Social media: Five myths you're sure to recognize

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Social media, which might be described as the leading communication tool of the new Millennium, comes in many forms. Whether you use social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for business or fun, or whether you are still in the stage of getting comfortable with the idea of spreading yourself and your business across the Internet, you've probably heard lots of rumors about how these tools work. Social media and marketing guru, Michelle Carvill shared her thoughts on the subject with our UK audience at our sister site, BusinessZone.

 
Myth No. 1
Social Media is FREE!

Whilst the platforms such as; Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, FlickR, YouTube, About Me etc, are all indeed ‘free’ to join – ask anyone who’s doing ‘social media activity’ – and they'll tell you it’s certainly not free.  If you’re time is free – then it’s free.  But if you’re time has a value – or you are paying someone who understands how to use the free platforms with purpose, skill and talent, or you’re taking the time to get to understand how to best leverage these platforms yourself, then that takes time – and time is most certainly not free.
 
If you want to get involved with social media, just as with any other marketing activity – then you need to ask yourself who is the best person for the job.  Are you going to ‘skill up’ yourself, or pay a marketing pro that better understands how to utilize the channels and weave social media into the marketing activity of your business.  Either way – it’s not free.
 
Myth No. 2
You have to sign up and engage with ‘every’ social media platform.
As with any marketing activity, do what works for you. If you don’t have the budget to run a national radio campaign, then you wouldn’t do it. Similarly, don’t feel that you have to engage with every social medium. Experiment and figure out which platform works for you.  For example – I have a client that set up a Facebook page and two Twitter accounts. We measured activity, feedback and some basic metrics to understand what was the more effective channel. We pretty quickly determined that the Twitter accounts were delivering far more than their Facebook activity – and so we pulled back on Facebook and now their primary social media activity is via Twitter.  Try and test – but don’t feel you have to be manically uploading video to YouTube and Tweeting if it’s not getting you any reach. Do what works for you.
 
Myth No. 3
Social Media Platforms is mainly for kids.
I’m aware that if you’re reading this on my blog, you’re already into social media (ish) – so you’re already likely to be aware that social media is most certainly not just for kids. Quite the contrary. If we consider last year alone, Facebook grew 277 percent in the age category 34-55 year olds.
 
The business to business use of these platforms is still pretty much fertile territory – and over the coming months no doubt we’ll see more platforms and features within current platforms that really leverage this fruitful arena – assisting both the b2b arena and of course the platform owners.  And if you’re still skeptical – this great video by SocialNomics is a rather powerful way to put things into perspective.
 
Myth No. 4
I’ll set up social media accounts and as if by magic great things will happen.
I spoke with a chap the other day who advised me that he was doing really well on social media. "I’ve set up Twitter and have a few hundred followers’ – and have some Facebook fans’ – so we’re all sorted with social media."
 
When I asked what they were using the platforms for – and how they were engaging with those fans and followers, what his plan was – he went blank.
 
It’s not just about setting the accounts up ‘and they will come’ – you have to engage and put the effort into using these channels for conversations and brand building, just as you would with any other marketing channel.  That usually involves thinking strategically and planning.
 
For many large brands – they can start out with great numbers of followers – because they have a large offline reputation which they can take online.  For example – Coca Cola has millions of Twitter followers, but they have millions of offline converts too.
 
It’s much tougher for the ‘little man’ that has to build a reputation online – and grow followers and fans through genuine exchange of authentic and useful content and conversations. Therefore, the ‘big splash’ stories tend to happen with big brands. (There are of course case studies where little guys have made a splash – which may not have ever happened in the offline arena) but the majority of us it’s a relatively long game.  It’s not ideal to stop and start your marketing activity – ideally you keep a constant trickle.  So effective planning is key.
 
Myth No. 5
It’s all about listening, you can’t directly sell on social platforms.
As the platforms become more developed I’m sure we’ll see more formal ways in which direct sales can be included.  Right now you can run very targeted pay per click advertising on both Facebook and Linked In – so that’s pretty direct – and Twitter is still playing with sponsored ads.
 
In the conversations I engage with, both for myself and for clients, I’ve definitely posted direct requests for expertise and am very happy for others in my networks to ‘sell’ their wares.
 
I agree it’s more about listening first and engaging in a more ‘consultative sell’ – (and no one likes a spammer) but selling is happening and new business is definitely being generated by the social platforms, which attractively, is highly measurable.
 
There was a very interesting report on @econsultancy this week relating to the ROI of their Twitter activity. And very clearly it’s having a significant impact on sales. Indirectly and directly.  Definitely worth checking out.  View here.
 
So that’s my social media mythbusting session completed (I could go on).  And no doubt I will in a future post…
 
Meanwhile – let me know of any other social media myths we can bust.
@MichelleCarvill is owner and Marketing Director at Carvill Creative - a graphic design and marketing services agency based in Maidenhead, Berkshire.  The agency covers all aspects of graphic design and marketing - covering social media marketing and social media training, user focused website planning and conversion focused website design.
 
For marketing and social media advice – view the Carvill Creative Blog
 
See Michelle in action – Business Training Course, Social Media for your Business 16th March 2011, Farringdon.

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