I am constantly seeing blog posts about the “risks” of social media marketing for brands. Are there risks? Of course there are risks and you need to manage them appropriately. But are there risks to waxing /buffing the floors at your restaurant, selling bikes that people will use for extreme sports and baking treats that contain peanuts? Am I being silly? Yes, I am trying to make the point that no matter what you do in today’s lack of common sense lawsuit business environment, there are risks. There will always be that one person looking for their “gettin’ paid” easy money opportunity to extort money from a business because they spilled coffee (that by the way is always hot and requires you to be careful) in their lap in a drive-through. Let’s get real shall we?
When my Twitter friend @maxnrgmike approached me about the topic and asked me to write a post about this, I had to consider it. It all started when I shared post about CEO’s and social media marketing. Mike jumped in and the thread began. Since I always try to keep my word, here we are. I am not going to get into deep statistics and “legalese”, but I am going to draw some business similarities that should get you to think and also attempt to insert some common sense into the discussion surrounding risk management and fear issues we often see in this space.
Now, if you’re McDonald’s or Starbucks, you may have a more realistic risk management requirement for social media. You are a much bigger target, are known to many more people around the country and inherently become a “brand of opportunity” for some less than scrupulous people to go after.
But if you’re a small or medium business attending social media legal seminars and getting scared out of your pants about the “massive risks” some attorney is hammering about, can we all just chill out? Is social media marketing a bigger risk than the inherent business risk of being a medical device manufacturer, an insurance company or even a construction contractor? I think not…
Like any other business, industry or marketing effort a company uses, it comes with certain risks. The average SMB needs to put a little common sense into their social media equation, rather than listen to Lawyers that have a vested interest in being seen as educated on the topic. By the very nature of their view on social media, an attorney dissuading you from social media marketing using fear is not going to be a very active or experienced social media user. Further more, that attorney probably doesn’t have a level of understanding of social media marketing to make them a qualified or trusted source to outline the risks for a small business beyond the completely legal aspects anyway. Just as I am biased toward social, they are going to be so against it. My knowledge of the industry easily outweighs their knowledge of only the legal side.
If that is the perspective, I have already outlined many more risky business scenarios you should be focused on instead of social media marketing.
So rather than have a discussion about legal risks, living in fear and making excuses as to why your business should not be active and effective in social media, let’s outline the compelling REAL risks you have at stake if you don’t.
Important And Real Social Media Risks:
1) Absent – Let’s be clear. You’re customers and prospects are all on social media, whether you think so or not, they are. Everyone is at some level. What’s worse is so are your competitors. Social media marketing is a marathon and your target audience is on the sidelines of the race cheering. Unfortunately for you, you’re not even running in the race, let alone own shoes or even bothered to stretch. To top it all off, your competitors ARE in the race, own running shoes and are making decent time. Your customers and prospects are connecting with your competitors, eating at their restaurants, buying their bikes and hiring them to do their remodels and you don’t even know it’s happening!
Another way you could be absent is owning running shoes, but not actually being in this social media marathon by not being active and/or you are not responding to your customers and prospects that check in to your business or mention you. Imagine the people who have had a poor experience at/with your business and are posting about it on their blog, on Facebook and other social platforms. They can’t tag your business because you don’t have social profiles, so you remain unaware this is even happening.
It used to be that a happy customer told one person and an unhappy customer told 10. With social media those numbers become multiplied by thousands. Risk you say? You might want to know about these situations. If you’re absent, you just never will and you will be left wondering why your business is failing.
2) Ineffective – You’re trying to learn and be effective in social media marketing but don’t have the knowledge, experience, time or resources to do it properly. So you end up either making huge mistakes as in number three below, or you become Absent as in number one above. Either way, you risk your competitors taking advantage of not living in fear and out running you in this distance race. If your audience is in social media already, and I argue they are, then your biggest business risk with social media is being absent or ineffective.
That means you are risking your entire business on this whole social media thing going away and your company surviving because you are just awesome like that. Might want to reconsider the real risks here.
3) Stupidity – Another real risk is that you do something stupid that alienates your business in horrific ways. Let me show you an example of such a thing. Meet Amy’s Baking Company and see how poorly run social media marketing had ZERO legal implications, but incredibly negative business results. Causing or letting a situation spin out of control on social media without the knowledge and experience to not be “stupid” is a huge risk. If you don’t know what you are doing, hire an experienced social media agency to manage it for you.
What’s a bigger risk? Being in and effective with social media marketing or going out of business because your fear got in the way and your business crashed and burned because you ignored it? Only you can decide.