A practical approach to modern marketing.

The Hype Around Social Media Is Deafening. But What About Its Weaknesses?

Social Media is the object of more than its fair share of hype, yet the downsides of social media often go unexplored.

These include aspects of social media like employee oversharing, the need to Feed the Monster, and an increased risk of malware and spam attacks (the new social disease?).

If that conversation doesn’t occur among those hyping social media, well, no one’s surprised.

When it doesn’t happen between consultant and client, it’s just a bad day for everyone.

Take, for example, the increased risk of malware.

From the Good Morning Silicon Valley site:

More businesses may be incorporating social networking into their internal and external communications, but that doesn’t mean the cranky guys back in the systems room are happy about it. A new report and survey of 500 companies by security outfit Sophos found a 70 percent increase last year in the number of firms reporting spam or malware attacks via social networks. Almost three quarters of the companies surveyed believed their employees’ behavior on social networking sites endangered security, and 61 percent named Facebook as their biggest worry among the social sites.

Weigh Benefits, Costs – And Dangers

Obviously, every media channel has its pluses and minuses, and they need to be weighed against the potential benefits.

In other words, “because it’s cool and everybody’s doing it” are not powerful business cases for organizational use of social media. (Engagement, sales, customer service and related concepts are good reasons for moving into social media.)

That most businesses and nonprofits will eventually use social media is a given; that they’re mindful of the downfalls is critical.

Facebook is hardly a cesspool of malware, but virus attacks through the social network have become more common. Are you prepared?

Oversharing Can Hurt You

Beyond the malware dangers, social media raises questions of employee involvement.

Many social media consultants are quick to call for transparency and unfettered employee access to media channels, but frankly, some employees shouldn’t be allowed near a Twitter client.

Years ago, I worked with a vendor who was given direct access to my client on a difficult project. To my horror, that vendor promptly got into an email flame war with my key contact.

It wasn’t a mild flame war, and yes, I made amends, but (understandably) I ultimately lost the client.

In all the years I worked with that vendor I never saw it coming; they’d been an excellent partner right up until that moment.

And while this occurred in pre-social media (remember those days), it still applies as a cautionary tale.

Finding the Best Fit Means Weighing All Aspects

The moral, of course, is that you can’t simply hand each employee a twitter account – nor should you.

Every media channel has its strengths or weaknesses. The hard part is figuring out which fit best – and if (and when) you should leverage them.

Stay thoughtful, Tom Chandler.