I have been hearing several stories recently from colleagues who provide a managed social media service that their clients are not renewing 3-month contracts, or are deciding not to continue with social media after having tried it for a few months.

I find this quite disturbing and I’m keen to understand more about why it’s happening.

I know that some of the business owners concerned are disappointed that they have not seen an increase in sales – in 3 months from starting at nothing!! A little unrealistic given that it’s widely accepted that it may take several months, or over a year, for a social media campaign to start producing appreciable benefits! Similarly, another business owner complained that he had not seen the increase in traffic to his website that he had been expecting, over a similar time frame! Another example of unrealistic timescales, I would suggest!

I think that it is the unrealistic expectations of many business owners that are at the root of the perceived problems with social media marketing campaigns. I read recently that 87% of European social media projects fail to live up to expectation (http://www.creamglobal.com/17799/24163/the-secret-of-social-media-success-%281%29) and this can only be because this expectation was not married to realism when the project was planned and launched.

A good social media manager will find out what a business sees as a priority in terms of results from a social media campaign and will then put a strategy in place to achieve this. They will also explain that results will very often take time to achieve and cannot be guaranteed. However, they will do all they can to ensure that the desired results are achieved, tweaking the approach as the campaign progresses to ensure it stays on track. They will also take advantage of all the advances in the ever-changing world of social media in order to perfect their client’s campaign.

Some business owners, however, as we all know, just will not take the advice offered on board. They will expect the largely unattainable whatever they are advised to the contrary.  But why do they have this mindset? Would they take this stance about a leafleting campaign or promotion via adverts in a local magazine? Maybe it is the mystery, hype and excitement that surrounds this ‘new’ way of marketing that leads to some seeing it as the Holy Grail of all marketing. What a shame!  This approach will blind business owners to the true, remarkable potential that using social media has to bring success to their businesses.

The point is that social media is where people are at – over 30 million of us in the UK are now on Facebook, it was announced recently.  If business owners decide to stop using social media after a mismatch of results to expectation, they are then depriving their business of a huge chunk of marketing potential. Social media is not going to go away – it is going to do exactly the opposite as the revolution continues to grow in power and reach.

I would suggest that a large number of ‘it’s like this’ conversations need to be taking place sooner rather than later in order that business owners who did see the potential of social media and take the plunge are not then left out in the cold whilst all their competitors jump in and reap the benefits that a properly planned social media strategy can afford.