Why Your Company’s Social Media Efforts Are Failing

Social Media Efforts Are Failing

Finally – finally! – most larger companies are at least dabbling in social media.

In fact, a trend I’ve noticed over the past year is that many big firms are playing catch up, or trying to. I want to encourage that, not mock it. Sure, if this describes you, you’re late to the party. Way late. But welcome!

We’re glad you joined us.

So, firms are in there – feet now wet; Facebook fan page established; Twitter feed going; recruiting on LinkedIn; advertising on Glassdoor.


Yet I hear loud and clear, there’s a deep and swift undercurrent of discontent in management. The sentiment among many enterprise leaders I talk with is, “This social crap is all hype. We were right not to do it before, and we should probably pull back now. Social isn’t working for us.”

Whoa there, cowboys! You’re missing something key. I’ll sum it up in four words:

Open Media. Closed Culture.

Mark Babbitt and I are writing a book together, “How Business Will Be Done in a World Gone Social.” Is it a book about social media? Well, kind of. After all, we do discuss various aspects of social on pretty much every page, all the way through the book.

It’s actually a book about how to lead in this entirely new era of business. Social media is the catalyst; the change agent, like that giant asteroid that slammed into earth and killed all the dinosaurs.

A few years ago, the world went social: the asteroid struck. The dinosaurs, the Old Schoolers, they’re dropping like flies as we speak, because they can’t – or maybe they won’t – change with the times.

Whole industries are changing, for sure, and those are very obvious to watch. Music, movies, newspapers and magazines, TV – all of those are reeling, and it’s hard to say if any will survive; or if they do, what form they’ll end up taking.

But much more significant even than those industrial changes are the human ones. To name just a few:

  • Social media enables customers with similar interests to find each other; customers who are no longer beholden to marketing departments or advertising agencies for guidance
  • Job seekers are asking employees what their companies are really like, muting and sidelining the recruiting and PR departments
  • Employees are collaborating with each other, as well as with vendors, customers, and even competitors, with or without corporate permission
  • Prior to the social era, knowledge was power. Now, knowledge is diffused everywhere so the “powers that were” are impotent to rule

Social media by its very essence requires an open culture. If your company has trouble finding a return on investment for its social media efforts, I think I know why. Is it possible that your social efforts are failing because the openness of social is like a toxin (or a cure?) to your established corporate culture?

Before you tinker any further with your social media metrics or campaigns or anything else, I recommend you look at your culture instead. Yes, even a very top-down, command-and-control style company can get some results from its social efforts.

This is especially true for companies operating within a very limited scope, like troubleshooting on Twitter or gathering likes on your Facebook page.

But that fluff is barely the outermost layer of the social onion. To peel it, to find the delicious, transformative benefits of social for your organization, you’ve got to have a coherent match. Social is open; maybe it’s time your culture opened up as well!

Looking for some help with that transition? You’ve come to the right place. Mark, Shawn, and a number of our Leaguers are in the business of culture change.

We’re here to help.



Art by 1995levente

Ted Coiné is a Forbes Top 10 Social Media Power Influencer and an Inc. Top 100 Leadership and Management Expert. This stance at the crossroads of social and leadership put him in a unique perspective to identify the demise of Industrial Age management and the birth of the Social Age. The result, after five years of trend watching, interviewing and intensive research, is his latest book, A World Gone Social: How Companies Must Adapt to Survive, which he co-authored with Mark Babbitt. An inspirational speaker and popular blogger, Ted is a pioneer of the Human Side of Business (#humanbiz) movement. He is also a serial business founder and three-time CEO. When not speaking at conferences and corporate functions, Ted advises CEOs on how to become Truly Social Leaders, or “Blue Unicorns” as they put it in A World Gone Social, in order to bring their companies into the Social Age. Ted’s advice: “Change is only scary if it’s happening to you. Instead, bring the change your competitors dread. That is something only a Social Age business leader can accomplish.”

  • Ted,
    The shared characteristic of openness serves to launch organizations to another level of performance. It’s certainly a daunting place to stand when years of command-and-control thinking dominating cultures. Your warning, however, is vital for all organizations to heed. It’s not just ignoring social that is problematic. It’s also ignoring the reality that employees are already interacting and sharing on social. This can be a positive when companies embrace the openness and learn to adjust the culture, operations and leadership to make good use of this reality that isn’t going away.

  • Bruce Harrison

    EKE! Everybody Knows Everything! So let’s all behave accordingly.

  • iDesignCI

    Hi Ted, what a delightful read, really enjoyed it! You are so right about the asteroid that struck. If you can’t beat them, join them.. or get left behind!

  • Alessia

    I think that was a problem with my previous company, expecting it to work by being an island waiting for lost prospects to land on our shore.

  • shirlyjt

    Writing the book was quick and easy. Finding an editor a bit more of a process ($300.00). Getting the book formatted correctly, overwhelming until I finally hired a professional ($1200.00) Development of an author website ($1700.00) first phase. It is a four phase website. Creating a business Face book page ($500.00). Now the marketing…I am publishing on demand. Just this process has been like learning a foreign language.

    You are spot on about Social Media and how important it is to promoting any business. Round two…marketing my book, website and business. Let’s just say Social Media is like learning yet another foreign language. At this time I have moved from kindergarten to first grade in the language class. I have decided to only work on three or maybe four social platforms.
    You may be asking is she enjoying the journey? I am thanks for asking. ;~)

  • Michael Sagar

    Social Media is simply a collective term for a whole ream of software products. For those of us who have been around a while many will have experienced companies failing to successfully implement “Integrated Business Systems”. Many of these failings can be attributed to the mismatch between what the software ‘could’ do and the non-integrated nature of the organisation. The message learnt being don’t attempt to integrate your systems without ‘integrating’ your organisation. Social Media risks falling into a similar trap. These Social Media products are a game changer…for everybody in business. Those early adopters that “Get It” are already developing serious competitive advantage, but to do so they have had to embrace the necessary CULTURAL CHANGE that is required to fully exploit the potential. There are other reasons for failure. Media companies have to CHANGE THEIR CULTURE too! Social Media when deployed in a business to business environment will NOT work if they are only seen as ‘another channel’ ….in which to proliferate the same old PUSH message associated with branding and advertising. The business needs/goals and opportunities have to be understood when considering how to deploy these Social Media products in a SOCIAL BUSINESS context. IT IS A GAMECHANGER because the model has changed. Push messages now have to be accompanied with and supported within a framework where the response to “PULL” requests can be made, and the “Know/Like and Trust” factors can be developed. This affects the way in which the whole organisation “operates”. There are many companies, struggling to get established, and many seem to be playing the waiting game or waiting for clear guidelines and how to measure ROI before getting started. Huh, as if ROI can be clearly measured with other forms of attraction/engagement and retention!! The Wright Bros wanted to fly, they could see the game changing possibilities with success. Just as well for the rest of us that they didn’t wait for altimeters or sat nav to be invented before they started!! These are exciting times, let’s not get lost in the “white noise” that is beginning to abound!!

  • Sounds just like our book Humanize! Thanks for joining the movement! :)

  • AJ Sikes

    Very astute observations there, and I mean that as a compliment. I wish it’d been possible to address the need for openness with a former employer, but it wasn’t. And the toxicity you cite was in full effect, leading me out the door by the nose. I’d like to see what happens when my former coworkers get fed up enough to take to the tweets with the twuth, erm, truth.

    I’m more curious, though, about how your observations apply to entrepreneurs. In my case, independent authors working with small presses and, possibly, self-publishing. There’s the same need for open engagement with a customer base, but how to address what may not be working? For example, I bailed from Facebook recently, seeing it as a complete waste of my time with zero ROI. A fellow writer advised me that he thought I’d “missed the point” and that Facebook killed for marketing for authors. I’m still waiting for a fuller explanation from him. For now I use Twitter and maintain my own website.

  • Pingback: Ted’s Top 10 Posts of 2013 | Switch and Shift()

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