Social Media Marketing: How It Could Hurt Your Business

Latest posts by Atul Minocha (see all)

The following is excerpted from “Lies, Damn Lies, and Marketing: Separate Fact From Fiction and Drive Growth” by Atul Minocha (Lioncrest Publishing, August 2021).

Flooding social media with information about your product is not good marketing, though it is an all-too-common approach that companies take.

As a professor, I often present my students with a real product from a make-believe company and ask them to develop a business strategy and a marketing plan for it. They then have five minutes to present these to the class.

Often, in the first iteration of their plan, they confidently share that they will “use social media to do their marketing.” That’s it. That’s the entirety of their marketing plan. They quickly realize that this simplistic recommendation is the quickest way to an F.

So many business leaders think that if they post something about their product on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, every single day, eventually they’ll gain traction. Like my students, that becomes the core and extent of their marketing plan.

Social media platforms are nothing more than channels you can use to get your message out. Figuring out which channels you’re going to use in your marketing only answers about 5 percent of the questions you need to ask. Indeed, without the right positioning and messaging, it might be a complete waste of time and money—and actually do more harm than good.

It’s not a silver bullet

Let me be crystal clear: I am not against social media. Far from it! However, I meet too many business leaders who think social media is a silver bullet that will automatically bring amazing results. Consequently, they spend very little time or money figuring out how to use these channels effectively.

Think carefully about the customer journey before you start dumping content onto social media. Bear in mind, social media responds faster than more traditional channels. You are going to get a response within seconds, unlike something in print, which might take days or weeks. This can be either a positive or a negative, depending on how much thought you put into creating the content for social media.

Another characteristic of social media you have to keep in mind is that you have less control over it than most other media. Once you begin interacting with the public on social media, you are just one of many on the platform voicing an opinion. What you receive as feedback or response is unpredictable and may well be surprising.

If you put up a billboard that the public doesn’t like, someone might eventually climb up there and spray graffiti on it. If they don’t like your print ad, they might write angry letters to the editor. However, social media feedback begins, as soon as you post, and it may come in a tidal wave that overwhelms you. You can exert a small measure of control, but for the most part, it’s a freewheeling experience. If you’re not ready for it, your brand, product, or service may suffer.


StartupNation exclusive discounts and savings on Dell products and accessories: Learn more here

What marketing message are you sending?

In 2017, Unilever ran a four-panel ad for their Dove soap brand on Facebook, which resulted in a significant backlash. In the first two panels, an African American woman is seen removing her shirt. In the third and fourth panels, after stripping off her shirt, she appears to have transformed into a white woman.

According to a Dove spokeswoman, the ad “was intended to convey that Dove Body Wash is for every woman and be a celebration of diversity.” However, to the general public, it seemed to convey the idea that light skin equals cleanliness. The outcry on social media was swift and brutal, and the brand was tainted with accusations of tone-deafness at best, and overt racism at worst.

The company swiftly apologized and pulled the ad, but because of the nature of social media, the conversation was out of their hands by that point. The general public shaped the debate, and Unilever was essentially at their mercy.

This isn’t the only time a major company inadvertently conveyed a racist message in their social media ads. In 2019, Burger King in New Zealand got in trouble for posting an ad on Instagram for a Vietnamese-themed sandwich, which featured a white woman feeding the sandwich to an Asian man, using comically oversized chopsticks.

A catchphrase above the video read, “Take your taste buds all the way to Ho Chi Minh City.” The backlash was immediate, and the fast-food chain quickly deleted the video, but not before it had racked up 2.7 million views and garnered widespread derision and thousands of angry comments for the company.

Think before you post on social media

Examples like these go on and on. If you get your messaging wrong on social media, the backlash can begin almost instantly. If you’re not ready to handle it, you might wind up damaging your brand, even with the best of intentions.

Most of these examples seem so obviously dumb in hindsight. So, why do these kinds of social media blunders happen so frequently and to the best of companies?

Think about it: As CEO, you have probably asked your marketing team to just get some marketing material out there, as quickly as possible, so that people will notice and talk about your company. To an average or inexperienced marketer, this is an open invitation to create something fast.

Social media offers a quick way to check the box and get the CEO off marketing’s back. As you can see, though, this is incredibly dangerous because it can be done thoughtlessly, with unintended consequences


Plan, analyze, then execute

I strongly encourage you to give yourself and your marketing team the space to think carefully about your targeting, positioning, and messaging, before you publish content on any platform, including social media platforms. If you’ll pardon the pun, you need to socially distance from social media first, because once you post, the conversation is largely out of your hands.

Far from being a silver bullet, social media marketing requires careful consideration and smart planning. However, when you and your marketing team take your time and execute it wisely, it can become an essential part of an effective marketing plan.

“Lies, Damn Lies and Marketing: Separate Fact From Fiction and Drive Growth” is available now and can be purchased via StartupNation.com.


Sign Up: Receive the StartupNation newsletter!

Total
27
Shares
Previous Article
crisis communications

5 Reasons Why Startups Need to Create a Crisis Communications Plan Now

Next Article
business model

4 Reasons Why Choosing the Right Business Model is a Make-or-Break Decision

Related Posts
Gorillas Will Dance
Read More

Dancing with Gorillas: How Startups Can Partner with the Giants

This excerpt is adapted from “Gorillas Can Dance: Lessons from Microsoft and Other Corporations on Partnering with Startups” by Shaheen Prashantham. ©2021 and is reproduced with permission from Wiley.   Understanding the startup's perspective Of course, it takes two to tango, and the three-step (synergy-interface-exemplar) process just described will only work when the managers involved take...
the great resignation
Read More

How to Keep Flight-Risk Employees From Joining the Great Resignation

Throughout the last year, a myriad of U.S. employees quit their jobs, leaving many positions unfilled. And today, companies are still struggling to fill positions as we enter the new year. The reasons for the mismatch between labor offering and demand are multifold: People are increasingly handing in their notice because they want a better...
social media posts
Read More

7 Simple Reasons Your Social Posts Are Falling Flat

Each year, social media becomes more and more popular. While the platforms may change, the power that social has to grow your business remains steadfast. Let’s face it, if you’re not on social media, your business is most likely not even close to reaching its maximum potential. Social media has a catch though. You can’t...
Seven Years on the Front Line
Read More

An Entrepreneur Advises on Juggling Challenges, Putting Principles Before Money

This excerpt is adapted from “Seven Years on the Front Line: True Stories and Tough Lessons about a Small Business that You Won't Learn in a Classroom" by Sarah Y. Tse  ©2020 and is reproduced with permission from TSE Worldwide Press.   In all the stories in this book, I was dealing with two or...