The problems typically associated with Social Media are those of any business issue – why should we do this? Where do we start? Who is responsible? But I don’t think these are actually the key problems for businesses getting started with social media at all.

It seems to me that the problems with social media are somewhat different to other business issues. Here’s my list of the Top 5 problems with social media:

1. Everyone is an Expert

Everyone has dabbled with social media at some level. They may have a Facebook page with 150 friends, a Twitter account with 10 followers, a couple of videos on You Tube. And because of that experience in their private life it makes them an ‘expert’ when it comes to using social media in business! Wrong, the objectives and goals for social media are totally different from business to our private lives. This is not to say that we need different persona’s – far from it – but simply that ‘what’ we do is different because we have different objectives.

2. Social Media Tools are Free

Because most Social Media Tools are free, at least at a basic level; organisations seem to have an expectation that Social Media programs don’t need funding. Wrong! Time is never free and whilst the tools and platforms may be; Social Media takes a large investment of time. Research, listening, monitoring, engaging, problem solving, collaborating, creating or curating content all take enormus amounts and this comes at a cost.

3. Social Media is Over Hyped

If you believed everything you read, you would believe that Social Media is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything to take a line from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. All new concepts go through this cycle and right now, social media is at the top of the ‘hype curve’; right before it heads to the ‘trough of disillusionment and emerges battered and bruised as a mature ‘technology’ having ‘Crossed the Chasm’ along the way. Just these words show how we driven to repeat this cycle over and over again.

Social Media and more broadly social technology, can be a useful business weapon as part of a broader strategy to engage your customers. But if your customers don’t use social media then its a complete waste of time. Don’t be lured by all the claims – social media will not cure world hunger – but it will help you engage with other people who are interested in curing it.

4. Social Media has been HiJacked

By all those PR agencies and firms who tell you that Social Media is the only way to build your brand and market your goods and services today. In fact, we say that if you use Social Media in this way – to ‘shout’ at people – then you are doomed to digital failure. Social Media is about ‘Listening’ above all else to look for opportunities to support your customers. If they subsequently recommend you or your products then you have reached the Holy Grail of Social Media – but this doesn’t happen by shouting your brand at all on the social web.

5. Social Media by the Numbers

I don’t know what it is about Social Media that makes numbered lists a criteria for success. 25 key way to use Twitter, 10 Best Plug In for Facebook, 7 Steps to Building your Brand online. And on it goes. It seems that 3 to 5 is the ideal number of points to have. Any more than that and people might actually have to think for themselves about what is required.

There is no magic list for success with Social Media. There is no 12 easy steps for every business. It all depends on where you are today and where you want to go. And that is different for every business.

Will B.