It sounded like a good idea at the time, your boss said “Get us a Facebook page and get me some fans!”

You walk away politely muttering, “It’s likes, Mr Firestein…fans is like so 2010.”

But still you comply and later someone decides it would be a great idea to give away a piece of cake for every dinner purchased.   The great news is you rock at social media and spread the word.  Unfortunately you are too good and no one thinks about the costs of making enough free cake and not only that, but no one thought about all the extra plates you’d need either.  Really the list goes on and on.

On one level it sounds like a “quality problem” until you go on Facebook next day as your “fans”, um excuse me, the people who “like” you, riot on your page and make your little known restaurant the devil’s den.

Unlike direct mail or coupons which have a traditional benchmark for response, social media is very subjective and incredibly difficult to predict. Which means it’s very hard to plan for, making it even more mission critical to have strong contingency plans. You have to plan for the best and worst case scenario – if you can’t support either extreme you need to rethink a campaign you can.

Think of it like this, when I broke my back riding I asked my doctor 6 months after the accident when I could ride again.  He looked surprised and said, “Oh I’m sorry, you can ride right now as long as you don’t fall off.”

For a minute I thought he was joking…when I saw he wasn’t, I looked him in the eye and rephrased, “How soon before I can fall off again.”

Moral of the story? Don’t get on if you if you can’t afford to fall.

Adding social media to the mix increases complexity. The marketer often must dedicate a resource to monitoring media and communicating with consumers. Cultivating and maintaining relationships with hundreds, thousands, or maybe even millions of people is required. Filtering through comments and criticism, responding, and taking appropriate action becomes essential. This isn’t something every marketer is prepared for. The “biggest mistake U.S. marketing professionals have made with social media” is “not allocating proper time/resources,” according to the results of a November 2010 survey reported by eMarketer.

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