10 Risks for Corporate Social Media Early Adopters

In my last post, I discussed 10 rewards for companies that are early adopters of social media. There’s another side to this that I want to address separately: the biggest risks companies face when jumping into an unknown community.

Failure
Of course this is the big one, but it’s easily avoided. Failure means that the brand comes in and behaves like it does on other platforms instead of understanding what the community wants. Don’t regurgitate. Innovate.

Mistakes
Or better put, not learning from mistakes. Your brand will make mistakes. But the inability to learn and adapt is where the risk is.

Criticism
Many social networks are communities of friends, whether they know each other in real life or just virtually. To have these trust networks overwhelmed by brands trying to market or sell them products often feels like an invasion of privacy.

Platform Never Gains Popularity
One of the biggest risks in a young social network is that it might not take off in the way you expect. It’s not as much of an issue for individuals. But for companies, there’s a lot of time and effort invested in building a new presence (and integrating that presence across multiple places).

Audience Not Ready
Or rather, your audience isn’t. Maybe the people you care about communicating with aren’t part of this group yet. It’s likely that the demographic makeup of the new platform is not in sync with your brand’s audience.

No strategy
In the rush to be “first,” did you forget to determine your objective for being there in the first place? This happened time and again with Second Life, Twitter and Facebook Fan Pages, which now lay dormant.

Small Audience
A nascent social network consists of people that like to be the first to try something, people that sign in once and then don’t come back, and friends of founders. If you get in too early, you risk spending too much time building relationships with too few people. That time might be better spent on a larger, more established platform.

Measuring ROI
You can’t at first. What you can do, however, is determine what is important to your organization and begin by measuring that. You can help co-create tools that others can use to evaluate what success might look like, as Hubspot has done for Twitter.

Losing Your Star Employee(s)
This is one of those inevitable risks that I think is worth it. We’ve watched some of the brightest early adopters move on from the companies they once championed to other ventures. Giving employees the opportunity to experiment, grow and share your brand socially has the added effect of creating valuable employees that are sought after by your competitors. And sometimes, they will move on.

No Precedent
What are the rules governing your employees’ use of new platforms? Some companies, so eager to be first, forget to set rules for use that their employees can follow, and as a result, end up with more trouble than they anticipated.

What do you think? Are the rewards worth the risks? More important, what are some other big risks companies need to consider?

224 thoughts on “10 Risks for Corporate Social Media Early Adopters

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