Social Media is NOT Business Friendly (and here’s why…)

October 6, 2010

I won’t go into the fact that business are using social media and some are successful and some are not – we know this.  What I do want to rant about is the fact that it’s such a pain in the ass to set up social media for businesses.  

Yes, I would say it would be very wise for most companies to hire an outside firm to set up their social media program.  Unfortunately, because of the difficulty of convincing the C-Suite of ROI, many use “free” as a bargaining chip.  If you’re trying to sell it, you’ll do what you have to do, right?  You either already know, or quickly find out, that the saying “nothing is free” is true.  Why all the 3rd party sites you may use are free, the time you put in setting it up is staggering (if done right) and sometimes technically challenging.  I’m not going to go into the process of writing up a social media plan, let’s just take it for granted you’ve gone through that process.  Much of that, you’ll find later, is the easier part (that is, until parts of the workflow in your plan, based on wrong assumptions, cause some minor panic).

Here’s what I don’t get though, social sites like Twitter and Facebook know that a big part of what they do involves businesses.  It has proven that it works and is viable – the platforms should embrace it as them, as they may be their future path to revenue.  This is not what I’m finding in my experiences, though.

You may be a small company and much of this doesn’t apply, but if you’re dealing with a small team that is driving your social media efforts, you could have major trouble.  

Let’s start with Twitter.  Twitter assumes from the beginning you’re a person – there really is no consideration that you’re a business.  The TOS doesn’t even mention the word “business.”  So, you bite the bullet and either make up a name that makes sense for the business or use your real name (I can find articles that argue for/against both – google it if you like).  The “handle” is also likely going to be business related.  The email?  Well, you either have a shared account or an aliased distro list internal to your company.  From there it’s pretty straightforward, but the implementation mostly sucks.  You’ll likely need to use something like Seesmic, Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to have a chance at managing with a group.  Then you may have to figure out clever ways to show that it’s you… or Bob… or Debbie… or whomever.  Zappos does a pretty good job at this, but Twitter sure doesn’t make it easy.  There are slight annoying aspects that had to do with designs and the backgrounds (and the changing of them), but I won’t hit Twitter too hard on that – I understand they need to evolve and make changes.  

Facebook is a whole new set of problems.  Their answer is the Fan Pages.  Oh, but it has to be tied to an account.  Fine, I’ll just make one of my “fake” account like I did Twitter, right?  You see, I have a personal account, but I don’t want that to be my business account, so I create a new account.  It’s really a business admin account, so I’ll just be clever and my first name will be MyBusiness and my last name will be Admin.  “Eff you!” they say. Somehow it “knows” that no one has the first name MyBusiness and rejects it (and any other “clever” thing you come up with).  So I submit and use my real name.  Great, now there are two of me on Facebook.  You might argue for privacy settings and such, but I don’t care – my point is that this issue shouldn’t be this issue.  Remember, you’re a team, so just assume they’re going to have to go through all the same issues – use their personal account or create another before you make them admins.

So, that’s just to get to the point where you can create and manage a page.  That’s not too bad overall, though navigation can be confusing where you end up on your second account and you have to “manage your page” again.  At this point I want to set up my custom URL so that people can find my page easily so I’ll set here and… son of a bitch, I need 25 “Likes” before I can do it.  Of course, it didn’t tell me that, I had to hunt down the information.  This puts you in a quandary.  I want people to find my page easily, but I need 25 people to find my page.  OK, so you can send them the ugly and long URL, but what if you’re not ready to launch?  So you want to coordinate people liking the page before you launch and then quickly update your custom URL after 25.  In my case it didn’t work.  It was liked early (I don’t blame them, really), and it showed up in their stream and spread.  A week before our launch and it had 36 likes.  We were mostly ready, but not quite.

The point is – why the 25?  Squatters I guess – but most places don’t account for that and it works out just fine in a lot of cases.  It simply made things unnecessarily difficult. 

There were similar experiences for every site I needed to utilize for our campaign – none were the exception.  Each one had some issue that left me thinking, “This sucks for businesses!” 

While I said that an outside firm would be good, you still have to have knowledge on the inside to be able to execute when the time comes to hand over the keys.  That can be difficult as well. I’m fairly advance, and I would imagine that an inexperienced group would probably be lost or spend much more time dealing with trial and error.

I’m extremely disappointed in the option available for businesses and feel there is a tremendous opportunity here for them to make things easier on the folks who may one day be paying the bills with their advertising.

There is an underlining issue here with identities, but I’ll save that for another time.


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