A quick Google these days will bring up many, many thousands of articles about the importance of social media for business; articles that predict the ultimate failure of your business if you don’t have a Facebook page, tweet regularly, Snapchat, and Youtube; articles that are full of advice about how to optimise social media. We might even have written one or two ourselves, although of the more balanced and less apocalyptic variety… The fact is that there is a lot written about social media that needs to be viewed from a broader perspective; a perspective we hope this blog can give you, by picking out some of the most commonly championed social media myths and unpicking them.
The digital marketing perspective
“But hang on – aren’t you in the business of social media marketing?” we hear you cry? Well, yes, we are, but in the much broader context of being a digital marketing agency. We offer social media consultancy, social media marketing, and training and support for businesses that want to manage their own social media. But digital marketing is about a whole lot more than what you’re posting or tweeting about. Digital marketing covers everything from your website and web design, website security and hosting, your online branding, search engine optimisation, content marketing, to e-commerce and pay per click advertising. It’s a broad canvas, and while social media marketing has a part to play, it has to be balanced alongside other digital marketing tools and options, and integrated into an overall online strategy to create a streamlined and optimised approach to your online brand, its presence and persona.
So with that in mind, let’s get down to the business of this blog: unpicking the 5 biggest myths of social media marketing.
Social Media Marketing Myth#1: Every business should be active on social media!
No, they shouldn’t. We’re not saying that businesses shouldn’t even consider a social media presence, but social media just isn’t right for some businesses, either because of the personalities involved in the business, the nature of the business, the product or service, or the customer or client demographic. Of course, it’s likely that in the future, this will become less myth and more reality. As the children of today reach adulthood, the older demographic will be those who embraced technology as it crept into the nineties and exploded in the noughties. The world will be ever more online, with an ever increasing proportion of the population comfortable with, indeed expecting, online interaction with retailers and service providers, be that B2C or B2B.
With that in mind, we’d suggest a regular review of the position taking into account a variety of factors including (but not limited to) how well your other online strategies are performing, customer behaviour, what your competitors are doing. In the meantime, if the evidence suggests that your business would be unlikely to benefit from being on social media, you’d be better off putting the time and effort you would have invested in creating and executing a social media strategy into other aspects of your online marketing: perhaps organic search engine optimisation, so that if people do want to find your business you are right there at the top of the search engines.
Social Media Marketing Myth#2. Social media is the new SEO!
The first thing to remember is that search engines: Google, Bing, err, Yahoo, and, err other search engines – they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And they are incredibly powerful, Google in particular. Search Engine Optimisation is ongoing activity designed to increase the visibility of your website in a search engine’s organic (that is, “not paid for”) results. It combines careful use of content, keywords and key phrases, and technical updating. However, what it doesn’t include in ranking websites is social ‘signals’. A search engine might index a tweet or Facebook post, but it won’t use the social activity relating to a website to rank that site. So SEO is separate to social media activity.
Bearing that in mind, could social media activity eclipse SEO to make it the most important factor in establishing and maintaining and online presence? In our capacity as digital marketers, looking at SEO, social media and other aspects of online presence, we don’t believe this is the case. Despite the seemingly unstoppable rise of social media, for us, it serves a different purpose to SEO. Every business is different. And while we do think that every business should have an online presence, the current state of play is that the foundation of this online presence is a technically solid, well maintained website. Social media is great (for some businesses) for building relationships and developing brand loyalty, but we don’t see it as a replacement for solid SEO.
Social Media Marketing Myth#3. Social media is a great platform for online selling!
Hmm. Is this really a myth? You can sell products – and even services – through social media, but it takes time and effort. There’s no easy interface, no means of ordering and taking payment. People don’t ‘like’ a post and expect this to be followed up with a message asking if they would like to buy – and think of the effort this would involve.
Chasing sales over social media, constant monitoring looking for people wanting to buy what you sell. It sounds quite challenging, not to mention labour intensive, especially when there are much simpler alternatives. A well designed e-commerce website which not only attracts customers but can offer a complete check out process – why not invest in that, and some properly considered organic SEO or even pay per click advertising.
Social Media Marketing Myth#4. Social Media is a free marketing tool!
We’ll admit that we’re seeing this myth peddled less and less around the internet as it becomes more and more apparent that social media is not a free marketing tool. Yes, it’s free to set up your business profiles, and you don’t have to pay to post your standard updates and tweets, but to make your social media activity meaningful, you need to invest. You need to invest both time – for any business, time is money – and actual money at all stages of the process to ensure you manage your social media in a way that meets your objectives and delivers return on your investment.
If you’re going to run your social media profiles yourself (or ‘in house’), you need to invest in training or employ a specialist; alternatively, you need to outsource to an experienced professional who can manage your social media for you. It’s also important to be aware that the social networks are becoming more and more sophisticated in their approach, and paid advertising is becoming more and more prevalent. What’s even more important to understand in the fast -paced world of social media is that if you don’t pay social media advertising, your posts simply do not get seen as widely as they might previously have done. This is increasingly the case with Facebook, where businesses are invited to ‘boost’ their posts (at a cost). And you can bet that where Facebook leads, others will follow.
Social Media Marketing Myth #5. Be active on as many social networks as you can!
As we’ve already highlighted, every business is different. Not every business needs to be on social media, and even if social media does work for your business, not every social platform will suit. As you may have guessed, we advocate evaluating each platform, looking at the demographic and comparing with the demographic of your customers, examining how you would use it for business – and more importantly how your customers would use it to find and interact with you. The more active profiles you have the more you need to invest – whether it’s in creating a bigger social media team, or outsourcing – and the more likelihood there is for confusion and inconsistency too. It’s therefore critical to evaluate what each platform can offer your business in terms of ROI in order to establish which social media platforms are right for your business.
From a brand perspective, there is a sensible approach to take online, creating accounts in the name of your business across all social media networks, setting up optimised and consistent profiles, but making it clear where appropriate, that the account is not active. Locking down your online brand in this way means that no one else can ‘use your brand’ even on a network that you yourself aren’t using. This is a sensible and practical step to take to protect your business online, but shouldn’t be confused with a perceived need to be active across every social network.
What do you think? Are you a champion of social media to the exclusion of other forms of online marketing activity, or do you take a holistic approach to your online presence, incorporating social media into a wider digital marketing strategy? And if you’re a business struggling to get to grips with social media and how it might work for you, get in touch – we can help!