What They Forgot to Tell You About Social Media

Paul Mah

With all the fanfare and buzz around the use of social media, small businesses can be forgiven for thinking that they are missing out on a huge opportunity if they don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account.  Indeed, it is true that, leveraged properly, social media can offer huge opportunities that can substantially heighten the appeal and reach of a small business.

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Six Core Principles to Tap the Power of Social Media

There is a flip side to every coin, though. For one, some challenges about engaging social media may not be obvious from the get-go. Let’s highlight a few of them.

It Is a Lot of Work

Posting regular tweets and Facebook updates, connecting with people and following up on interactions – all these take work. Work to phrase statements succinctly, work to post them to the various social media accounts, work to insert pertinent tags – in a nutshell, a lot more work than most employers realize.

This is not to say that maintaining a social media account requires a full-time hire – that’s not the case for most SMBs. However, businesses will do well to recognize it as a full-fledged portfolio that generates value, and not just something to be done “when you are free.”


Fortunately, there are tools that can be used to alleviate the work here. These range from tools to help manage followers on Twitter, to scheduling messages so that they are spread evenly throughout the day. Where it makes sense to, don’t hesitate to rely on them to use social media more efficiently.

Social Media Can Backfire

Many social media advocates hype on the benefits of this medium and gloss over the downsides. For all its positive benefits, however, there are also a hundred and one ways that social media can backfire in unanticipated ways.

How about messages that were posted on the wrong account or angry clients who post negative experiences for all to see? Social media, by definition, is not a private forum, but more like a freewheeling community platform where all and sundry can contribute. Businesses should be circumspect in their expectations, and be prepared to react quickly in the event of negative publicity going viral.

The Dangers of Frivolous Metrics

You know the management adage about not being able to manage what you can’t measure? Most businesses are cognizant of the need to rely on measurable progress to determine the success of their social media push. There is a need, however, to be selective about the metrics to monitor, and not opt for frivolous ones that may be easy to track, but of less significance.

For example: Does it really make sense to garner thousands of followers that are clearly spam accounts on Twitter instead of followers with influence? Also, are quality interactions about content or products on Facebook of lesser important than getting more “Likes” on your company’s Facebook page?

That is not to say that having more followers and “Likes” does not help generate a “buzz” factor, of course. Ultimately, businesses need to define their own metrics that fit in with their overall social media strategy. In a similar vein, it may be better to focus on a few of the key social networks than to sign up for every new social media startup of the week.

How have you been leveraging social media in your business? Feel free to share your own “gotchas” in the comments section below.



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