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Why are Businesses Afraid of Social Media?

I recently met with a business executive of a leading technology brand who understood the intangible value of social media but flatly refused to adopt it. His attitude was, 'We don't do social media because people might say bad things about us. Our focus is where the money is!'

I recently met with a business executive of a leading technology brand who understood the intangible value of social media but flatly refused to adopt it. His attitude was, 'We don't do social media because people might say bad things about us. Our focus is where the money is!'

I replied, 'Whether you're on social media or not, your target market of 18 to 45 year olds is very much so, and they're already saying bad things about you. And they're telling their friends. What's more, they are where the money is!"

Although social media use has exploded; the mere mention of it upsets many in the business community. There is fear of losing control over sensitive information, ROI measurability, and strategy, as well as worries about legal issues, among other concerns. I believe there are three fundamental reasons behind such resistance.

  • Ignorance of our generation -- Gen Y / 'Millennial' (Those born in the 80's and early 90's). Most business leaders are pre-Millennial. They view social media as a domain of the young. They don't really get it, or refuse to consider it. Nevertheless, the Gen Y cohort is bigger than that of the Baby Boomers. That 94% of Millennial have joined social network cannot be overlooked.

As we grow and become the core market of tomorrow, we communicate and consume media differently and have an inherent ability to embrace new technology with ease. We prefer to send messages over social media platforms than make phone calls, watch our favourite program on our mobile phones, download our music instead of tuning into a radio stations and receive news online or through virtual word of mouth.

    • The Fear Factor --The fears of failure: threats to productivity, loss of intellectual capital, privacy issues, erosion of management authority, regulatory compliance and a host of other things often discourage businesses from adopting social media, and even prohibit its use. All this leads to inaction, which is also a choice, and enterprises that make that choice are at disadvantage.

Although there are legitimate concerns associated with social media, there are ample statistics demonstrating that its benefits of far outweigh those concerns.  They key overcoming those concerns and legitimate fears is to start with a, a sound social media policy. One based on best practices such as encouraging collaboration between enterprises and their employees, encourages feedback, and emphasizes increased productivity, to name a few.

    • Internal barriers -- In addition to generalized fears such as loss of control, perceived difficulties having to do with technical implementation and security challenges and worries about  employee misuse also hinder social media adoption. All these concerns ultimately pin down to money--cost benefit analyses producing unclear results. This is a sound business rule. However, when social media integrates with cloud computing software, businesses will view the joint security and implementation cost advantages. Again, collaboration with employees is just as important as it is with customers.

The social media fear factor is real, but controllable. My advice is to leverage the reach of social media to become a trusted source of helpful content, which, in turn, will help business build a stronger community. Start now; it may take trial and error for you to find the strategy that suits your business--there is no one-size-fits-all approach.  Maybe start with reexamining your reasons .Look at how others in your industry have responded to social media.  Are they using it or not?  If so, how?  Find out what has successfully worked for their organization.

Engage with the Gen Ys you know -- your sons or daughters, nieces and nephews sitting in their rooms tapping on their smart phones. Create clear and flexible policies that foster more intimate communication with customers and prospects while minimizing risks to the company.

As social media has evolved, it has become evident that there are abundant marketing opportunities to be tapped all over the internet. In my next blog, I will discuss the ways in which social media goes beyond mere advertising and how you can convince your boss to invest heavily in social media relationships.

Meanwhile, I'd like to learn about your experiences with social media. Has your company embraced it?  Have you recognized or encountered the fear factors?  I look forward to your thoughts.


Very well articulated. However, I feel the claims being made are more relevant to the Western markets. India is still a far cry from really adopting Social Media. Another interesting thought is the real influence of social on buying behavior. Most business executives struggle to measure this, hence their reluctance. If they see the money, everything else (strategy, policy, et al) will follow.
Also, you are right saying - 1 size doesn't fit all. But more importantly, SM should not be considered in isolation to other channels of communication. Giving a seamless experience is equally important i feel.

As always, a great post!

Hi Nisrine,

Good points. Though the views steer more on the policies, which sometimes may not be the right reason for people to not implement it, the way one approaches those not using it should be customized.
The one way to use and ask people to use digital and social media is direct. Ask a guy when he is shopping, as to what he saw where and when which led him to come to the store to buy the product. now in the digital space, and social media, no question needs to be asked.
While India is too early to adopt digital let alone social media (considering that Facebook has a 10% penetration in India) there is a huge potential and a lot of people are waking up to it.

So very true...
needless to say, its so very well drafted....
Will have my thoughts shared soon....
Well, rcom is using this medium effectively... its present on facebook, twitter & so on...
helps get customers opinion of the business...
People obtain information, education, news and other data from electronic media and print media. Social media are distinct from industrial or traditional media, such as newspapers, television, and film. They are relatively inexpensive and accessible to enable anyone to publish or access information.

Very well written.
I'd just like to add that there are 2 fundamental problems with social media marketing
1) It is difficult to track if advertisng in online medium results in offline sales for most non-entertainment & tangible products
Eg: GM taking the ads of Chevrolet off FB
2) Clutter. There is sooo much clutter of disorganised online information that many users get put off

Do write more about these challenges and any thoughts / suggestions on overcoming them


Very rightly said. I relate this to "a kid afraid to step first time into school". But once the surroundings are familiar and you've made few pals, the space doesn't seem too bad. The early adopters of this would benefit in the longer run as social medium would lead to improvements on how operations are run or savings on products that are built.

The Executive Leadership should adopt social media as a channel to reach out to the customers. This would help in knowing them proactively on where they're doing things wrong and whether the concept they envision will be adaptable to market. This would help quick decision making and whether an org needs to rechannelize its investment or relook at design.

It obviously has to be a 2-way channel and not to be seen as a brand building channel only.

What other medium would get you free access to millions of user community worldwide. This would not only help increase brand value but gets you information faster than even your internal communication channels. Consider a corporate who has network in multiple countries across the world and the amount of money the corporate would spend to build an information system to gather customer knowledge is tremendous.

Yes, once size fits all strategy won't apply here. While building an external social media strategy, one could obviously study the way the industry peers are using it, try and replicate it in bit & pieces. Might/might not work for you. But one needs to dive into the pool loosing the fear of getting wet.
But the other aspect is also true that one should not just open up the gates, the channels for external communications and engagement unless there is a social media strategy, the plan, the objective, the path and the guidelines clearly defined before engaging externally. And it must be an enterprise wide strategy encompassing various business areas/functions. Look at the way different functions engage with the consumers viz. marketing, sales, customer care. It is a holistic approach which is the need rather than to think in silos. As it travels across a consumers lifecycle. The customer, the enthusiasts, the fans, the critics - the entire world is waiting out there and that's where our money is.

Very true. There is a lot of fear when it comes to Social media with respect to getting "Booed" in general.

Nisrine... good work....well drafted... looking forward to read how to convince boss to adopt social media relationships...

Hi Nisrine,

You have some good points here though I think I also agree with the executive you asked. It is very difficult to make social media 'worth it' when you consider how much time and effort it requires to do it properly, plus the danger factors. For a lot of organisations they don't need to directly connect to this social world, yet. Twitter struggles to be profitable and Facebook is doing well but witness its struggles after IPO concerning mobile and it is clear there are still many unanswered questions about making social 'worth it'. The future might be different of course! Also, in the UK at the moment the largest demographic segment with spending power are the starting-to-retire baby boomers. Gen Y has high ambitions but most of us lack serious discretionary spending capacity... ;)

It would be interesting to see a concise argument from you as to where sustainable value is created through social media.

Thank you very much, Naj. Absolutely agree with you, seamless experience and coherent social media strategy is vital.Though I differ on your point on India.All the three fundamental reasons of resistance may be global in nature yet relevant to India as well.The country is witnessing a social media explosion at the helm of convergence.As the world’s largest democracy India’s demographic dividend lies with its youth and it is this young population (aka Gen Y) that is driving the adoption of digital media in India. Below are some interesting statistics on the Indian Social Media Landscape that cannot be ignored by the business community:
1.Internet usage in small towns was only 5% of internet usage in 2000, this has grown to 36% and has overtaken Internet usage in urban areas, a clear indication that – it is India’s youth (Gen Y) who are growing the internet usage (source: Internet usage India report)
2.According to a study on social media usage by The Nielsen Company -
a.Social Media in India is growing at 100% and is likely to touch 45 million users by 2012
b.Over 30M Online Indians are on Social Networking sites out of which 20 M users come online once in a day and spend more time on these sites than checking their e-mails.
c.45,000 is the number of daily increase in users on social networking sites in India
d.Out of the 37M people who check reviews online, 15M do their searches through Social Media
e.60% Indians who are social media users are open to being approached by brands
f.57% online consumers are open to receive brand related information
g.10M people are aware of the fact that brands do exist on Social Media

Naj - Thank you very much again, Naj for your nice comments and for helping generate discussion. In the end, we all get better at what we do by raising questions and sharing our thoughts.You put the seamless experience point very nicely. Appreciate it.

Ravi – Thank you for Ravi! An absolute delight to see you here.I see the point you are coming from. Trouble is that most businesses deal with social media by not dealing with it. Having a social media policy protects the organization and its employees. Adding value (from a sustainable point of view) is impossible, without a definite policy. India is no different either. The Indian online advertising reached over Rs.10.5B in 2011, up 45 per cent from 2010(Source: Pitch Madison Media Ad Outlook 2012). This indicates that digital is playing a major role in reaching out to young customers and companies are increasing their advertising spend on the medium as well.

Abbas Poonawala –Thank you for your insights, Abbas! I am pleased you liked it! Being intelligent and wise is a blessing and you are both and an ace as well:) Ever noticed how most of the major telecom service providers are using gaming to engage with customers? It’s interesting to see that the upsurge in the number of smartphones, iPhones, iPads, e-books & tablets that have contributed to increase in social media usage as well.

Nazneen- Thanks for your comment, you intelligent lady:).I am glad that you found it useful. Sure, will talk about the subject more in my next blog “How to convince your boss to invest heavily in social media relationships?” I agree with you. We live in a world of clutter and competition. So focus should be on the right content and key words that the customers are using. Businesses should adopt the language of their existing and potential customers and incorporate it in their offering.

Al - Thank you Al! Glad you agree with me :)

Rohit Roy- Thank you Rohit! Very nicely said! Some of the businesses are in such a haste to get social media working for them that they are willing to adopt any formula thrown at them. Its all about customer engagement.

Rakesh Kapur –What a nice comment, Rakesh! You are so correct. Indeed you are a fantastic partner in thought leadership through social media :)

Rose Pais : Thank you for your kind words, Rose. I am pleased to bits :) You are welcome here anytime

Hi Nisrine,

What is SM? I would answer that it is another media to reach people to get the name (brand) registered.

The problem with adoption of any new media by business is the alacrity with which their established wisdom is challenged every 3 - 5 years. Before year 2000, life for a brand manager was simple. It was all about Print, Radio and TV with TV taking the booty by virtue of being the only audio - visual media. Internet was a non entity. Decade after that when the business learned about internet KPIs, internet itself transformed itself. So when business learned all the answers, the world around it changed the questions!

Alice is lost in Wonderland! She does not know the way back home. She is skeptical of tricksters and feels that they would take her no where close to her home (brand nirvana).

Will you hold Alice's finger and tell her that world is still inhabited by the same folks. The ends are still the same...only small change are the devices to meet those ends.

One who addresses the trust deficit in technology will walk away with the money on the table.

Check out the be-blue campaign RCOM did on social media. It is path breaking.

Hi Nisrine,
Its a well drafted article pointing directly to the advantages of social media for an organization.
Needless to say but social media can be really helpful to the higher management people to know what wrong and good things are being discussed about their organizations and even they can get the suggestion thru social media.
Few things like Fear Factor do comes when it is approved in an organization, but it cannot be prevented by blocking these things. If somebody wants to misuse the data he can do so by using the mobile technology as this is the age of smart phones. So making some good policies and creating awareness about the privacy and believing on their employees, organizations can use this very best social media to know about their pros and cons, to understand Gen Y's concerns, Market strategy.
If implemented in a better way i think it can be one of the most mandatory thing in an organization.
In the end, I will say you have choosen the most burning topic to discuss and will eagerly waiting for your next article.

Hey Nisrine,
Good looking forward to the next blog.... It would be interesting to read how a 25 year old tries to convince their 45 year+ boss that they need a social media presence to push offline brand sales and maybe improve the overall image.

Dear Nisrine,
What a well written piece! I basically agree with your thesis, but, as a boomer, I think Jan has a good point. We are a huge market in the UK, and the vast majority of us never use SM in any form. There are exceptions, of course, like yours truly! The picture in the development world is mixed. At UNICEF UK, we make use of FB and Twitter...note how we sold Princess Eugenie's hat from the Royal Wedding, on ebay, and with constant twittering about it's progress! ATB

The term Social Media has been open to interpretation in a plethora of ways which creates a cultural divide amongst people wanting to adopt it.

At the time when a huge volume of the target audience that a company is wanting to court is available in/upon the social media platform - the engagement itself has divided the corporate community into quite a number of parts.

1. These are the corporate representatives who understand exactly what the social medium has to offer and harvests it to increase engagement on a platform where you are not seen as doing business alone, but engaging in bettering the cultural lifestyle of the people who are interacting with you .Very similar to the APPLE philosophy of devices bettering your life and not becoming your life.

2. These are the ones who want to be on the platform but are restricted with by cultural (Corporate or Social) restraints of being seen utilising such a platform - or they simply do not know how to steer the attention of those eyeballs to themselves after jumping on the bandwagon.

3. Are those whom I label as suffering from the “OSTRICH SYNDROME”. These are the types who are aware that they cannot be a part of this platform and actively debunks it, hoping that this phenomenon turns out to be a short lived Fad and passes on. These are the corporate syndicates who believe that the customer would be walking in their establishment and do not need to be courted, mined or informed. “If they want they will look us up” – is the mantra they swear by. Though such establishment is on a rapid decline with organisations and marketers understanding that the customer has choice and will exercise it. In a market filled with able or sometimes superior and cheaper substitutes, such a platform may be the only distinguishing factor which these parts of the corporate community do not want to adopt or adapt to .Why Ostrich? Cos an ostrich buries its head under the sand and believes since it can’t see any one, no one can see them.

I agree with Nisrine on the Ignorance and The Fear Factor, since these two are typecastedly viscous in nature and it often engulfs the best laid plans the companies decide to bank on. Internal barriers are a fall out of the first two and yes it’s a paradigm shift which needs to come through the way these companies still think. I don’t blame them entirely.

The early adopters to the social media platform is still in the age range of 12-35 , while the ones who are utilising it , or is in a position to utilise this are actually the laggards ( exception being always the rule ) who are in their age range of 55-65 years of age. Moreover Social Media is overtly presumed to be only FACE BOOK and ORKUT and other social networking websites and such people perceive that the generation logging onto it are neither serious nor in a position to be a decision maker to a purchase.

The fall outs for engagement on a social media platform can be similar to what an advertising campaign would be. However saying that, it ensures the flexibility and accuracy of reaching out to a more refined audience base (may not be always true, but with metrics available it can be achieved).The feedback is instantaneous and the approach can be refined mid way compared to a traditional ad campaign or PR Exercise. Also where most companies face the heat is the inability to absorb or react progressively to a comment which might not be sugar coated or exposing a loophole or service commitment failure or product intensive feedback.

The ability to be committed to customer and willingness to face the flak and carry on (especially with the end users being ruefully candid) can be quite a daunting task for any organisation and maybe that’s the reason also why they stay away from such platforms, even on and around their own web presences due to such fears, which is not entirely unfounded. There have been cases of serious harassment and intent to malign cases where such platforms have been abused by scrupulous forces. But then hey, it’s a double edged sword any which ways.

To end here, let’s say that this engagement is the way for the future as companies view to get the attention of the real end user and attempts to create that attention grabber called personalisation .End users can also be employees and possible recruits as well. That division is blurring fast .The platform allows such intensive one on one conversation to be maintained by the producer/manufacturer and end user and as the awareness grows this platform would also edge towards gaining maturity. It’s a long time before we see this medium maturing and heading down the bell curve towards “death”.

Hi Nisrine,

very well presented.
Positives & negatives will go hand in hand but Gen-Y has to understand that they cannot ignore this medium for long.
It could be the most cost effective and influential media if used strategically with two way communication and lesser time.


Hi Nisrine,

Very well expressed. I vouch for the benefits of Social Media and I know that most organizations are adapting to this approach. In our company we use it mainly to drive more attendees for our campaigns and online reputation management etc., I must add that we get maximum responses from American and European markets. Hope Asian market catches up faster too.



Hey Nisrine,

Really cool post. Agree that most businesses still think twice before accepting social media. But more and more businesses are moving towards them.
I guess the problem is how to we use it to our advantage. There are thousands of pages which have millions of likes or followers, but then thats where it ends !!! Its is the quality and not the quantity that matters in Soccial Media. And you get quality only if you can manage to 'engage' people.
Again what I feel is that all SM might not be feasible for all businesses. For example for a high end luxury product or a steel manufacturer to be present on a FB or Twitter might not make sense.


Social Media is a massive gathering of people in an alternative world. Hence, without a doubt, anyone looking for marketing, promotion and popularity has to leverage on the strength of it. However, it's still a channel. As long as creative- ideas, campaigns are built on strong insights, social media will only aid in making it bigger. Where is your next post?


An absolute delight to see you here tho'. You are right.However, having studied and lived and worked in the UK,I have to disagree with you and those who are already writing off our generation!

Certainly, the job market is incredibly tough at the moment, and there are lots of reasons for our generation to feel depressed about their career prospects. Though most of us are highly motivated and willing to overcome the challenges.
Technologies that were good for business succeeded those that were just a spike on the technology continuum faded and died. So – please don’t fall for the siren cry that social media has no sustainable value.
Businesses should look at what technology is coming through, find someone who understands it enough to explain what the promises and problems are from a business viewpoint, and then implement what will help it in an integrated and inclusive manner. This will make organizations successful. And, for some strange reason, success tends to attract talent – those Gen Ys that are worth it will seek them out.

However, do watch out for my next blog-Must read!

Himanshu Agarwal

Will do.Absolutely, progress for progress’ sake is a road to ruin – but the use of social media because they are good for the organization is what everyone should be aiming for!

John Hart
Thank you,Jon. An absolute delight to see your post though. It is interesting to note though that according to the study, carried out by Redshift Research in conjunction with the charity Action for Children .It found that Generation Y is driving Britain to donate more.Social media and technology clearly plays a central role in all aspects of the lives, including the way in which they engage with charities and the third sector – largely because it provides an instant and direct route to donations

Arun Kumar Shukla;
Thank you,rock star. Absolutely,ignore our generation and lose out!

Thank you very much indeed. Will be posted shortly. Appreciate it.

Sourish Ghosh
What a nice post! Indeed you are the Guru of social media. Cheers.

Thank you.Glad, you liked it!

Thank you,Ma’am. That’s wonderful and with a marketer like you it is a win-win situation for you organisation as well. Appreciate it.

Thank you,my friend. You said that very well-its all about engagement!


Now that's a double of spark of wisdom from a very creative copywriter indeed! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.Appreciate it.My new blog will be posted shortly.

There is more to it than what one perceives. Social Media opens more doors and windows even while you are away from the house! And on the long run and bigger picture, it brings out the ‘Better’ than before and ‘Mush Better’ for the Future. Well articulated and keep writing! It’s a Joy to read all you write!

Thank you very much,Rahul. Delighted to learn that you enjoy reading all that I write.I am so with you, “there is more to it than what one perceives”. You are so correct. Indeed you are an amazing partner in thinking things through social media.

Business leaders are beginning to take part in this conversation. See the following post that appeared recently on the HBR Blog Network:

A CEO commented:

"As the CEO of a growing tech company I absolutely agree that CEOs need to be aware of and be using social media. To say we shouldn’t in today’s world is like saying we shouldn’t listen to the radio, watch TV or read newspapers.
There is more to social media than pictures of cats and people sharing what they had for breakfast. Of course I’m not on twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all the time – but I’m there often enough to pick up on the trends and I can rely on others in my organization to keep me informed of what they discover. It’s my take that social media has become the ambient background playing behind everything we do commercially. Ignore it and your business decisions will be made in a vacuum"

Monetisation of social Media continues to be a real-life challenge for most corporates. However, successful campaigns like Burger King's in 2009 ( continue to show that it is indeed possible to convert social media into a marketplace. However, the dynamics are slightly different. Here each consumer is a fan or a friend or a follower and needs to be treated as such. There is an urgent need for creation of a "Social Media currency". Ways for people to reward their friends with products and services of companies they like/follow. Visa and MasterCard are both trying but with execution that is not so appealing. Coupons and bills redeemable and distributable exclusively on Social Media are what is going to fuel the next engine of growth for many consumer companies. A successful case study is much awaited.

Thank you,David Welc. Interesting blog indeed.Glad some of the CEOs are taking note. Appreciate it.Cheers.

Thank you,Abhishek. I agree with you ,However, there are many brands who have had financial success with Social media such as Dell,Tesco,Ford etc to name a few.Its all about egagement.

Nicely written,Nisrine. Though Social media is beneficial it needs to be handled with care and ROI is key.

Good blog,Nisrine.Though ROI is always going to be a huge concern. We are yet to arrive at well define approach on it

Hi Nisrine

Social media is gaining a lot of importance and is inevitable for key decision makers. Through your blog you have highlighted some extremely relevant points. Well done.

Hi Nisrine,

Very well written stuff. It's all about adapting to changing times, many of the leaders refuse to do so. They might still feel that its a short time fad, which will go down.
No many people are exploring the strength of this media, which gives huge ROI, if executed correctly. Keep Writing.


Zohar : Thank you very much,mate! Yes indeed,you are right-ROI .Cheers

Thank you ,Mehek. Absolutely,there are few approaches in place already depending on the business needs really.

Thank you ,Nazir! Appreciate that you took time to read my blog.

Thank you very much,Sujesh! An absolute delight to see your comment tho.Appreciate it

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