need agencies and consultants to come to them with business or communication strategies and programs that use social technologies to deliver better customer experiences, not social media campaigns. While it is seen as an independent program, it will be treated with skepticism by those who haven’t grown up with the new social tools.

3. Shiny object syndrome

This ties in the with hype problem. All we hear from the ‘mainstream media’ is the tools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Foursquare and the phenomenal growth they are enjoying. This leads to organisations and brands focusing on developing strategies based around the technology, when they might not be the most effective channel to the customer. Organisations need to do their research on their customers and find out which networks their customers use, how they use them, what content they like producing and sharing and who is influential. Once they have this knowledge and have done some internal planning on what resources they have, then they can choose the technology platform(s) which best suit their needs. Also, be wary about marrying your communications to one channel. As we have seen with MySpace, Bebo and Friendster, the network of the moment can quickly shed users or change focus.

4. Company culture

social media company cultureThe biggest barrier to adoption at the moment is for businesses to become more social.  For centuries, business has been used to communications being a one way street and companies have constructed their internal processes accordingly. Successful social media adoption means a cultural shift away from controlling messages and staff communications and letting go of some of the notions that shaped the media landscape – brand identity, press releases, corporate policies. Yes, it sounds scary and yes, new processes and technology need to be used to help it scale but organizations need to buy in to the reality that customers are going to dictate how and what they want to buy and the type of service that is necessary for them to become a brand advocate and spread positive WOM. Once that sinks in, then social needs to be integrated from the top down or bottom up (depending where the spark happens!).

5. Confusion over social media measurement

There are no universal metrics for measuring social media yet, and there might never be. Measurement of social programs has to be in context to the individual business, it is not as simple as impressions and clicks. What equals success for one company might not for the next and that makes universal metrics very hard to establish. However, if you have done your planning and know what your business objectives (sales, foster dialogue, increase customer engagement, gain market intelligence) are, then you can track these metrics and work out what equals success for your business.

There also seems to be confusion over ROI. This could be a post in itself, but if you are confused about ROI of social media then check out this presentation by Olivier Blanchard. He explains it better than I ever could!

What have I missed? What other barriers have you experienced to social media adoption? I’d love to hear your thoughts

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