Social Media Pitfalls and Mistakes – the Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media Programs

Social Media Pitfalls and Mistakes – the Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media Programs

By Steven Jeffes

How Fortune 500 Companies Make Critical Social Media Mistakes and How These Can be Avoided

The following is a synopsis of the seven deadly Social Media Sins that Fortune 500 companies commit when developing & managing social media programs and are detailed in my post below:

1)      Organization & GovernanceDepartmental infighting and inconsistencies cause social media disconnects and customer confusion

2)      Program Measurement: Companies are lulled into a false sense of security by believing they have a great social media program

3)      Policy & Standards:  Companies do more harm than good by being erratic & unpredictable to their customers

4)      Program Process:  Successful delivery of a social media program is not repeatable due to the lack of a process excellence model

5)      Legal & Regulatory Compliance: Social Media Program exposes the company to huge compliance and customer management issues

6)      Human Resource Management (HRM): Human resources misses the opportunity to empower and excite the workforce about social media

7)      Financial Performance: Success of social media is judge via subjective vs. objective and financial performance measures

Remember the dot com days in the 1980’s and early 1990’s when companies furiously scrambled to add an e-channel or internet communications to their list of capabilities and rarely gave a second thought on how to efficiently integrate these capabilities with existing off-line & traditional channels? Remember when ‘just adding something’ and demonstrating any e-channel capability to the public was critical and ‘online’ departments, organizations and functions were added as separate silos within the overall organization? Also remember the effort that went into trying to undo some of the inefficiencies caused by these non-integrated and dichotomous processes, procedures and operations?

Any guess to what is happening today from a Social Media standpoint for many companies? In short, Dejavu is occurring in regard to Social Media and many companies are ignoring the hard lessons that should have been learned during the 80’s. Indeed, many companies are proceeding down the same path without fully considering the correct methodology to use and unfortunately will end up designing programs with the same discontinuities and pitfalls as they did when developing an internet capability.

The following chart is a quick comparison of the companies in the dot com 80’s and the parallel to the development of social media capabilities of today:

Dot Com 1980’s Internet Capability Development

Social Media Capability Development Current Comparison

Adding Capabilities just to show up


Build now/fast, determine how to integrate later


Build functions in silos or with just a few departments


Ad-hoc inter-organizational program governance


Processes and organization not totally optimized


Standards and Policy Developed on the fly


Financial Business Case Not Fully Developed Yes

As part one of a series of blog posts, the following post will provide you with an overview of the seven areas where I have seen my Fortune 500 clients make major mistakes when attempting to develop top-notch social media programs. Following this post, I will address how a best-in-class social media program development methodology I have developed called SMARTE – The Social Media Adaptive/Responsive/Transcendent Enterprise enables companies to avoid many of these pitfalls and mistakes, but rather facilitates the development of a world-class social media program that leads to increased market share, higher brand values and increased customer loyalty.

The seven deadly Social Media Sins – Pitfalls and Mistakes Companies Make in Developing a World-Class Social Media Program:

1)    Social Media Organization & Governance:

One of the largest of the seven deadly social media sins is not determining the optimal way to govern a social media program, including determining who sets social media policy, develops social media standards, develops and/or approves processes, optimizes or aligns the organization, etc. Efficient and optimized social media programs are governed by governing organizations that include a great deal of cross-organizational representation and include legal, finance, marketing, customer service, brand management, human resources, etc.  In this fashion, decisions are made holistically and with insight into all organizational considerations prior to proceeding. Many companies I’ve analyzed commence social media program development with one or a few departments considered and the resulting programs are generally ad-hoc, non-systemic, disjointed and often myopic to their own department’s needs.  Ideally they should be holistically focused on the needs of the entire enterprise.  Some of the specific sins committed for social media organization and governance are as follows:

  • Social Media Programs are governed in silos vs. holistically, systemically, and cross-organizationally.
    • Issue Created: this creates many of the same problems as the issues that were create between the ‘on-line’ vs. ‘off-line’ organizations including discontinuities in customer communications, customer management inconsistencies, etc.
  • Social media program is started with just one or a few departments.
    • Issue Created: When additional departments develop social media capabilities, many times, much re-work needs to be done to standardize the process across departments
  • The Social Media Programs Organization is separated from the Customer Relationship Management Functions: Brand Management, Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, Field Service, Shareholder management, etc.
    • Issue Created: Customer management is handled inconsistently across all customer facing departments and functions which leads to customer frustration, confusion and resentment.  
  • Social Media customer intelligence is not integrated and managed as a strategic asset across all departments and organizations including Product Management, Branding, Campaign Management, Customer Experience, Sales.
    • Issue Created: Pockets of social media learnings and opportunities are not operationalized across all departments and functions, leading to many missed improvement opportunities.

2)    Social Media Program Measurement:

  • Social media metrics & Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are not balanced between both internally and externally focused measures
    • Issue Created: By measuring too heavily on internal measures, companies can be lured into a false sense of social media success by believing they are successful when customers do not reflect this sentiment.  Additionally, by focusing too heavily on external measures, companies can be ignoring key internal efficiencies in delivering the social media program, hence driving up the cost of the program unnecessarily.
  • Social Media is treated as a ‘check-box’ and treated as a victory for just showing up vs. measuring sales, marketing, brand value gains
    • Issue Created: A feel good social media program is created and perpetuated where companies pat themselves on the back for just having a social media presence while potentially damaging customer relations (i.e. many programs that do more harm than good in terms of brand reputation). 
  • Social Media performance dashboards are not available for CxO level management to gauge program performance against key measures like brand value, average public sentiment, brand buzz and excitement values, etc.
    • Issue Created: Key issues impacting shareholder and/or stakeholder value are not missed and are not managed to create a positive impact.

3)    Social Media Program Policy & Standards:

  • Standards are not developed to consistently ascertain and respond to the ‘average customer sentiment’
    • Issue Created:  Each social media interaction is handled inconsistently; thus leading customers to perceive the program to be biased, unfair, and/or just poorly managed.
  • Brand consistency is not considered when developing social media programs and customer interaction is highly inconsistent
    • Issue Created: Companies do not present ‘one face to the customer’ and appear inconsistent, disjointed between departments and company’s brand quality is perceived to be highly variable
  • Standards and policy have not been created in terms of managing customer communication protocols: This includes frequency of responses, tone/manner of the responses, handling or rebutting negative brand or company comments, opt-ins/opt-outs, etc.
      • Issue Created: Companies do not present ‘one face to the customer’ and appear inconsistent, disjointed between departments and the company’s brand quality is perceived to be highly variable.

4)    Social Media Program Process:

  • A best practice process and organizational framework has not been fully considered for the social media program
    • Issue Created:  A best practice social media program is not just about technology and applications, but must be equally supported by a robust organizational and process framework. Lacking this structure, the program continually languishes in mediocrity without a governing continuous improvement process framework to evolve the program to world-class status.
  • Acknowledgement of customer brand input is not acknowledged and responded to which translates into a negative customer brand experience
  • Brands feel compelled to respond to every negative comment posted about their brand, products and/or organization
  • Utilizing traditional media tactics for bi-directional and conversational social media venues
    • Issue Created: Social Media interactions appear non-interactive, disingenuous, or canned, which in turn, leads to negative sentiment about the social media program being a corporate ivory tower programs that are perceived to not listen well or interact effectively. 
  • Inability to synthesize and analyze intelligence from across multiple social media venues or not listening to all relevant communities and platforms creates an inability to develop a coherent brand action plan
    • Issue Created: Key social media input and ‘intelligence’ is overlooked, creating many missed opportunities to positively influence brand perceptions, customer loyalty and company product & service quality perceptions. 

5)    Social Media Legal & Regulatory Compliance:

  • Regulatory compliance is or was not part of the overall social media program design such as the following sample regulatory rules that impact social media program design:
    • Financial Services: NASD 3010 and 3110, SEC Rule 17a-4, Gramm-Leach-Bliley.
    • Cross-Industry: Sarbanes Oxley Compliance.
    • Pharmaceutical: Fair Balance Act, Adverse Event Reporting, HIPAA Privacy Rule
  • Developing Social Media programs that assume customer opt-in permission and channel preferences are the same for traditional media
    • Issues Created: Huge customer trust issues are created that negatively impact brand value and company perceptions. Regulatory compliance publicity or fines are also at risk if compliance is not fully considered when designing a world-class social media program.

6)    Social Media Program Human Resource (HR):

  • HR does not tie social media program performance to individual key performance measures
  • Human resources fails to facilitate a sense of excitement about social media and is treated like ‘just another program’
  • Customer sentiment values are not tied to program and individual performance measures
  • Company employees are not encouraged, trained and incentivized to become social media conversation managers, Tweeters, Bloggers, etc  in order to converse with and positively influence constituencies, customers and stakeholders.
    • Issues Created: Employees feel left out and uninspired by the social media program vs. being excited, engaged and empowered to participate/communicate in order to facilitate program success.  

7)    Social Media Program Financial Performance:

  • Business case development for social media is not tied to financial  performance goals
  • Social media optimization tests do not take into account financial performance
  • Program are initiated with strong dose of intuition vs. realistic business cases vs. initiating each program based on ROI, payback periods, net present value discounting, etc.
    • Issues Created: Social Media is success is measured exclusively by highly subjective measures such as customer & program reach, customer sentiment, etc. vs. highly objective and financially driven measures such as sentiment vs. share of wallet, program reach vs. acquisition costs, etc.

Do you have any war stories that you like to share about social media programs that have gone awry? Has your company committed any of the above seven deadly social media sins? Do you have any other perspectives on mistakes companies make in developing and managing an enterprise-wide social media program?

My next series of blogs will be taking you through my SMARTE social media methodology on how to avoid all of the above mistakes in developing and managing an enterprise-wide social media program and will enable your company to develop a social media program that is considered world-class.

%d bloggers like this: