With the new year comes new budgets, projects and social media goals. Many new businesses will be hopping on the social train. The question is how long will they last? Will they make it to their destination? Bigger question is do they know their destination?

Top 12 Reasons Why Businesses will Fail at Social Media in 2011

1. Don't understand the ecosystem.
My belief is this will be the number one reason businesses and individuals will fail at social media. Too many think if they learn the tools and technology they got it covered. They couldn't be further from the truth. The most important aspect of social media is to understand the art, the environment and how you can fit in. It doesn't work like the days of traditional advertising where you push a message and expect to change thought via a cool ad, billboard or tv commercial. Instead you must not only find a way to become part of the community, build your own community but also be able to successfully grab attention of your audiences authentically and via relationships. This is not easy for the organization only focused on tools and technology.

2. They hire the wrong consultant or agency.
I think this is going to be more wide spread in 2011. The good consultants and agencies are going to rise to the top and the bad ones out. Organizations must look deeper than the twitter account of an agency or consultant before selecting them to engage, help or manage your social media. One size does not fit all and a cookie cutter approach not focused on your market niche is going to bring zero to little positive return. Organizations must take responsibilities to do their research, not believe everything they hear from a consultant and do not accept status quo or “one size fits all” solutions. If a consultant can't educate you on how to achieve a positive ROI, and enjoy such a discussion, run. Don't fall for a glitzy Twitter background and Facebook welcome page with no engagement. Look behind the tweet curtain and see how their community is really responding to them. Most everything in social media is open and free to all eyes so not doing your research is not an option or an excuse. Bottom line if a social media campaign or engagement price tag is half that of competitors chances are the value might be also. You get what you pay for. Any decent consultant or agency is in high demand and does not have to give away their services.

3. They execute via Random Acts of Social Media (RASMs)
Bottom line, organizations without a plan for social media are destined to fail, sorry. Random acts of social media and marketing will kill your ROI faster than you can say ROI. Organizations must set goals and objectives before engaging in social media. Don't tweet randomly. Time is our most valuable asset and we must use it wisely. To avoid randomness in social media integration is key to success. Social media needs to be integrated into the DNA of business. It is not a social band-aid for a bad business. Plan yer' work and work yer' plan as Granny would say.

4. Have wrong social mindset.
This is big. They have the overall wrong social mindset. They may lack the understanding that social media requires engagement. They may have the mindset that they'll simply use social media as an additional venue for blasting noise, coupons and other. I truly believe this is where agencies and consultants can help organization who are struggling. Social media can not be leveraged as other traditional mediums. The mindset must change. It is more than tools, more than tech, more than tweets. The mindsets of the people leading the organization as well as executing the social media must be in the right place.

5. Underestimate the resources and knowledge required.
This is a recipe for disaster. Hiring the cheapest candidate or intern is not going to bring a positive ROI. It is imperative business leaders understand the eco system, set goals and hire according to the planned strategy, engagement plans etc. to meet the goals and objectives. You need more than an intern with a twitter account to execute your social media plan and connect with your audience in a way that best represents your brand and market positioning. Setting a proper budget is key. Although you'll hear the clueless tell you “social media is free.” Sorry folks it's not. It steals your greatest asset which is time. It eats ROI for breakfast if you let it. Do your research and resource according to your goals and objectives.

6. They don't engage.
This is pretty simple but many organization are not doing such. Bottom line, you must engage with your audiences. Do more than tweet at them, tweet with them. Join in the fun. Inspire them to connect with you. Attract them organically to your brand and the people inside your corporate walls. As Brian Solis always says “the social currency of social media is action.” He is so right and it is my favorite statement of this era. If you can't inspire your audience to action then social media is all for nothing, really.

7. They don't implement a social media policy.
I highly recommend social media policies to my clients. They don't have to be over complicated or difficult. They should be created with objectives and goals in forefront. They will protect an organization from legal risks and set a standard for how employees and partners should engage in social media on behalf of the company. If you have a decent agency or consultant they can help carry the brunt of delivering the social media policy. I have helped organizations implement these and have taken on the “bad cop” role when necessary.

8. Lack roles & responsibilities.
Similar to goals and objectives, the gap of appropriate roles and responsibilities is another recipe for disaster. Take the time to iron out the internal battles or insecurities within an organization. Clearly define roles for internal employees, partners, interns, and a hired agency if appropriate. Flying by the seat of your pants will get you flat on your butt and nowhere fun!

9. Assume social media will fix their broken business.
If your business is broken, sales is not working with marketing, your message sucks, your audience doesn't like you… sorry folks, these problems can and will not be solved by social media. In fact, social media will make them worse. Why? Because sales will need to talk to marketing, your message will need to be tweaked and you are going to have to engage your audience and yes they need to like you to see results in social media. The best thing you can do if you see this coming is be honest with yourself. If you have internal battles going on, hire an agency or consultant to be the “bad cop”. Let them do the research to interview the teams, help set goals, implement training etc.

10. Make a bad first impression.
I am one that only has one speed, turbo zoom. However, with social media it is important you take the time to do it right. You have one time to make a first impression. One time to invite your warm market to your Facebook page. Your goal is to build community and inspire people to take action. If you make a terrible first impression the chances of that visitor ever returning to your Facebook page are slim to none. The goal is not to only “announce your Facebook page” but to leverage it to meet your business goals and objectives. It is better to wait than to launch a set of social platforms prematurely.

11. Have unrealistic expectations for social media.
Yesterday, I had this phrase pop up on one of my Google Organic Search Terms “social media training for clueless CEO”. I laughed out loud when I saw this. I think much of the unrealistic expectations are coming from top leaders in an organization. They hear about success big brands are having, the million hit YouTube videos and of course they want one too. So the clueless social media newbie in the organization agrees to such crazy goals and before he/she knows it they're fired and CEO announces that social media was a complete failure and waste of time for their organization. Other organizations see this and think the same. They then decide to hire the cheap employee or intern as it didn't work for “company ABC” so they will play it safe the first year. I have seen this far too many times with businesses we work with. Do your research and be realistic with the goals and objectives. You must be patient with social media. Yes, you will see immediate response to your efforts. You'll know how many people click like on your Facebook page the first day. However, it takes time to understand the ecosystem, engage and connect with an audience and build a community that will take action on your behalf.

12. They are boring.
Point blank, if you are boring you are not going to do well in social media. Social media is about inspiring an audience to connect with you. If you have struggled with this offline or with other traditional media, chances are a Twitter account and a Facebook page are not going to fix it! If you truly lack the needed creativity within the wall so of your organization then hire some help! Either hire a marketing director to help refresh your brand, hire an agency. Whatever you do, do something. Boring won't get you far with any marketing medium in this economy. Connecting with your audience is a requirement not an option regardless of the medium.

I could write for days on the things organizations should and shouldn't do for social media. However, this is my opinion on why I think most will fail in 2011. This is what I saw in 2010 and my guess it's it will probably only get worse as more businesses jump on board.

If you are new to social media don't let this get you down. Build your plan and work your plan. Be patient and take the time to do it right. Integrate social media into the DNA of your business. Don't slap it on as a patch and expect results.

Your Thoughts?
What are your thoughts? What are you seeing? What has your business had most success with social media? Where has your business struggled? Where are you seeing other businesses struggle?

See this article referenced on Fast Company

See this article referenced on Brian Solis's blog

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