I have heard all of these, and there’s some truth in each one, but they’re mostly myths. Here’s my take on 9 of the most pervasive myths.
1 It’s Free
The reality, the platforms are free to use. But as a business you will pay for people to create and publish content, you will pay for tools to monitor what is said about you on social media. In the beginning (back in maybe 2009) you could build an audience with great content. However those days are gone, you will now “pay to play“. You will pay to promote your content, or your accounts, and you will pay to advertise on social media.
2 Big Follower Numbers is Success
There are plenty of services out there offering to sell you followers, periodically there are articles where a celebrity has been caught out; if only it were that easy. The reality is that you need to think about the quality of those who are your fans/followers, bought followers are unlikely to be interested in your content, unlikely to engage with your brand, unlikely to follow your content to your website or (eventually – see myth 7) make a purchase. Big follower numbers are not the whole story.
However if you’re tweeting with zero followers you’re talking in an empty room. So you do need to build an audience, and generally speaking, a brand will want a bigger audience because;
- it represents more of their consumer base
- the potential to grow an audience as a way to “meet” new potential customers.
3 You Content Can”Just Go Viral”
The reality is that brand-produced content that “goes viral” does so with massive budgets behind it. End of story.
Here’s a list of costs by one viral agency willing to publish their prices. They give a range between $3,500 – $350,000.
4 Be On Every Platform
The reality is that you need to be on the platforms where your consumers/clients/stakeholders are, provided you can support your activities there well. I’d suggest you can also play with new platforms or tools, to see if they fit your business and audience. But be very wary of opening everything at once. I’ve seen a number of “social media strategy” documents advocating opening accounts on multiple platforms, without regard to whether the organisation can sustain the accounts. I’d advise start with one or two, as you learn consider more.
5 You Can Post The Same Thing On Every Platform
The reality is that each platform has its own characteristics, from how the platform functions, to image sizes, to audience expectations. So the best practice is to publish separately created posts to each platform.
However – and there are two parts to this – you can be referencing the same story/video/campaign with the multiple pieces of content. You may be using different platforms or different accounts to address different audiences. Philips Hue is a good example of this.
The second reality check is that many small organisations do not have the resources to be creating multiple version of content, yet need to manage both Twitter and Facebook accounts (for example). In this case go ahead with using the same images, but try to put in an extra few minutes work to craft text that works for each audience. Please please please don’t just link from Twitter to Facebook or Facebook to LinkedIn, it’s annoying.
6 The Audience Will Just Turn Up
The 5% of truth is that people who are already famous will attract massive audiences in social media as soon as they arrive. When Edward Snowden joined twitter he gained half a million followers within hours (and the follower numbers are now above 2,5 million).
The reality is that you will need to work hard to build an audience and it will take time. You can promote your accounts on existing websites and events. You will need to pay to promote your content and/or your account. (See Myth 1). If you’re not providing useful, valuable content your audience will quickly dissolve, so you also need to have something to say.
7 You Can’t Run Your Social Media In-House
The reality is that many organisations can and do run their social media from within the company, and if you can resource the social media management within the company it’s the best option.
However many companies cannot completely resource their social media efforts, in much the same way as call centres are outsourced social media service channels are often outsourced to specialised companies.
In terms of content creation not all organisations have the resources to create the images in-house and hire freelancer design people to work on it for them. The reality is that for many companies it doesn’t make sense to have this skill in house full time.
8 Social Media is a Sales Tool
There are frequent announcements of “buy now” buttons being launched on various platforms; Pinterest lets people shop without leaving the site, Instagram has a shop now button. However both have reported low sales results, so far social has not been a good sales tool.
The reality is that social media comes earlier in the consumer purchase decision process when a person is researching a product, and later when a consumer is looking for product support.
This is a space to watch though, pizza orders can now be made via WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook messenger using just an emoticon. When it’s that easy social media becomes more interesting as a sales option.
9 Social Media Needs Its Own Strategy
Yeah, I call myself a social media strategist and I’m saying this is partly myth. But here’s why; the reality is your social media activities should be supporting your business strategy. You cannot develop a social media strategy without first understanding the company’s vision, strategy and the communication/marketing messaging. Social media won’t work if it’s not consistent with your company’s other activities. You do need a strategy though, built on the foundations of the company’s strategy and communication goals. It’s just that it isn’t an independent thing.
We live in a decimal world but I couldn’t think of a tenth myth. So there’s my nine myths of social media and the reality in my experience.