Social media is many things to many people. For some, it’s a core part of their overall business and marketing strategy. For others, it’s a key player in driving traffic to their blog. For others, it’s a new toy they’re just beginning to play with. And for some, it’s about as interesting as pond moss.
So, lots of uses and definitions, depending on who you speak to.
Yet there is one area where all the definitions can come together and agree on, and that’s the area of social media myths. The claims from people that should know better, either for a hidden agenda or a lack of foresight.
So, here are a few social media myths that we can probably all agree are out-of-date thinking at best, and dangerous advice at worst.
Social Media is Free
Bzzzzt (insert noisy buzzer sound here). This one’s been doing the rounds for a while now, and still seems to pop up, even though everything points to the complete opposite. So let’s make it simple – social media is not free.
Yes, the tools are free (unless you have the premium version of something like Hootsuite or pay for services like Socialbase). And, no, not everyone will be looking at the cost investment from the example linked to above.
But even if you’re a small business user or solo entrepreneur using social media to help raise awareness of your brand through interaction, you have to invest a serious amount of time for any traction to begin. So take whatever salary you give yourself, deduct the man hours you put in by the financial cost of this, and that’s the bare minimum of how much social media is going to cost you.
Add to that any advertising on the likes of Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Advertising, and then how you’re going to integrate all your online stuff into your everyday marketing and promotion, and the costs start to add up.
Sure, you can bootstrap your way around social media – but free it ain’t.
Social Media Levels the Playing Field
One of the pros of social media, according to many of its most vocal proponents, is that it levels the playing field. This comes from the viewpoint that it allows the consumer – who never had much of a voice before – to air their grievances in a far more public forum, as well as have access to leading players at these brands.
The belief is that this now means the brand is no longer in control, and the little guy is now the giant. And it’s true – social media does allow the consumer to be a bigger part of the business decisions being made.
Yet there’s also the flip side for businesses. A lot of social media purists will say that small businesses and solo practitioners can compete with the huge corporations and the big agencies, because the tools are the same for everyone.
Except they’re not. A corporation with a $10 million budget for research, strategy, implementation and measuring is going to have a heck of a lot more at their disposal than a small business with $10,000 to play with. And then the scale factor comes into play – can a one-man band (or even a two or three-man band) monitor and respond to social interaction the same way a dedicated team of fifty can for the bigger guys?
The simple answer is no. So, yes, social media can level the field somewhat – but then it also means you have to get new machinery to keep it level, and that’s still beyond the capabilities of many businesses.
You Need the Voice of the Influencers
Like any eco-system, social media has many layers, and at the forefront of these layers are the Influencers. Usually these will be early adopters in the space, and they’ve become influential for identifying trends and looking at how these tools can be used for business.
The problem is, influence is based on relevance, yet many businesses still try and get the Influencers to talk about their products, regardless of whether they’re experienced in that brand’s niche or not. The mindset is that the Influencer has over 100,000 Twitter followers, or tens of thousands of blog subscribers, so it’s an easy “in” to that audience.
Except it’s not.
Because nine times out of ten (not a scientific figure), the Influencer will only share your brand or product for reward. Hard cash, or a large amount of swag. They’ll write about you once, and then move on to the next brand. Because they’re (usually) not invested in you.
But your brand advocates are.
The ones that write and talk about you every day, both online and offline. The ones that truly have your best interests at heart, so they’ll offer you honest feedback on how you can improve. Compare that to the Influencer who thinks your product is great, now just pony up the greenback.
The Influencer may get you a quick buzz, but longevity and success very rarely come from a fire sale. It does come from having an army of advocates and loyal customers, though – look after your advocates and they’ll look after you better than any Influencer can.
There’s no doubt that social media has changed much of the business landscape, and continues to do so. And with potentially game-changing products like Google+ entering the fray, the real fun could just be beginning.
We just need to make sure we’re keeping a level head at what social media can, and doesn’t, offer. If history has taught us anything, it’s that hyperbole is very often the precursor to, “Remember so-and-so?”…
image: Luminis Kanto