For a panel discussion at the quarterly Silicon Valley Enterprise Social Media Council this June, I received the following request:

“Identify some of the major problems that you face as a leader of social media within your organization. I thought it’d be great for each of us to email our top 5 problems to see if there are consistent issues across our teams. It’s OK if you don’t have all of the solutions, that’s why we come together, right? Be honest!” (thanks, Alex Plant from NetApp )

After some thought, and reading what some of my peers had already listed, I sent the following response:

  • Myth #1: Social media is free
  • Myth #2: “2,000 Twitter followers” is a meaningful business goal
  • Myth #3: Social media is global
  • Myth #4: It’s easy to find content for social media
  • Myth #5: Marketing people have integrated social media into their tool kit

I could write a blog on each of these myths but let me give you the short rational behind each one:

Myth #1: Social Media is Free

  • It takes significant resources and time to develop social media objectives, find your target audience/build a community for your target audience, to engage, and measure your impact.
  • You always read that “content is king” in social media and that is true. You need subject matter experts who can write and communicate, as well as social media-ready content.

Myth #2: “2,000 Twitter Followers” is a Meaningful Business Goal

  • The number of followers or fans is not a meaningful goal in itself. I read recently read that the average Facebook fan is worth $3.06 for a vendor. I must assume this is mostly based on B2C statistics, but even if not, it’s an average, so you better make sure that you have the right fans or followers to create real value.
  • But the real question is: what will you do with those followers and fans once they have arrived? And how will you measure the value of that activity? How much awareness and engagement can you generate? How much does your social media effort cost and how much ROI can you derive?

Myth #3: Social Media is Global

  • Let me step back for a moment…I recently co-wrote a social media events playbook that helps people extend the reach of an onsite event beyond the physical location; potentially reaching millions of people. The key elements of the playbook strategy are: influencers, Twitter and blogs. IN THE USA, as I learned quickly.
  • Well, everybody knows that China has its own social media channels but there are huge differences in social media usage amongst the European Union countries as well.
  • Yesterday was the SAP World Tour Italy event. In terms of influencers, we had our partner TechEdge support the social media activity with Tweets and blogs. They did a fantastic job #WorldTourIT but there were only very few other people who joined the conversation. And this is only one example…There are other countries where Twitter usage is low or sentiment against social media strong.
  • Everything would be so much easier if everybody just spoke English :-) . The reality is that measuring social media activity for a specific country is difficult, especially if they speak a mix of languages (e.g. in Holland you can find English, Dutch, German…). How can a social media tools distinguish which country a Tweet came? (Contact me if you have the answer!)

Myth #4: It’s easy to Find Content for Social Media

  • Finding content seems one of the most difficult parts of social media marketing. There is a science behind figuring out what content is the most popular with your target audience but even if you know that, getting that content consistently seems very difficult.
  • One reason is that at least at SAP, social media is not yet part of every marketing person’s job. Another is that just sending URLs to white papers is not a well-rounded strategy. A person has to go and extract the salient points out of a document and Tweet them in a meaningful manner, trying to engage.
  • Content is often not appropriate for a particular conversation that is going on in a social media channel, but subject matter experts are often not at hand (many companies outsource their Twitter handles or have Interns run them).

Myth #5: Marketing People have integrated Social Media into their Tool Kits

  • I wish I were wrong but social media is mostly not integrated into other marketing activities, even though that would be one of the easiest places to start. Think about what you are already doing to achieve your business goals and how you can leverage social media to be more successful, e.g. create a video instead of a data sheet and post it on YouTube or Facebook.
  • In my humble opinion, this is partially based on the fact that people are afraid of the perceived risks of social media but the main reason is that most companies have not made social media activity part of employees’ MBOs. It’s time-consuming to write a blog, so why would you write it if your goals state that you need to produce five data sheets? As a result, your company might be missing out.

I’d very much like to hear your opinions and experience on these topics; particularly if you have found solutions to some of the challenges I listed, or simply don’t share my point of view.