Why Large Companies Have Problems with Social Media

Quad City Business Social Media

Emerging Patterns

We engage in Marketing activities with a variety of companies and our work crosses a number of boundaries with regard to industry and available resources. Additionally, we’re fortunate to work with companies of varying sizes from start-ups to large and established entities. Over time, a number of patterns have emerged and one of them is the topic of our discussion today. That topic is why big companies tend to struggle more than smaller companies in adopting and implementing social media as one of their marketing resources.

Obviously there are a number of different causes behind this phenomenon and it’s not a universal truth. We’ve seen a number of large companies that are doing very well with social media and we’re sure you could list a few yourself. Still, the large companies tend to struggle a bit more than small and large companies and we’ve identified a few common themes that seem to contribute to this.


Reason #1: Control Issues

Big companies generally have more established processes and controls than their smaller counterparts. These include legal, regulatory and risk management controls that don’t tend to work well with the type of speed and flexibility required for normal interaction on most types of social media. Often it just becomes simpler for Marketing, or whichever department is leading the charge on social media, to avoid doing social media properly, or at all, rather than fight the constant internal battles.


Reason #2: Departmental Boundaries

The larger the company, the more likely we have found activities to be limited to departmental or functional silos within the organization. Since social media, by its nature, is highly relevant to interaction with a number of departments such as Sales, Marketing, Customer Service and others, it becomes difficult to implement seamlessly in a large environment. Many of the processes and controls mentioned in Reason #1 contribute to this problem as well.


Reason #3: Message Less Focused

Unlike a lot of traditional media, it is generally less effective to simply push a narrow, product or service focused message out through social media over and over again. Not only is this considered bad form, it becomes boring and is viewed as excessively self-serving. Since larger companies generally have more experience with traditional media the common practices are much more ingrained and, consequently, more difficult to shed.


Reason #4: Being Social Trumps Professionalism

Rather than the canned, structured interactions large companies are used to, social media works much better with a more casual and, not surprisingly, social approach. People interacting on social media often don’t expect proper grammar and complete sentence communications. They just want to talk and be heard. This is much more easily adopted by smaller organizations that are more informal by nature and don’t have a library of canned communications to discard anyway.


Reason #5: Benefit is Tough To Measure

Like many media activities, it’s still pretty difficult to show a convincing ROI for social media. For larger companies, who often are already skeptical, this means they don’t want to throw internal resources at it that social media might require. This means it will either cost a lot to do it through an outside agency or it gets left as a secondary role for someone internal who already has a full time job. Not exactly a recipe for success. Smaller organizations see as an opportunity to compete on a level of equality with the larger companies through a modest investment of time. Since they often have more time than money, this seems like a good deal and they jump right in.


Still Evolving

These are the five most common reasons we’ve seen. As noted earlier, there are a number of large companies doing social media very well. As the social universe continues to evolve and expand, it stands to reason that more large companies will decide to overcome their natural inhibitions and find a way to make it work for them. They’ll have some good examples to study with their small and medium counterparts.

Do you have any other reasons we may have missed? Feel free to post them and give us examples of large companies you think are doing social media well.

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Article written by John Howard

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John is the founder and President of Frontera Marketing Group. A graduate of the University of Iowa, John had more than 20 years of professional experience in Sales and Marketing prior to founding FMG. His corporate background included a number of companies, industries and roles including National Account Manager, Product Manager, Brand Manager, Director of Trade Marketing, Director of Marketing and Vice-President of Marketing.

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2 Comments


  1. Brett Dovey

    Are companies missing the broader picture of how & why social media works ..

    1. How are companies talking to there customers ?
    2. How do companies implement a new product ? Do they do a survey ? On what platform ? Do they use an existing customer base and lose the potential of customers that haven’t really bought into their product yet, but with input from these potential customers the may increase their sales by making a few changes ?
    3. Who buys your product ? The customer & perhaps the people that work for the company …. and if the are restricted and not allowed to have a voice why should they really want to support you …they would rather move onto someone else.
    4. Personal experience …. I have sent emails to companies and have had little or no response (statistics show that 35% of companies don’t bother) …but when you “embarrass” them on a social platform they are more than willing to help because other “fans” are listening in to understand what response & service you will actually receive …value for money… email one – to – one …. where do you go then if you get no feedback ??
    5. How is the current outbound marketing measured ? Are people still looking at your TV ads ?
    6. We are people …. here our views … how many products have been launched by arrogant companies because they simply think their ideas suffice 90% of people’s needs.
    7. Best artists & brands are doing well …like Coke & Starbucks … because the engage ..they discuss they share they communicate …. they treat humans like humans and not bottom line figures ..

    So from personal opinion …. like it or hate it …

    800 million plus users on facebook
    200 million plus on twitter ..

    Surely that is a marketable option if handled correctly ….. People need to can the old adage of sending “spam” to people with Outbound marketing techniques and rather look at innovative Inbound techniques to attract people as true “fans” !!!

    November 11th, 2011 at 9:51 am Reply

    • President

      Brett, Thanks for the well thought out comment. Most of them are missing the point about how Social works and you’ve clearly experienced this yourself. Social runs counter to their normal processes and the desire to strictly control, and even limit, consumer interactions to those which they’re comfortable with. Some of the more progressive companies are using social very effectively but they’re clearly in the minority. For now. – John

      November 11th, 2011 at 11:20 am Reply

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