7 Myths about Social Media Marketing (and How to Set Them Straight)

So you want more budget for social media? Here's a handy list to get buy-in from your boss.

There is no shortage of free advice on social media marketing. A Google search on the topic returns more than 200 million search results. That deluge of opinion can be like water from a fire hose, seeping into your organization. Quite often, the advice is well argued and logical, at least within the context the author is discussing. But little of it is written with your situation and organization specifically in mind.

At best, this can pose a challenge when you’re trying to establish consensus in your organization around what needs to be done. Prioritization is difficult when you’re bombarded with well-intended but fairly random tactical suggestions on what to do.

At worst, there are some persistent myths about social media marketing, and you may want to have some answers ready when senior decision makers ask questions like, ‘Why do you want so much budget for social media? Isn’t it supposed to be free?’

Here are some of the more common myths, and a few myth busters:

Myth 1: Social media marketing is free.
Myth buster: Done really well, any marketing can pay for itself, but success requires an investment of time, resources and know-how. Successful social media campaigns have a lot of planning behind them, and require resources: community management, for example, is labor-intensive.

Myth 2: Social media is hype, a passing fad.
Myth buster: The appeal of social media is driven less by technology than by the human need to connect – it’s technology enabling us to connect in a newer way. Our human need to connect won’t go away, but the way it plays out evolves with technology. Marketers risk getting left behind if they don’t get a handle on this evolving trend.

Myth 3: Success is immediate.
Myth buster: Rapid success actually needs preparation. Remember that the much-admired Old Spice campaign got a kick-start from TV commercials; it wasn’t a pure social play. Organic social media has a slower burning fuse, and marketers need to manage expectations in line with the resources they have at hand. Enthusiasm for social media is laudable, but it needs to be channeled.

Myth 4: Social media is a cure-all.
Myth buster: Social media isn’t a cure-all: it demands that we play by new rules, working with customers in new ways and integrating with the rest of the marketing mix. It can offer new opportunities across your business, but if you try to do everything at once, you’ll be stretched too thin. Best to put together a roadmap to work out your priorities, identify and focus on early wins, and build success on that foundation of early wins.

Myth 5: More = better (aka: Shiny Tools Syndrome).
Myth buster: It’s much easier to open social media accounts than to sustain them in a focused and commercially useful way. Many organizations spread themselves too thin. Start by thinking about the community of people you want to reach rather than just the tools. It’s often more effective to focus on doing less, better.

Myth 6: Social media marketing means losing control.
Myth buster: Who has ever controlled what customers said about the brand? Customers are talking about you already—social media just makes it more visible. True, you may take on additional risk if you proactively run social media campaigns, but you also gain the chance to influence those talking about you. (And there’s potential risk and lost opportunity in doing nothing). If senior decision makers are hesitant, showing them social listening examples of brand-related conversations already occurring on social media might be useful. It isn’t all-or-nothing: you can listen first, then engage gradually in a way that mitigates risk.

Myth 7: You can’t measure social media marketing.
Myth buster: It can be measured, but for meaningful measurement, you need clear objectives, and this requires some planning. Make sure that you have a strategy linked to your business, so that your social media objectives and metrics are relevant.

To achieve a consensus on how social media marketing needs to be implemented in your organization, a little myth busting can be a good place to start. It’s easier to do that early, before expectations and preconceptions are entrenched.

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