Top 5 Social Media Myths Debunked

social media toolsAs with any new technology, social media has spawned its share of misconceptions and myths that keep people from interacting.

It’s time to debunk the big myths that are keeping business owners and marketers on the social media sidelines.

Myth #1: My Customers Aren’t on Social Media

Wow, if I had a dollar for every time I heard this one….  Seriously, this myth keeps more businesspeople from interacting with potential customers through social media than any of the others.

The fun part is all you need is a little data to convince people that their target customers are indeed on social networks.

For instance, 80% of female Internet users have become fans of a product or brand on a social network site and 72% said they learned about a new product through social media.  As the graph here shows, more than half of Facebook and Twitter users are over 35, not to mention LinkedIn.

Social networking is a true cultural phenomenon, and there is no demographic that isn’t represented substantially on one or more sites.

This chart shows demographic information for social media sites, demonstrating that they are accessed by a wide variety of age groups. (Courtesy of Pingdom.com.)

Myth #2: I Can’t Measure the Impact of Social Media on My Business

The social media return on investment debate has been picked apart by so many intelligent and creative marketers, you would think it wouldn’t make this list.  But it continues to rank high on the list of objections about social media and I completely understand why.

Since the interaction mechanisms are different with social media than traditional marketing, judging purchase intent and likely customers from social media behavior is a new skill for many marketers.

It doesn’t have to be overly complicated though, and if you put in place some of these methods to tie online behavior to offline actions, you can track the impact social media is having on your bottom line.

Pay close attention also to the referrals from social media sites on your web pages and these people’s behavior compared to users who get to your site through other means.

Myth #3: I Don’t Have Time to Manage Social Media

Learning how to interact on social networks is very easy, because it simply involves talking with people and having candid conversations about interesting topics.  Though you do need to spend some time interacting with people and posting useful, engaging content, the returns on your time should be enough to make social media interaction worthwhile.

After some basic exposure, you’ll see how similar social media interaction is to offline conversations, and it should come naturally.

Some helpful tools can make interaction a breeze, including HootSuite or TweetDeck for Twitter interaction, and Ping.fm to post updates to multiple profiles from a single interface.

Ping.fm client for managing multiple social media profiles from one location.

Myth #4: If I Engage on Social Media Sites, I’ll Get Loads of Negative Comments

Nobody likes to hear negative feedback about their work, product or service.  Many businesspeople fear that their social media profiles will be overrun by people posting complaints and competitors “flaming” their brand.  But the beauty of social media interaction is that transparency and responsiveness rule the day.

If a customer chooses to voice a complaint publicly, you have the chance to demonstrate your customer service ability to a wider audience.  If the person is unreasonable and continues to post negative information, people observing the dialogue are more likely to admire your efforts to right the situation, rather take to heart the angry customer’s complaints.

Plus, sometimes your customer base does the heavy lifting for you, like this gem from the American Airlines Facebook page.

Myth #5: Social Media Is Hard Work

Well, this one isn’t a myth, but it’s worth addressing while we’re at it.  Sure, successfully growing and interacting with a community on social networks require dedication and reasonable, sustained commitment.

If that sounds like hard work to you, well, it is, but the rewards justify the effort. If you’re allergic to hard work, then you probably shouldn’t be in business anyway.

Take some pride and joy in the interactions you have with your community and soon, what may have felt like another item on your to-do list will actually be one of the best parts of your day. And when you start demonstrably affecting sales and capturing purchase intent with social media interaction, then the hard work will be worth it.

I hope these myths won’t hold you back from engaging in social media interaction any longer.  There are customers out there waiting to talk to you and all you have to do is join the conversation.

Which other social media myths do you think need to be “debunked”?  Have you fallen victim to any of these? Do you have anything to add when addressing these myths? Leave your comments in the box below.

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About the Author, Peter Wylie

Peter Wylie is lead researcher for Three Ships Media, an emerging media marketing company that specializes in using blogs and social networks to connect clients with target customers online. Other posts by »




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  • http://twitter.com/waxagency WAX agency

    Peter Wylie, I want to thank you for this fine post. Especially Myth #5: Social Media Is Hard Work. It does take effort, but it’s definitely worth it.

    Cheers!
    Rhea

  • http://www.stephaniewonderlin.com Stephanie Wonderlin

    Excellent post Peter! You do hear these reasons given daily when talking with individuals and businesses about social media. #4 comes up SO often in regards to the negative comments. If a business is getting negative comments, I don’t understand why they wouldn’t want to address the issues head on and have a better reputation because of it! Dominos has done a great job of that!!

    Again, fantastic post!! I’m excited to share this!

  • Peter

    Thanks Rhea, I really appreciate it. Thanks for commenting.

  • Peter

    Thanks for commenting Stephanie. I probably hear #4 more than any of the others, too. It is a very legitimate concern on its face, but actually engaging for a while usually assuages those concerns. Businesses begin to see quickly that most of the comments and interactions they have are constructive.

  • http://www.facebook.com/DianeRayfield.ISMA Diane Rayfield

    Hi Peter,
    Thanks for this necessary blog post. I especially hold dear, “the rewards justify the effort”. Like anything else in life, you get out of it what you put into it. I especially like HootSuite for the scheduling and searching ability for multiple accounts on multiple platforms and highly recommend it for anyone starting out!

  • Peter

    Diane,

    Couldn’t agree more. HootSuite is a great tool, and the scheduling ability makes it attractive to busy SMB owners/marketers.

    Thanks for commenting,

    Peter

  • http://mediafunnel.com Derek

    #6 Social media is easy. – I like your point about it not being hard work, but too many ‘social media systems’ attempt to make it sound as if all you need is a Twitter account and some followers and you’ll explode your sales numbers. It’s a bit more involved than that, although people who can translate their ‘people skills’ into the digital media world will have an easier time of it – connecting, listening, and engaging are the same, no matter where the conversations take place.

    Good read – thanks!

  • http://dinodogan.com/ Dino Dogan

    Great summary …these are indeed the most common complaints.

    I went to #NYSMRT Social Media Roundtable yesterday and a lot of what you said in the article was reflected in the questions marketing, branding and biz people were trying to get answers on.

    Here is my take on these myths

    Myth #1: My Customers Aren’t on Social Media
    This is just ridiculous. Anyone who thinks this is smoking something wicked and I’d like his dealer’s phone number.

    Myth #2: I Can’t Measure the Impact of Social Media on My Business
    This one is tricky. Things are measurable technologically, but not psychologically. Biz people need to understand what their Social Media flunky is doing otherwise they cant “manage” it properly. This could be a post on its own but it goes back to assembly lines of Ford and taking the knowledge away from the individual and codifying it through assembly-line procedures. The knowledge of Social Media is now back with the individual and thats a scary thing for corporations.

    Myth #3: I Don’t Have Time to Manage Social Media
    Its not up to you dummy. This is like saying I dont have to to use a computer. Moving on.

    Myth #4: If I Engage on Social Media Sites, I’ll Get Loads of Negative Comments
    This one is actually true. If you suck, you will.

    Myth #5: Social Media Is Hard Work
    This one is also true. But than again, what isnt? The cost of entering the SM arena is 0 and its a great opportunity for people who are passionate about what they do to actually make a living at it. I cant say that too many companies are passionate about what they do, so all this SM crap is foreign concept to them.

    Sorry, I dont mean to go on and on..but I really enjoyed the post and for anyone who wishes to hear more of my ramblings on corporations in Social Media I’ve provided the links below.

    Thnx again for a a great post :-)

    http://dogandogs.com/the-psychology-of-business-in-social-media-a
    http://dogandogs.com/the-psychology-of-business-in-social-media-a-0

  • NetElixir

    These are great points! I especially love the American Airlines example. Brand loyalty is certainly something that we can see in action through social media!

    http://netelixirblog.wordpress.com/

  • http://www.johnpaulaguiar.com/ John Paul

    Nice post.. Hoot and Ping.fm makes my life sooo much easier. Social media is great tool, but learning how to spend less time and get back the most results is the fine line I am trying to find.

    Oh and another SM debunk.. Social Media will NOT save the world..lol

  • peterwylie

    Derek,

    Great point. I think that’s in an important corollary. You give excellent advice to people trying to engage audiences online,

    Thanks for commenting,

    Peter

  • peterwylie

    Dino,

    Thanks for the detailed response. I think your point on #4 is valid, but I meant my statement more as a response to people who think they will receive negative feedback simply because they are on a social network, not because they are doing a poor job,

    Glad you enjoyed the post, and thanks for sharing your work with us as well,

    Peter

  • http://twitter.com/GloriaSchumann Gloria Schumann

    Good post and comments. I am a newly published author and would not have the sales I do without the SM network. Without it, I would have a fracion of the contacts and thus, sales. Without it, it would cost me money I’m not in a position to spend at the moment. Without it, I may be a published author, but I would be one with a very small audience. With Twitter, my audience is worldwide. Where, through traditional avenues, would I have been able to garner such a large pool of potential customers without cost? Nowhere. Once set up, the time can be as much or as little as you deem necessary. Personally, I love it.

  • http://www.kimberlygauthier.com Kimberly

    Great article. It’s all not true. You do open yourselves up to positive and negative feedback, but I believe the negative can be turned into a positive. I’ve been blasted on things that I thought were stupid, but I dealt with the individuals, heard them out, and gained a measure of respect from them and others who followed the exchange.

    And it’s definitely not hard work. I have a blast doing it.

  • http://pageonerent.com/ Frank Schwarz

    Peter; The hard work aspect I think comes from the same people who spend 4 hours playing Farmville and don’t look at the other parts of FB. They also join up with every spammer on Twitter to follow without looking for thier target market so they are overwhelmed with updates. Thanks for a great article and more reinforcement to the fact that this is a fun way for my clients to know me and my company.

  • peterwylie

    Thanks for the addition, John,

    Peter

  • peterwylie

    Gloria,

    Glad to hear you’re seeing success promoting your work through social media. What was your last book on? I’ll have to check it out, thanks for commenting,

    Peter

  • peterwylie

    Kimberly,

    Glad to hear myth number 5 isn’t an issue for you. Thanks for sharing your experience,

    Peter

  • peterwylie

    Frank,

    What type of business are you in? I’d be interested to hear your specific strategy and where you’ve seen results. Feel free to shoot me an email,

    Thanks for commenting,

    Peter

  • http://twitter.com/trimblyton Emily Trimble

    Great post – I do Social Media for several clients, and these are the issues we have to explain to them every day. It’s not easy, but it’s totally worth it. Plus, it’s about a lot more than just the number of followers or fans – it’s about engaging directly with consumers and, like you said, being transparent.

    Social Media allows businesses to turn their customers into brand evangelists – and customers love to be able to tell their friends about the brands they love. Why would you not want that? Plus, by welcoming comments (negatvie or positive) you can gain positive information and feedback about your product or brand that you would normally wouldn’t get.

    The positives to Social Media definitely make the work worth it.

  • http://www.thinkcreatedo.com/ DNux

    Everyday small business owners express these same concerns about social media. You are right on spot!

  • http://www.aparcher.com Apryl

    Right to the point, Peter! When I get in front of a small business audience to discuss social media, those are indeed the sticking points that pop up over and over again.

    In fact, some of the older audience of business owners complain that employing social media is too overwhelming for them due to the constantly changing nature of it, and they want to throw up their hands. They just get used to something, learn how to do it, and then it’s yesterday’s news. They long for the good old days of newspaper ads, brochures and maybe a static website, and feel like they now have too much competition from whiz kids who eat social media for breakfast!

  • Harris-Peppe

    Awesome post! Thank you so much!

  • http://www.sociallypopular.com Eric Silva

    Great piece Peter,

    It’s funny when I hear the “my customers aren’t on social media” story. Usually, they just assume they aren’t on it, but more often than not they are. Great post man!

  • http://twitter.com/joyofweddings Joy Basdeo

    Using social media tools is just like anything else, you have to put in the time to learn how its done. It was a real leap for me (since I am in the older demographic of users) to put myself and my business out there, and make mistakes while I was learning, but I think its paying off.

  • http://dinodogan.com/ Dino Dogan

    sounds like a self esteem issue to me lol

  • Judith Copeland

    Thank you for the post. For those of us who are in the social media business it always astounds me when I find people resistant to it. I had to convince a group the other day why a Forum for its users was a good idea. I find on the flip side people who are so eager to use social media that they don’t create a strategy or even know who to use the tools properly,which can be even more harmful.

  • Lwagner

    Hi Peter,
    Do you often hear people fearful of what will happen if suddenly Twitter or FB, etc. fold – overnight are gone? It’s not a myth; I’m sure it could happen. What do you tell folks with that concern?

    Thanks for the awesome post!

    Laura

  • http://AffordableWords.com Cindy Brock, Affordable Words

    I get a lot of client questions about social media. What I always tell my clients is that they should NEVER focus their marketing on one specific area. It makes no difference if you have a “brick & morter” or “online” business: marketing is marketing. A true marketing plan would never put more than 25% of your efforts on one media. You don’t see car dealerships exclusively advertising on TV, do you? No! The trick is knowing WHO YOUR POTENTIAL CUSTOMER IS and if they follow social media. For example, if you have a killer process for knitting potholders, have written an eBook, and your potential buyers are 70+ year old grandmothers, odds are they aren’t going to find you on Twitter, Facebook, etc. I’m not saying they won’t…it’s just not the first place they would go. However, they might find you on their church web site! Regarding #2, there is ALWAYS some way to track your social media. When people give me this excuse, I usually ask them how they track their online activities now. I usually get a blank stare! That usually prompts them to ask more questions. The story I share with them is how I used TweetDeck – for 2 hours – and got 16 new followers. The topic: DECLUTTERING. Go figure! I think the major obstacles for these folks is that someone has given them the impression that “life is easy” and they simply don’t want to put in the hard word. (Those of us who have worked our butts off to get where we are, can I have an “Amen”?)~Cindy ;)

  • peterwylie

    Apryl,

    I’ve certainly heard customers express that same exasperation with the constantly changing nature of social networking. I try to acclimate them to it by reminding them that their business has changed many times since they’ve been in business, and that this is merely a new way to talk to customers, and they don’t have to do anything different to promote good word of mouth,

    Thanks for the comment,
    Peter

  • peterwylie

    Thanks Eric!

  • peterwylie

    Joy,

    Glad to hear it’s working for you. What are you doing specifically that you think is driving results? We’d love to hear about it.
    Thanks for commenting!

    Peter

  • peterwylie

    Great points, Judith. Thanks for commenting.

  • peterwylie

    Laura,

    I don’t think you have the same threat with Twitter and Facebook of them evaporating overnight. 65 million and 150+ million people won’t stop using these services all at once. While there is always the risk that one or both of these companies slides out of relevance like MySpace did, I think Facebook especially will be an Internet juggernaut for the next decade or more. It’s sort of like asking someone in 2001 if Google was going to overnight be gone.

    Thanks for commenting,
    Peter

  • peterwylie

    Thanks for the comment, Cindy!

  • http://www.buildtracks.com/ Gregor – buildtracks.com

    To me social media is like a diet; if you’re not used to eating in a certain way, it’s difficult at the start and takes a lot of getting used to, but then you slowly begin to see results and then in time it becomes a way of life. Stupid analogy I know, but the biggest thing preventing businesses adopting social media is mindset.

    As always, a great post. Thanks.

    @gregormckelvie

  • http://www.interfaceaustralia.com Carol Jones

    PETER,

    Greetings from rural Australia.

    All you’ve written about is true and you’ve stated it very well, as the previous commenters have shown in droves.

    To anyone who doubts that their customers are using social media, this is the acid test.

    Upload the contents of your email address book onto every social media platform that allows it. You will be amazed at how many people who do business with you are using some form of social media.

    I’ve stopped counting the number of times my eyes have popped open.

    The most enlightening was discovering my oldest customer, who is 93, chatting away on Facebook and tweeting like there’s no tomorrow. He has hundreds of friends on Facebook and close to 500 followers on Twitter.

    Doubters, take note!

    Best wishes and take care,

    Carol

    Carol Jones
    Director
    Interface Pty Ltd
    Designers of The Fitz Like A Glove™ Ironing Board Cover
    http://www.InterfaceAustralia.com
    http://www.SimpleSolutionsForDifficultProblems.com

  • http://startups.com/ juliacassidy

    I am not surprised by the good quality of the article because I am used to reading great articles here. Apart from being interesting, it is realistic, we all think those myths are true at some point and myths tend to be obstacles to properly go through the social media activity.

  • http://twitter.com/socialmedal Alexander

    Really interesting article as always. There are any studies about using of Social Media. Can you advise me some do them?

  • Rekha Srivatsan

    Great post! As a social media Strategist, I get these questions a LOT! “The fun part is all you need is a little data to convince people that their target customers are indeed on social networks.”- Couldn’t agree more! :)

    -Rekha Srivatsan

  • http://www.ciscoco.com Patty Cisco

    Great myths. The one I run across is that IT says our system can’t handle social media due to band width and fire walls. How do you overcome those hurdles?

  • http://www.buzzdock.com/?utm_source=YontooPR&utm_medium=Direct&utm_term=AG&utm_campaign=Comment Socialstacy

    I was immediately going to disagree with “Myth 5″ but after reading what you actually wrote about Social Media being hard work, I think we’re in agreement. :-)
    Great post!

  • http://startupgrowthexpert.com/ Vinil Ramdev

    The biggest challenge in social media is to be organized. It’s very easy to waste a lot of time chatting. But even chatting can yield results at times because you could end up making some very important connections. Social media should be looked at like Starbucks online. You go to Starbucks to meet people and you go on social media to do the same. Eventually, the ROI should pay off in new business and new partnerships.

  • Jonathan92591

    I think people are under the false impression that social media immediately works, then when they see it takes time, they say it fails. I disagree. Social media should be viewed as a gradual process that has higher returns the longer you are involved.

  • Arjun Anand

    Peter, extremely helpful resource. Regarding myth 1, i would like to add a few interesting statistics.
    77% of Generation Y, 61% of Generation X, 46% of Baby Boomers, and 14% of “mature” adults are members of a social network. 70% of small and medium sized businesses use social media and 79% of Fortune 100 companies use either Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or a corporate blog, with 20% using all four of these social media platforms.

    [Source: AMI Partners, Inc.]
    [Source: Burson-Marsteller Fortune Global 100 Social Media Study]

    Thanks
    Arjun Anand
    http://www.veristlabs.com

  • http://www.miamiwebdesignpro.com miami web design

    some great tips you gave me so that i can explain social media better to my clients. Especially the one about controlling the customers who complain publicly. If you can control the situation and give proper customer service to please the customer then other people see that. so in reality having negative feedback and then solving the problems will benefit your social media campaign greatly. nice.

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  • http://www.jasonestevens.com/ Jason E Stevens

    Glad I stumbled in, thank you for sharing this helpful list.  What I have found is customers are people and I believe the majority of people are good in nature.  Thus, they want to share the positive experience(s) they have had with XYZ company .  It is XYZ’s job to deliver the goods, so to speak, and give them an experience-a reason to share XYZ’s products via social media.  If XYZ does not deliver then there are possible consequences as social media gives the consumer a loud voice today.

    Cheers,

    Jason







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