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Failing to Embrace Social Media

Photo by Ibrahim.ID - Own work CC BY-SA 4.0, *

Canadians love social media. Canadian businesses . . . not so much.

Ali Salman wrote about this at Rapid Boost Marketing a while back ( Salman finds that over 62 per cent of Canadians over the age of 13 are on some kind of social media network; 79 per cent of those between the ages of 15 and 26 are on social media; and the generation just coming up use social media near exclusively to communicate with friends, family and to stay connected to those they consider influencers.

I would add that the generation that is in high school right now is more deeply invested in the world of social media than many realize. Kids attending high school now actively work to establish themselves as a ‘brand’ and use multiple social media platforms to promote their personal ‘brand’ and to become influencers.

If one talks with Canadian business owners, almost all acknowledge the importance of social media. A Bank of Montreal report from 2012 cited a Leger Marketing study ( that found one-in-three Canadian businesses acknowledged the importance of social media, and some “43 per cent business owners who anticipate growth this year agree that social media has helped their business prosper.”

The Leger Marketing study found the three top reasons for businesses to use social media were:

•To promote brand or reputation (33 per cent)

•To gather ideas or suggestions from people (23 per cent)

•To sell business products or services (23 per cent)

Why the Social Media Silence?

However, while Canadian business owners know that social media is important, there are many that are reluctant to use social media; or if they do use social media, they often do so very poorly.

When I ask business owners why, many give one of several reasons. One is that a business looks upon social media as nothing more that a sales or marketing tool. That said, social media then gets tacked onto the work of a sales or marketing person. Too often this means that social media is one extra job for an already overworked individual or a team. For those in sales, social media is a distraction. A sales person’s job is to increase sales, not spend their day using Twitter, posting to Instagram or updating the LinkedIn and Facebook site. Marketing people see social media as nothing more than a means to push out press releases or promotional materials. They are not there to engage with customers on social media.

Another reason is the supposed cost. Business owners will say that they want to use social media, but they have no budget for it. Don’t think for a moment this only happens if the business is small or starting up, and budgets are tight. I know of one large company that has an over one-hundred-year history and it has no social media footprint at all. When I asked their head of marketing and sales about this, he said it was because the company did not budget for social media. And there were no plans to do so in the future.


he next major reason is fear. There are enough stories of how companies have gotten grief with a poor social media strategy or a social media campaign gone wrong to give many pause. Wanting to avoid possible problems means they forego any social media engagement.

Finally, some companies that do use social media often do so poorly. One marketing manager told me that his company only engaged with social media when they have some new product to announce. The rest of the time, nothing. This company can go months without ever posting anything on the company’s Facebook site or even to send out a tweet.

Getting Business to Embrace Social Media

If Canadian business are to more actively embrace social media, several things needs to be done. One of the most crucial is that social media cannot be done half-heartedly. You either commit to fully embracing social media, or you don’t. Half-measures won’t do.

Even before you do that, you first have to understand how your customers want to use social media when they engage with your business. Too often, a business will take the approach that they should use every tool out there and then wait to see what works. Find out which social media tools your customers use most often and how they use those tools to communicate with a business, and what they want from a business on social media.

Use this information to then formulate a social media plan. Then make sure you have the buy-in from the top. Too often I’ve seen social media plans fall apart when it becomes apparent to everyone in the company that upper management is not interested in the plan or in social media in the first place. Whatever enthusiasm the rest of the employees may have for social media, if the owner or upper management are not behind it, it will quickly fail. Don’t underestimate how important it is to get the upper management behind your social media strategy. I’ve seen companies have a staff come around to social media and make it work when upper management made it a priority and pushed for it.

Now the really critical part. Social media is not an off-shoot of marketing or sales. It needs its own team and budget. It can start off small, maybe one person who is tasked to get the ball rolling and has the support of management; and they have a modest budget to work with. But you need a dedicated person or even a team to make it work. If it is treated as an afterthought or made to be just another job for a sales or marketing team to do, it will not succeed.

Social media is now something that can’t be ignored. To succeed, you have to invest in the technology and in a team to make it a success.

*By Ibrahim.ID - Own work based on: file:F icon.svg file:Twitter logo.svg file:Twitter Logo Mini.svg file:Blogger icon.svg file:Digg.svg file:Delicious.svg file:Flickr.svg file:Google plus icon.svg file:Linkedin icon.svg file:Instagram Shiny Icon.svg file:Myspace icon.jpg file:Openid.svg file:Pinterest Shiny Icon.svg file:Quora icon.png file:Sharethis.svg file:Rss-feed.svg file:Skype-icon.png file:StumbleUpon Logo.svg file:Vimeo.svg file:Soundcloud-logo-black.png file:Logo Youtube.svg, CC BY-SA 4.0,

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