Nick Westergaard

By Nick Westergaard on July 18, 2011

Buffer

7 Social Media Myths Debunked

blog images.008

In the film Up in the Air, George Clooney advises his protégée to utilize profiling to get through the airport security line quicker. He defends his move, quipping, “I’m like my mother, I stereotype. It’s faster.”

Sometimes, when things are new and outside of our skill set, we look for quick handles — right or wrong — to grab a hold of to make our decisions easier. Social media is a perfect example of this. As a rapidly evolving new channel, social can be hard for many to grasp. When employed correctly quick labels and idioms can help people get up to speed. However, when skewed generalizations are formed without all of the facts, a myth is born. In an effort to sort the fact from the fiction, I’m going to clear up some of the most prevalent social media myths circulating in business today.

MYTH #1 – Social media is just a bunch of people posting what they had for lunch. It’s not a place for my business.
My favorite study to cite when addressing this myth is one on Twitter use by Pear Analytics. The study shows that 40% of Twitter content is in fact pointless babble and 4% is spam. OK, take the other 56% and you have conversations, items with pass along value, and news. This clearly shows that over half of the content shared on Twitter contains valuable messages or at the very least conversations you can start with those people following your brand. Remember, this is ‘social’ media. Conversations are why we’re here. That’s how you can draw people closer to your brand and build business.

MYTH #2 – Only young people are on social media — certainly not my customers.
We’d love it if this were true! If social media were just for the kiddos then we could ignore it and go back to what we were doing before! We understood that. Sorry — but the numbers don’t back this up either. Pew Research reported earlier this year that social media use has nearly doubled in the past year and that much of this growth has shifted to older audience segments. The average social media user is 38 years old, up from age 33 in 2008.

MYTH #3 – Facebook is for women; Twitter is for men.
Of all of these myths, this one sounds the most like George Clooney’s airport stereotyping. Or the sequel to Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Regardless this myth is simply not true. Digital analyst Ken Burbary cites Facebook’s demographics as being surprisingly balanced at 51.2% male and 48.8% female. Where as women actually use Twitter more actively than men (Hubspot), logging more than twice as many tweets and amassing more than twice as many followers on average than their male counterparts. Incidentally if you did want to stereotype, Pew also reports that men do in fact dominate LinkedIn, accounting for 63% of the business platform’s userbase.

MYTH #4 – The best measurement of social media success is your number of likes and followers.
It’s a fact: marketers like numbers. And big numbers feel like big results. And while more likes and followers is perhaps better than fewer in a general sense, the metrics that really matter lie a level deeper as you start to look at your community’s engagement by reviewing the conversations that are taking place on your social channels and what the sentiment is there. There are also staid marketing metrics that continue to have value in measuring social ROI like lead generation and coupon redemption.

Don’t get me wrong. Building a strong presence on social media with thousands of likes and followers does make an impressive statement about your brand’s reach. But like all analytics, digging deeper than the surface-level numbers always yields greater insight.

MYTH #5 – Now that we have social media, email marketing is dead.
I often call email marketing social media’s less attractive, older sibling. It doesn’t nab the fun headlines anymore like Google+ but email marketing continues to deliver strong ROI for marketers at large corporations and small businesses alike. A big part of email’s strength lies in the unprecedented growth in the mobile market. According to the recent ComScore 2010 Mobile Year in Review report, checking email is the number one mobile web activity beating general browsing, watching videos, and even that attention-nabbing upstart, social media.

In fact, a survey from StrongMail shows that email marketing continues to be the top area of investment growth among marketers in 2011. The lesson here? Don’t pull back your investment on email marketing anytime soon. The inbox is still a very special brand touchpoint.

MYTH #6 – If you build it (online) they will come.
This is an oldie but goodie. It actually started with the web in general, not just social media. Once the early adopters made it to both, the majority got a whiff and wanted a piece of “all this internet action.” Just put it on the web or throw up a Facebook page and the internet elves will come and spin the code into gold, right?

Not so much. Social media marketing and online marketing in general requires all of the careful strategy and execution that — GULP! — traditional marketing requires. Alas, there are no internet elves. You need to put the same investment of time into planning, implementing, and measuring a successful campaign — whether it’s on TV or online.

MYTH #7 – Social media can’t help my business in an impactful way.
The 2011 Social Media Marketing Industry Report from Social Media Examiner cites that 88% of all marketers indicated that their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses in an increasingly noisy world. Improving traffic and subscribers was the second major benefit, with 72% reporting positive results. Furthermore, two thirds noted an increase in search-engine ranking. As all of these metrics increase, so do the number of qualified leads and closed sales.

In short, while myths certainly travel fast and are sometimes easy to grab hold of, greater insight always lies a level deeper with the facts.

Are there social media myths you’re curious about? Leave a comment below and we can dissect them here.

Photos via Flickr users andercismo, chaztoo, Leo Reynolds, William Hookntr23


This entry was posted in Social Media Strategy and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is Chief Brand Strategist and founder of Brand Driven Digital, where he helps build better brands online. In addition to his agency work, he teaches social media marketing at the University of Iowa’s Tippie College of Business and is the co-host of The Work Talk Show podcast. More about Nick.