As a marketer, you love social media. It’s a prayer answered! The ability to economically reach groups with shared interests and passions is amazing.  And then the opportunity to dialog with them, often casually, is unique.

That’s why social media is so integral to inbound marketing - from traffic, conversion and revenue metrics directly attributable to social media, to the importance of sharing options for readers and visitors, social platforms permeate many phases of an inbound approach.

Of course, it’s one tactic of many - but it’s one that enables relationships, the essence of inbound marketing for marketers and prospects. And it’s a fabulous way to promote your content to vast audiences that are interested but wouldn’t know of it otherwise.

Management and Social Media

But social media is always a bit of a lightning rod for management.  Often there’s generational difference in perspective.  The pace, tone and informality of social media can be disconcerting, particularly for traditional B2B companies.  Sometimes there’s simply naivete and lots of anecdotal misinformation.

Explain to someone you’ll have an optimized landing page to convert leads and there’s no hesitation.  Mention a thank you page to introduce prospects to a variety of other information and it’s agreeable.  Say that the offer should be promoted through social media... and often a lengthy debate ensues.

Empathy, Expertise, Value and Risk

As a marketer you intuitively see the critical role that social media marketing must play in your grand campaigns. But management (whether your boss, the client or the client’s boss) often doesn’t.  This often results in a distraction which slows the great marketing work which drives the ROI by which management is fundamentally going to measure your program.

So as a marketer you must skillfully guide the debate. Here’s how.

  1. Be empathetic - understand that management is worried about lots of big picture issues, many of which you can be thankful to be ignorant of.  They’ve got a lot on their plates and sometimes having to wrap their heads around something of which so many of their peers are skeptical or critical is a big step.
  2. Be really good - understand how your personas use social media (for instance recent research on differences in generational use patterns among engineers and technical folks), which platforms are appropriate, and how to most effectively use the tools. Don’t forget HubSpot’s marketing library.  When I last checked there were 82 unique documents on the topic of social media marketing.
  3. Understand the business value - skip the ‘buzz’ stuff.  Management will respond to compelling metrics.  In fact that’s your primary tool to overcome skepticism.  Use case studies, success stories and surveys to highlight the impact of proper social media.
  4. Acknowledge risk - managers weigh risk in every decision. Often it’s instinctive and not even included consciously in their calculus. BUT when the risks are poorly understood they often seem more daunting and lead to hesitation.  So acknowledging, defining and mitigating risks is perhaps the most important step to obtaining management’s enthusiastic support for social media marketing.

Social Media Marketing Risks

Risk is a function of experience, perspective and perception.  Ask a teenager about social media risk and they’ll mention hacked passwords. Ask their school resource officer and the answer will likely be around felony bullying or sex offender registration for possession of risque selfies.

Although extreme examples, that’s not unlike the difference in perspectives commonly found between front line marketers charged with growing traffic and management concerned about limiting exposure in a litigious business world.

So what’s the answer?  An honest look at the business and legal risks of using social media in B2B marketing.  There are 7 key risks which include:

1) Failing to use social media effectively

As a marketer you understand the potential, but management may not.  And failing to use social media appropriately and effectively in your marketing carries a potentially significant opportunity cost.

2) Competitive exposure

Companies which are cavalier about employee use of social media will likely provide competitors valuable insight into their strategies, activities, target accounts, etc.  It’s not just individual snapshots, but the intelligence tapestry which can be woven with even cursory observation.  The flip side is the opportunity to collect information on competitors. Have you demonstrated that to management?

3) Ignorance of common legal complaints originating in social media

Scary topics like tortiousinterference, product disparagement, defamation and right to publicity should be at least vaguely familiar.  It’s not just copyrights about which you need to worry.

4) Having ‘someone’ set up the accounts

Many companies are surprised to learn that they don’t even own their accounts. Rather whomever set them up (intern, former employee, marketing agency employee, etc.) may own them... along with all the followers.

5) No policies, procedures or employee training

Your marketing team means well. They’re energetic and enthusiastic and they’ll work long and hard on your behalf.  Make sure you provide guidance to channel all that energy in the right direction.

6) Assigning this critical function to a digital native

Maybe that digital native is exactly the right person….but too often it’s someone who you think knows the tools best, but likely knows little of the business. Think of social media like a 24/7 interview.  Would you send them out for that unprepared?

7) Being uninsured

Even if you don’t do anything wrong, it’s still a crazy business world. You could well be sued - even with little basis.  Ensure that you’re insured not only against claims, but perhaps more importantly for cost of defense. Maybe your business coverage includes what you need, but these are ‘green field’ areas of litigation. Check with your broker. You might decide to carry ‘cyber insurance.”

Make informed decisions. Acknowledge the risks of social media marketing (including the huge business risk of not leveraging it) and take steps to mitigate those risks.  Marketing will be happy to have access to the tools and management will be happy to make decisions with eyes open rather than relying on ill-informed anecdotes.

Want to learn more? Download our free eBook on the Seven Biggest Business and Legal risks of B2B Social Media Marketing:

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Originally published Sep 4, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated January 18 2023


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