By Helle Tyllesen

May 28th, 2015

When speaking with customers I regularly encounter the same widespread myths and misconceptions about social media. Like all myths there is often a grain of truth in them. But there are a few scarily pervasive ones that are either out of date or just plain wrong.

Here are 7 of what I regard to be the most common myths of social media management.

Myth 1: Influencers are key to word of mouth success
An entire industry has grown around this one. And while influencers are important they are only one part of the reach equation.

To use Duncan Watt’s excellent analogy, the influencer’s role can be compared to that of the spark starting a forest fire: the size, heat and range of that fire isn’t dependent on it.

In reality the success of an idea or message is driven by the message itself. If it isn’t compelling enough the influencer and network alone won’t spread it. It must have social capital or other triggers that resonate with the desired audience.

Myth 2: Social media is not right for my industry
I hear this a lot. Especially from B2B companies with self-declared ‘unsexy’ products.

However, while they and their B2B partners may not employ social media much as companies, their employees are still socially active individuals. Just look around: from children to grandparents, everyone is on social media these days. 

The common mistake of B2B companies is to view their customers as other companies only, rather than as people who are as social – and reachable – as anyone else.

social media myths

Myth 3: More content equals higher reach
There’s certainly a grain of truth here. Or rather there used to be.

Before Facebook advertising changed organic reach, brands needed a steady stream of content to maintain their presence.

Times have changed, with the biggest challenge today being distribution rather than content. A high volume of content will achieve little if the distribution channels aren’t spot on.

The choice of channels should be an integral part of the content creation phase, with the content crafted accordingly.

Myth 4: Digital natives are natural experts at navigating the web
This is the assumption that the younger generation are digital natives completely at home with social media.

Aside from the perils of assuming tacit knowledge of any audience, the reality is that the opposite proves true with surprising frequency.

A quick google search will dredge up plenty of stories of millennials losing their jobs in the blowback from stunningly careless posts. 

If anything, younger people’s casual familiarity with the medium makes them less cautious about its consequences. It just goes to show: digital natives should be defined by their digital literacy, not their generation.

social media myths

Image credit: Tia Henriksen

Myth 5: Big data will tell us what we don’t know
Too many people still believe that big data will solve any challenge. Personally I subscribe to Andrew Lang’s wonderfully laconic quote from 1910: that like drunks with lamp posts, some people use statistics for support rather than illumination.

There is just so much data available these days, and the way we perceive and present it can be wildly misrepresentative. And while it’s true that data doesn’t lie, people lie using data and do it frequently.

Think carefully about what you want to track and the insights you expect to draw before you start harvesting those numbers.

Myth 6: People want to engage with brands
A darling of advertising agencies, this aged claim is even more popular now due to the hyper-interactivity of social media.

The reality is demonstratively different. According to Forrester Research, only 0.7% of companies’ fans actually interact with their branded Facebook posts, and only 0.3% with their Twitter posts.

The fact is we all have far too much to do to spend our time on brands. That’s why brand experiences that demand a lot of audience time and effort rarely pay off. And why engagement metrics should never be the bedrock of your key performance indicators.

Myth 7: You can’t measure the business value of social media
Anyone who works with social media has heard this one. But it’s simply not true if you look at it from a broader perspective.

The most important thing is to stop isolating social media from other marketing activities. You could, for example, compare social customer care metrics to non-social metrics such as call deflection rates to demonstrate its impact.

The nuggets are there: just take McKinsey’s finding that while an inbound phone call costs a company $6 to $8 dollars, a social interaction costs less than $1.

Social media is still a young medium, so there is little consensus yet on how to measure value. But clearly knowing what you hope to achieve with social will help you identify the metrics that make sense to your business.


Understanding Social Media ROI

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