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10 Pitfalls of Social Media – Part 1 of 5

Part one of a five-part posting.


Online social media is making substantial changes to media consumption and marketing practice worldwide. Social media is also currently (and unfortunately) drenched in hype. To know where social media is going, you need to look at its shortfalls…


Marketers like to praise social media, and in most cases they are right to do so. Social media presents many new, involving and engaging ways for communities of like-minded people to interact and is an enormous transformative force on society’s fabric. Every serious marketer needs to have a plan for using these exciting new media to reach and engage with their relevant publics, and for dealing with the changes in behavior social media is enabling.

That said, social media is not a panacea for marketers. There is much confusion over the best ways to engage with audiences through these new media, and unfortunately there is also a lot of hyperbole about social media in general which only helps confuse the issue.

There are many sources of information on the internet detailing everything that’s right and good about social media, so I’m not going to list those here today. Come back here in a month or two for the sequel to this article, where I praise social media for its strengths.

Knowing some of the pitfalls of social media marketing (SMM) that currently exist may help you establish how these media are going to change in the future and empower you to make business decisions accordingly.

In no particular order, here are a few personal perspectives you might want to to consider when planning your social media activities. (NB: It can appear that my blog post picks on Facebook a lot. I do not mean to single out this particular website for criticism – but it does seem to me that there is more hype around Facebook than other social media sites, hence the disproportionate inclusion of FB in this article. There are also many FB clones out there, and in many cases these criticisms are equally applicable).


1. Wherefore art thou Privacy? According to Keirsey and Bates, around 40% of the world’s population have introverted personality traits. These people tend to keep personal information to themselves and choose to forge relatively deep connections between a small group of lifelong friends – whereas many social networking sites like Facebook encourage building numerous, relatively shallow connections between associates and casual acquaintances, a feature more common to extroverted personalities. (Twitter is probably a far better choice for reaching introvert audiences, but that’s another post). If you use  social media sites like FB, I would ask you to consider your own friends’ public posting statistics and consider the likelihood of these observations for yourself. The lesson in this story is know the personality traits and behaviours of your audience – just because your audience members use Facebook, that doesn’t necessarily mean that this is automatically the best avenue to make a deeper connection with them as a group.


2. Segregation by governments is evil – but between friends it’s necessary. There is no piece of meaningful personal information about myself that I want my friends, my clients, my parents, my siblings, my work mates and my wife to possess equally (let alone friends of friends, total strangers and foreign government operatives.) Despite the recent reinvention of FB’s user interface, in my opinion Facebook is still not very good at allowing users to segment audiences within their friends lists – nor does FB recognize  how I want to interact with different groups to my personal satisfaction.  Google+ offers better control over information and friend segregation which may be in part behind its current rapid growth. LinkedIn as a business-networking website encourages linking of business contacts only – which is more sensible, but in some industries (like IP licensing) your contact list is your livelihood and it is not to be shared lightly. The lesson here is make your social media presence appropriate for the service and products you offer. (While I like pizza and am happy to recommend a restaurant and download on-line discount vouchers, I refuse to become “friends” with an international Pizza chain.)