Lee Odden

7 Common Social Media Marketing Problems and Their Solutions

Adam SingerThis post is part 2 on Social Media Marketing Best Practices from IMS Minneapolis.  The first post featured Brad Smith from Best Buy who offered insights into their social media principles, guidelines and learnings.

This post includes liveblog notes from the presentation given by Adam Singer of TopRank Online Marketing. Adam opened up noting that according to a research study by Russell Herder and Ethos Business Law, 14% of executives are unsure of social media, yet 70% expect to spend more.

That set the stage for some of the common obstacles and barriers to social media adoption which he focused on in: 7 Common Social Media Problems and their Solutions.

1. Flying blind

Many companies chase social media tactics with no idea about the who, what, when and where of the social web. It’s essential that companies first develop a listening program to answer those “W” questions.   Listening through social media monitoring is critical to understanding brand, competitors and key terms relevant to your audience on the social web. Without a smart listening effort, companies miss key opportunities: marketing, customer service, sales, recruiting, partnering and public relations.

2. Unsure where it fits – who owns social media?

As companies develop their social media programs, responsibilities and resources need to be allocated and that leads to accountability and “ownership”.  For successful social media adoption within organizations, it’s important to establish social media goals and responsibilities in different parts of the organization.  As resources and accountability are identified, the different departments can work to cross pollinate efforts, and work together as a team. Doing so helps leverage combined efforts and from an implementation standpoint, avoids conflicting representation of the brand.

3. Inconsistent participation

Companies need to be consistent with their social participation. Our clients at TopRank Marketing with the most successful blogs are those that post consistently. The solution to more consistent participation is to lead from the top, get executive buy-in. Establish goals and provide a feedback loop to contributors. As they grow, the community will provide feedback. Set aside resources, plan who will create content, monitor and engage. Tap passionate community members and activate them to be brand ambassadors. Create efficiencies through the repurposing of content.

4. Not individual or confident

Believing that people will listen to and find value in what you really want to say requires confidence. Whether you’re right or wrong might not matter as much as being passionate. Now, more than ever, is the time to show leadership and conviction when it comes to social participation and engagement.

5. Digitally unsavvy team

Modern marketers need to understand social media.  Companies don’t “do social”, they “are social”. That means being savvy participants.  There’s good reason for that. According to “Social Technographics of Business Buyers” from Forrester Research:

  • 91% of business buyers read blogs, watching user generated video, participate in other social media
  • 55% of decision-makers were in social networks
  • 43% are creating media (blogs, uploading videos or articles, etc.)

“If you’re a B2B marketer and you’re not using social technologies in your marketing, it means you’re late.” Josh Bernoff, Forrester.

The good news is that you can learn to be social media savvy through training, participation, listening and engagement.

6. Data paralysis

Data should help drive decisions, but don’t let it get in the way of creative ideas from your team. Adam relates the story of one of his clients, Joffrey’s Coffee where he recommended campaign changes based on his personal experience with the social web vs waiting for data to prove a concept. The result was a successful program by all accounts which is often cited as a social media marketing case study by others in the industry.

7. Lack of personalization

Use real team members in your social media efforts. Don’t use some faceless person behind “Brand X”. Forge relationships with others. Put others in the spotlight. “Give to get” and be focused on serving and being useful.  Don’t send in legal right away as an initial reaction to social dissension. Read the “Streisand Effect” for more on what happens when that backfires. Embrace personal brands, don’t worry about them getting too popular because their allegiance is to the brand.

In the end, companies can win on the social web by developing a strategy, experiment and iterate. And if you get lost, you can always get help.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.


  1. I hate when people trying to pitch me their company or product before building any type of relationship

  2. Good list, and I appreciate that you offer solutions and not just a list of obstacles. I think #1 is the biggest: flying blind.. or jumping in without a plan, without research, without strategic goals and objectives. That requires taking on social media as a significant marketing and communications enterprise, not just an afterthought. FWIW.

  3. Good list, and I agree with davinabrewer that #1 is the biggest problem. But it's not unrecoverable, in fact it's almost like a necessary initiation rite — jump in, feel lost, THEN go back and listen, learn & plan. We have many clients who come to us after they've tried to do things on their own and ended up confused and overwhelmed. But after their initial confused efforts they are REALLY ready to develop a plan with goals and clear intentions.

    • Sometimes the hand needs to touch the stove first to learn. 🙂 But we'd prefer to avoid that altogether of course.

  4. Good collection of the solutions, these are the first things which usually needed in starting of the business… because the new person like me face hell of problems in new business in new market.. these are the general ideas.. Thanks for sharing with us. loved your post buddy..

  5. A well wrote and concise list of points that I have encountered on different levels with different businesses already. I might save myself a lot of trouble by turning this into a questionnaire and asking clients to read it and fill it in before meetings so they begin to understand just whats involved ;P

  6. All great solutions. I agree with Justin P. about saving myself a lot of time and having folks understand this before we delve into these topics.

  7. anubhav says:

    I would say that a lot of problems have been precipitated by SEO firms that are sprouting up from everywhere and are using dirty tactics such as creating a false sense of increased traffic for a client's site by encouraging volume-based, click-through traffic from the cheaper, outsourced workforce. This is purely irrelevant traffic that spikes the unique visitors numbers for a few weeks and then, when the SEO service provider's contract is over…the online visitors just disappear.

    • Anubhav. that's an interesting perspective and I can say the drivers of those activities are aggressive client side marketers, advertising agencies and PR firms that all lust after traffic. Certainly some SEO consultants propagate this as well but the really good firms are accountable to conversions, not just traffic. That means a focus on user experience and community when it comes to promotions on the social web.

  8. Lee thanks a lot, information is very useful, sometimes it is very difficult to explain to customers who things they are the best, that they need to understand, whom they addressing their social media marketing message and what they need to achieve from it. Sometimes they saying some things like: “ Everybody doing SMM “ or “ My boss told me to do that, but I personally do not give a s…t about your silly SMM”

  9. Wow,…I need to show this post to a client! 🙂

    I see so many times the Nº 1 problem listed here and the Nº5 Makes me cry!!!

    this post should be in the Social Media Bible, definitely 🙂



  10. I bet we could have seen the same post in 1998 when the web was emerging as a serious marketing channel. Nobody owned it, everybody owned it, nobody was properly funding it, everyone was making basic mistakes and most creative was very stale.

    Whenever an industry grows up quickly, especially when there is serious need and significant hype there will be an unwieldy mess.

    But in two or three years from now most major brands will have someone in a senior position guiding the social ship. The landscape will look different, there will be quite a bit more organization and creative types will start to wrap their heads around the dynamic. Change takes time, and this change seems to have jumped on the industry overnight.

  11. wileyccoyote says:

    Good post, Lee. In my experience, reason #3 is the main killer. Many brands choose to jump into social media simply because their competitors are there. Then when they set up their Twitter handle or Facebook page, they post a few times and then abandon cart. Def the wrong road to take. If you're going to listen to your consumer, you have to do it ALL THE TIME. Participate and hang out where they are.

    • Exactly, there is no substitute for a combination of first hand, direct participation AND data from a smart social media monitoring effort.

  12. Inconsistency is a huge problem in social media but often it comes from numbers 1 and 2. If you don't know who your audience is, then you won't know how to connect with them. Furthermore, if you don't know who's job social media should be then you're not going to get anything done or posted on a regular basis, if at all!

  13. I was really impressed by the statistics in #5. At the same time, it would make sense for businesses to do thorough research on a new product, especially if they were engaged in the same social media. I feel that #7 is a great and underrated idea. Having a face to go with a story or suggestion online can really help consumers feel more comfortable about asking questions. That’s probably why Twitter accounts like Dell do so well.

    J&L Marketing

  14. Heinrich says:

    Any social media marketing strategy should be well planned and executed in order to be successful. I agree with all the points that you have mentioned in your post and this post should be read by anyone looking at becoming involved in social media. Most of the time companies do not have a clear vision or plan when implementing their social media marketing campaign. This can easily result in more damage to their reputation than value added. Thanks for the good post.


  15. juliagaynor says:

    This is really interesting, and I must say that I agree with a lot of it! These are issues facing many organizations. However, one of the issues I find most overlooked is a true evaluation of whether a social media program will be genuinely beneficial in driving a business' objectives.

    I can't tell you how often I hear a CEO say, “we NEED to be on Facebook” or Twitter or some other social media platform they heard about on the news, but have never used and know little about. It's crucial for companies to make informed decisions about how the leverage social media platforms. Target audience shouldn't be disregarded- if your customers and prospects aren't on Twitter then that may not be the smartest place to allocate resources.

    Affect Strategies

  16. Anthony Sipes says:

    Great blog, thanks for perspective.

  17. Lee great post, thank u for sharing!

    Social Media is a huge concept which we should understand step by step.
    To become success with Social Media we should have passion, otherwise without deep knowledge or passion we can't be success with it.

  18. You're right about the consistency…it builds a relationship, which is the real secret behind social networking!

  19. Shianonpenandleisure says:

    Great! You have just said the right words and i superly agree on the media marketing problems and solutions being pointed out in this post. This is true to most media marketing sites i encounter. They claim to be credible but most of the time they forget to provide the W's and the “ownership” of their sites. I also find it true that to enable to entice others on the marketing website you promote, you yourself as a modern marketer should make use of it by being a consistent participant. Thus, social media plays a huge role in the marketing trend and it needs not to be neglected. Two-thumbs up for this post.

    I would also like to commend your blog for introducing the Streisand Effect. Pretty informative huh.

  20. I think you have made some excellent points.. Especially B2B's being late… I am seeing more and more of B2B that are late “doing social”. Another point that cannot be stressed enough and that is being personal. Companies new to social want results fast. They want to automate tweets and use robots and wonder why “it's” not working. Social media is all about being organic first. The quicker they understand that the sooner their success will come.. Thanks for the post..

    • “Social media is all about being organic first. The quicker they understand that the sooner their success will come.” very well said….using automatic softwares to do 1000 followers each day never going to work…its actual participation and networking which will work

  21. thanks for sharing:
    In social media marketing these problems are most.I will try to follow your solution.

  22. kellybriefworld says:

    Social media apps can be utilized to further innovation and productivity. Productivity in the workplace can either be hampered or heightened depending on the usage of the application. Software is being developed and policy and restrictions are being decided everyday by IT managers. Palo Alto Networks came out with this whitepaper which explores the issues surrounding social media in the workplace. Check it out: http://bit.ly/d2NZRp. It is important to understand not only the immediate benefits of doing business using these social media apps, but also the threat it presents to a company's greater ROI and productivity when it comes to the server's safety and security.

  23. You've made some really good points here. I particularly agree with the pieces on consistency and lack of personalization. It is nearly impossible to generate any type of following or participation if you aren’t constantly contributing, as well as creating an individual personality within your social media efforts.

    Victoria Jones