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.
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.