A few years ago we found that potential clients were all rather resistant to the use of social media in their PR programs. Most couldn’t see how Facebook, Twitter or YouTube could possibly be of benefit.

Strangely enough that tide seems to have swung back the other way and now everyone thinks they need a Facebook and Twitter presence but for many companies it’s a waste of time and can actually have a negative impact.

In recent weeks we’ve had two such companies profess their desire to be on Facebook particularly — one was a medical technology company and the other a data cable industry leader. I’d argue that both of these organisations should spend most of their ‘online’ energy on creating a great website and forget Facebook.

There is no blanket social media solution

Maybe I’m being too simplistic but the way I see it – if your customers or key stakeholders aren’t looking for you on Facebook then why do you need to be there. It’s not that data cable customers aren’t using Facebook because many of them probably are, but if they were to delve deeper you’d find that the customers are using Facebook to invite friends to a party, share photographs with friends and family and to keep in touch with those in their personal sphere, not their professional world. Therefore they are not about to start undertaking business transactions via Facebook.

The exception to this is consumer products. We strongly recommend our clients who sell to consumers particularly for private usage need to have a strong presence on the more popular social media sites because their potential customers will look for them on Facebook and others.

The other exception is the use of YouTube. Just about every company can utilise YouTube to upload videos about their business. In most cases these videos should also be on the company website so customers can find them easily. In that way YouTube just becomes an easy and free way to have videos on a website.

I made a decision earlier this year that I would divide up my own social media consumption — Facebook is for personal interactions only, so I ‘defriended’ anybody that wasn’t part of my non-work world. I decided that I’d focus on LinkedIn for business and put more effort into connecting with relevant people. I dropped Twitter from my work life and now only use it to follow and interact with those involved in cycling, my favourite pastime outside work. I’m not suggesting that everyone is making such a conscious decision about social media usage but many are making these types of decisions subconsciously.

So before you rush out and spend hours creating social media pages do a quick survey of your customers and stakeholders and determine if they would really seek you out on social media.

Nicola Rutzou