06/11/2012 05:52 pm ET Updated Aug 10, 2012

The Real Reason Americans Are Skeptical of Social Media

Last week the 13th Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll results were announced. The poll explored how Americans incorporate social media into their consumer and community behaviors.

The good news? More than two-thirds of social media users, and 60 percent of all Americans, believe the Internet and social media have made it easier for them to be well-informed consumers. A plurality of Americans (47 percent) and social media users (55 percent) say these technologies have made them more well-informed and active as citizens and in the political sphere.

The bad news? "... most don't believe these tools are increasing their leverage over the vast public and private institutions that shape the larger currents of American life," said National Journal Editorial Director Ronald Brownstein.

The real reason Americans are skeptical of social media is that companies and organizations have failed to develop serious and viable customer engagement strategies.

The rigid and top down structure of most corporate consumer engagement is absolutely stifling. In fact, it seems to actively limit engagement, rather than encourage engagement.

Companies are missing their greatest leverage -- their customers' good will. That's why Americans are skeptical -- they know they're not really being listened to.

The currency of social media is conversation. Conversation occurs not only with the corporation. It also occurs horizontally between customers. Most organizations don't fully appreciate the power of real-time social engagement. But when it becomes viral, they take notice.

Wouldn't it be better to develop authentic and transparent customer engagement strategies and tactics in the first place? After all, lack of engagement limits brand leadership effectiveness and ultimately the bottom line.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit LLC and the co-Author of The Power of Real-Time Social Media Marketing. She teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension. Email her at