So you could argue that the Achilles heel of most social media programs is that we’re all, in some way, increasingly relying on a variety of third party services and tools to augment our efforts online — and with that reliance comes an assumed risk that these services will remain accessible and dependable all the time, especially when we need them most.

But what if they aren’t? What if they break? What if the ‘new fantastic tool’ turns into more of a liability than an asset?

At what point do certain social media services become, well, too risky for corporate use?

Take Twitter for example, a service I personally dig and use regularly, and one that’s already been examined and adopted as a comms tool inside some very large organizations. Twitter has become, sadly, the poster child for inconsistency, poor performance and frustration among many, at least lately. I don’t doubt that Twitter’s technical woes will get figured out, but it’s all coming at a cost to others, and if you’re Dell, Southwest, Red Cross, and the like, you have to wonder:

Do the advantages (and potential) of Twitter still outweigh the risks and headaches that come with relying on it right now?

Yeah, it’s easy to pick on Twitter here, but frankly, this bigger point of social media “risk assessment” is not unique to Twitter at all and can — and should — be applied to any third party service that sits in a broader social media program.

The truth is, almost every service out there has its shortcomings and fail points. YouTube constantly hiccups with its flash conversions. has a wonderful way of stalling out with multiple API calls. Feedburner freaks out with certain media enclosures. WordPress WYSIWG, well, any WYSIWG really, just never quite works, and the list goes on….

It doesn’t mean these problems outweigh the potential and return of these services, but it’s safe to say, as companies rely more heavily and frequently on these tools — and micro collections of ‘subscribers,’ ‘followers’ and ‘friends’ develop around them — there’s an inherent responsibility as both a consultant and as a company to commit to the tools that will last, and to at least consider some sort of exit plan if they don’t.

Ultimately, it’s still about picking the right tool for the job, a choice that just increasingly requires all of us to first ask:

Will this tool work all the time, most of the time or just, you know, some of the time?

The answer we’re each content with is our choice to bear and perhaps over time, a reflection on our abilities to discern between what’s popular verse what’s functional, what’s an okay free tool verse what’s a great paid service, etc., etc., you get the gist, good luck.

[This post has been cross-published to Media Guerrilla]