You've heard the myths, right? Social media is a panacea for business owners, especially small business owners. Hop over to Twitter, find a few friends on Facebook and link your network with LinkedIn and, pretty soon, you can sit back and watch the cash roll in. All you have to do is set up a few profiles and you're on easy street. That's just not how it works.
Having been a social media practitioner for two years now, I have insight some people would rather I didn't share. Notice I didn't call myself an expert, or a wizard, or a doctor of social media or, the worst one ever, a social media Jedi. Ridiculous titles are becoming common and usually carry with them a lot of false promises and not much in the way of deliverables. I've had wonderful success with social media in my business. Here are some of the myths I've discovered, sometimes through the school of hard knocks.
- Social media is free. This is a particularly seductive myth because it doesn't cost anything to register a profile and get started. However, just showing up isn't going to do anything for you and could actually hurt your business. According to the 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report from the Social Media Examiner, 56% of marketers are using social media for six hours or more each week and 30% for eleven or more hours weekly. Unless you've got a spare 6+ hours per week, it's not free. To run a successful social media strategy, you need to dedicate time and money developing and distributing content. The worst thing you can do is abandon your social media profiles. When your prospects find them, they could easily consider your don't pay much attention to other parts of your business, as well.
- Social media will close business for you. It won't do any such thing, especially if you don't already have a strong product or service offering. Don't confuse social media with an ecommerce system. Social media tools help spread your message but you're still going to have to figure out a way to get prospects to purchase your product. That means you need to continue with your normal sales strategies. Social media is for communication, not for collecting money.
- You get immediate results. You have to view social media as a slow burn technique for generating interest in your business. Just because you show up, doesn't mean anyone will listen. You must still do the hard work of building relationships, connecting with the right people, and promoting your brand. You have the added complication of working in a "social" environment. Broadcasting to the masses doesn't work and you'll be penalised if this is how you choose to behave. My experience is it takes about six months of persistent and consistent activity before you start to experience interest from the outside. That sounds a lot like "business as usual", doesn't it?
- You need to understand technology to use social media tools. Probably the biggest myth of all, social media activity requires almost no technical skills. The tools have been purposely designed to appeal to people without a technical background. If you can fill out a form or send an email, you can easily navigate your way around.
- It's a young person's game. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the Pew Research Center in America recently produced statistics showing the fastest growth rate for social media activity is with people over the age of 55. The Nielsen Company, in a 2009 study, reported the biggest demographic of Twitter is in the 25 54 age range. The Social Media Examiner report mentioned earlier showed the median time for all groups (except the 60- to 69-year-olds) was 10 hours per week. The people using social media are the people you want for your customers.
Social media is not a magic bullet. It probably won't even change the way you do business, much. What it does very well is open new channels for you to find prospects, influence customers and nurture leads. It's taken geographic boundaries off Word of Mouth referrals and your ability to market your business. Yes, it's a slow burn method but once you get the fire going, it can quickly ignite and explode your potential in a way we've never seen before. I'm a big fan of social media and consider it a vital part of my overall strategy. I highly recommend it to every one of my customers. I just make sure they can separate truth from fiction before they get started.
What social media myths have you uncovered?
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