Social media asks a lot from both consumers and the brand. So, before you start putting yourself out there, make sure you are ready for the relationship.
In the old days of advertising (pre-2005), campaigns came and went. You'd run them for a while and then see how they were being received by the marketplace. Based on that, you'd either continue or scrap it and try something else. Marketing campaigns were almost like spaghetti. You'd cook it up based on best practices , throw it against the wall and see if it stuck. (I realize this is completely oversimplifying the process, but you understand what I mean.) Stopping a campaign had no real consequences.
Social media is different.
With social media, your goal is to create a community around your brand. And this changes the terms of the relationship between consumer and brand. With social media, consumers invest a certain amount in a brand. Brands are no longer asking for your attention; they are asking for your time. It's a more personal relationship. In fact, just look at the lexicon of social media: "liking" brands on Facebook and "following" brands on Twitter. These are very personal expressions.
And like any personal relationship, breaking up has definite repercussions.
Sure, you may think you can still remain friends, but no one likes to be dumped. And when you stop a social media campaign and abandon a community that has invested time and energy into that relationship (especially suddenly and without warning), there are consequences. From a brand's perspective, the worst of these consequences is the lost of trust.
Business strategist, Fred Reichheld, talks about the value of trust in his book The Loyalty Effect. Trusting a brand builds loyalty to that brand, and loyalty to a brand brings sustained profitability. In fact, research shows that loyal customers are more apt to continue buying a brand even if the price increases. Once a consumer loses trust in a brand it is almost impossible to regain it. And if you do, it is a lot harder the second time around.
In other words, social media is a commitment—not a campaign. And as such, it should be well thought out beyond your immediate marketing goals. Now, some of you may say that the commitment/campaign debate is just semantics. But if you develop a social media presence with the idea that it is just another campaign, you may be missing the point.