An interesting talk today to my dentist, yes my dentist, on social media (in between fixing a broken tooth). He was asking me was social media the right thing for him in his business.

He quotes “people don’t like coming to me really, I provide a community service and don’t really sell anything”.  Just out of interest I checked this out – very interesting.

Top 10 Dentists in Social Media


But, this discussion made me think further, is there a set of guidelines for businesses to consider before commencing social media engagements? Or, is it that sooner or later everybody will be on social media, so get on with it and deliver what you can. At @iGo2, we believe if you aren’t going to succeed, then don’t start. Let me explain.

At iGo2 we are often asked to look at social media engagements where  businesses have decided to “get into social media” because everybody else is.

Some of the pitfalls we see are:

1. Approach – Most companies seem to know exactly which services they want, but the approach tends to be largely a tactical one. At iGo2 we prefer to work from a more strategic perspective. We find that organisations who focus solely on tactical campaigns, generally do not do succeed with their social media initiatives, and are often disappointed in the returns. Any business today demands an ROI and that requires a strategic approach.

2. Goals and Objectives – Most state pretty clear goals such as having x000 fans or “Likers” on Facebook.  Obviously an easily measured objective. But why? What does that give the organisation? How does it create new customers? – we find there is a huge difference between someone who likes a brand and who is, or becomes a customer. What we like to focus on is how it shifts loyalty, generates revenue and improves repeat business? Operational metrics like numbers of fans do not necessarily mean effective social media and more importantly lead to improved business results.

3. Channels Selection – Most select Facebook and Twitter as their platforms immediately? It is likely these are important in most social mixes but there are other platforms and networks which may be equally important. We first research brand, target segments, competitors etc to ensure that these are the right platforms to begin the social media journey.

4. Outsourcing – We also generally advise against a third party actually updating the networks. The social media world is littered with examples of failure using this approach. Social business requires transparency, honesty and commitment by the business. As a rule we believe organisations should post their own updates – no one knows the business like you do, no one is as passionate about it as you, no one believes in it like you do, and that needs to shine through in your engagements. When we talk about building relationships with customers and markets as an objective, engaging a 3rd party to do the “talking” is not generally considered best practice. Having a third party engage in those conversations, respond, retweet, answer complaints – says that the brand wants to keep doing what its always done and someone does the SM ‘thing’. There is no buy in, no commitment, often no result and a PR nightmare if something goes wrong. There is however no issue with 3rd parties handling difficult and routine work like monitoring, which frees up people for engagement i.e the execution part of the strategy.  It is then effectively buying a service with no on-boarding costs, no management overhead, no exit costs. Organisations can then focus on actively “talking with” and growing their communities. However, setting up social media properties, monitoring those properties and providing strategic analysis and advice are all excellent items to solicit third party help.

In summary some guidelines for businesses looking to get into social media properly could be:

Ø  First up, its not FREE, – it does cost money – allocate some budget

Ø  Ensure the goals of why you want social media in your business are clear and selected for the right reasons

Ø  Assess, and listen first and then determine implementation and strategy (form follows function)

Ø  Be committed to being part of the solution  - start listening

Ø  Bring in expertise as you need it but be prepared to do the hard engagement yards yourself.

Ø  Follow through – it takes time and effort – there is no silver bullet to doing this nor a quick-fix to being a social business

Andrew G.