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  • 01.26.10

Social Media: Probably NOT Right For Your Business

I’m probably the only person in Phoenix who doesn’t define herself as a social media guru. After all, I have helped  hundreds of companies get started using various tools over the past ten years, and if it’s one thing I have learned: nothing works for everybody. Yesterday I went to the wonderful SMAZ conference to hear my old friend Park Howell give a talk on “the cold shoulder of social media,” in which he spoke about how a Facebook Fan Page didn’t work for his agency.

I’m probably the only person in Phoenix who doesn’t define herself as a social media guru. After all, I have helped  hundreds of companies get started using various tools over the past ten years, and if it’s one thing I have learned: nothing works for everybody. Yesterday I went to the wonderful SMAZ conference to hear my old friend Park Howell give a talk on “the cold shoulder of social media,” in which he spoke about how a Facebook Fan Page didn’t work for his agency. Parks’s a smart guy and an advertising veteran, and he was trying to make a point about strategy.

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I raised my hand and added that social media is more work than many small business owners are willing to do, and that it didn’t work in the same way for everyone.

Some woman in the audience answered me by saying that in just an hour a day, she had developed a community of 36,000 Twitter followers. She declared that it wasn’t much work. And it is “free.” She looked at me as if I were a jerk who needed an education. Oy.

Oh please. What good are those followers doing for you?  Do they buy your product or service? Do they give you love?  Do they give you advice? Are you developing a personal brand and is that your intent? Do they eat at your Chinese restaurant?

Why do you have/need them? How many of them are bots, and how many did you get from a service that just dumps followers on you? Do you ever even ask yourself those questions?

This is also what I learned about PR twenty years ago. Not all PR is helpful or necessary. Some “good news” stories about your company bring only copier and insurance salesmen to your door.

It’s what doctors know about Viagra and Cialis. Not everybody should be using them. They are great new tools, and when they work they are transformative, but  you have to understand the specific situations in which they are best used, and if you don’t they can be very disappointing.

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Let me take this metaphor one step further.  My husband had prostate cancer, and he had surgery. They could not spare the nerves in his surgery, because the cancer was too widespread. So after the surgery, he couldn’t perform.

Viagra wouldn’t have helped him. He had to decide what his goal was –to stay alive — and choose the right solution for that outcome. He had the surgery, and didn’t try to use the wrong tool (bad metaphor) afterwards. Instead, he got an implant.

That’s probably TMI, but I can’t help thinking about how he could have wasted the rest of his life trying to use the wrong tool for the job he wanted to get done.

And that’s the seduction of social media. It’s the small business person’s Viagra, but it doesn’t always work.

About the author

Francine Hardaway, Ph.D is a serial entrepreneur and seasoned communications strategist. She co-founded Stealthmode Partners, an accelerator and advocate for entrepreneurs in technology and health care, in 1998.

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