LinkedIn AnswersSometimes the best questions to ask are the ones you think you already have the answer to.  Here’s one: Are there still businesses that shouldn’t engage in social media marketing? In my view, every business can find some way to squeeze value out of the social media space, so to me, the answer is “no.” But I was interested in being challenged on this point, and LinkedIn Answers proved, again, to be the perfect forum. The full question:

Are there businesses that shouldn’t engage in social media marketing?

I used to think there were many verticals, business types and industries that should refrain from social media marketing all together. Now, with the ever-widening array of tools and platforms, coupled with skyrocketing consumer use of platforms like Facebook and Twitter worldwide, I’m less certain this is the case. I think that for most businesses, there is a way to use SM for marketing, but it may require inventive thinking and substantial resource investment.

Jason Trout was adamant:

Absolutely!!! Jason Trout

1) Those that do not know how to utilize social media correctly and do harm to their brand

a) do not update regularly

b) do not engage correctly

c) do not communicate professionally

d) are not knowledgeable about the tools or keep up with the trends

e) do not invest proper resources

2) Those where social media activities will not add any value to the company – yes, these companies still exist.

I’ll concede his first point; of course businesses out there that consistently make these mistakes should either quit or reformulate their social media plans, but this is a bit like saying that bad writers shouldn’t try to be professional authors. As for his second point, I’d like to know more—which type of company or industry?

Annie Noll’s thinking mirrors my own, and she illustrates an important point: Whether we value social media often depends on our understanding of the different ways people use it.

Annie NollI think every company and industry can find a use for social media. At least all the ones that I can think of. I remember I was at IMS09 in October and there was a person there from the federal reserve. She asked if they should use social media because they really don’t have any competitors. The answer was yes, because social media can be used for so much more than just promotion (internal communications, etc). It is simply the way people want to communicate now!

I do social media for a university and am finding so many different ways social media can be used in our classrooms, in our admissions offices (we are getting admissions essays through Facebook), for our alumni. It does take innovative thinking, but it pays off really well.

Modeling our use of social media on the successes of others is only valuable insofar as the model applies to us, but we always need to think of new ways to use the tools at our disposal. There is no guidebook, and this causes both anxiety and excitement. But it’s also a huge opportunity, and people that look at it this way, people like Annie, are the ones that implement winning social strategies.

B2B companies, Brad Shorr argues, have had a tough time with social media, but that’s changing:

As recently as a couple years ago, certain industries could safely avoid SM because on the whole, customers weren’t really frequenting SM sites in significant numbers. I think that’s changed. B2Bs can take it for granted that their market is present in SM – the only question is, where?Brad Shorr

The pervasiveness of SM in business is the result of two factors, as I see it. First, non-business SM platforms like Facebook and YouTube are so ingrained that it’s no longer a big leap into the unknown to use social platforms for business purposes. Second, the line between business and personal use of SM is starting to break down. People no longer compartmentalize their online activities. On Twitter or Facebook or even LinkedIn, you can follow up a highly personal interaction with one that is all business, and go back and forth all day long. In this kind of SM environment, just about any brand is a consumer brand. It would take some pretty compelling reasons to deter a firm from incorporating SM into its marketing program.

Spot on. We’ve seen our B2B clients embrace social media and customer-created content to drive serious ROI, and new use cases for B2B engagement in social media are occurring to sharp folks like Brad Shorr every day.

Social media marketing is all about amplifying the voice of your customers, says Chelsea Mueller:

Chelsea MuellerOften people think of social media marketing as a brand new avenue, but really it’s all about word-of-mouth marketing. Social media is about getting your customers to talk, to brag about your company/product/service. The online setting has just accelerated our ability to connect with these customers in an immediate fashion. We can spark conversion and provide the tools for our clients to become brand ambassadors.

Any business — B2C, B2B, non-profit — can benefit from the word-of-mouth buzz associated with correctly leveraging social media trust and engagement.

Highly-regulated industries, Peter Landesman argues, may have more hurdles, but can and should find solutions:

I have come into contact with a few firms — especially those that are involved in wealth and financial management. These industries are highly regulated and SM is discouraged, if not completely forbidden.Peter Landesman In my opinion, firms in these industries need to develop a workable solution so that SM can be used as a platform to interact with clients and prospects within the rules of governance. Let’s face it … we’re all creative people and I am confident that these kinds of workable solutions are out there.

I couldn’t agree more, and companies like LendingTree and Nationwide have saddled up and seen measurable results.  I’ll let Peter wrap it up, because he does it perfectly:

There is no valid reason for businesses to eschew or avoid SM, but there seem to be plenty of excuses.

What do you think? Are there any businesses that shouldn’t engage in SMM? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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One Response to “Are there still businesses that shouldn’t do social media?”

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