For brands, resistance to social media is futile. Millions of people create content for the social Web on a daily basis. Your customers have been using it for a long time. Your competitors have embraced it. If your business isn’t putting itself out there, it should be.
But there are some recurring fallacies and misconceptions out there. Many companies are finding that these tools don’t live up to the hype, especially small businesses. There are a lot of challenges that aren’t immediately apparent. Are you considering Twitter, Facebook, et al as part of your marketing plan? Before you jump in, keep these myths in mind:
- Social media is cheap or free. Yes, many social media tools are free to use, including Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, the social network building tool Ning, and content aggregators like StumbleUpon and Digg. There are many free blogging tools, too, like WordPress, Blogger, FriendFeed, and Twitter. But incorporating them into a corporate marketing program requires time, skill, and money.
- You can make a big splash really quickly. Sure, sometimes this happens. Social media is great if you’re already a star, but there really isn’t any such thing as an overnight sensation. For example, tweets can drive traffic to articles, Web sites, Facebook pages, contests, apps, videos, etc. — this is easier if your audience already cares about your brand or if you have a truly original product or idea that excites people to the extent that they want to share with their friends. But it takes a lot of time and dedication to keep your content fresh.
- You need to be on all the big sites. Most brands that have succeeded with social media sites generally focus on just a few of them. Just because the media says it’s cool to tweet doesn’t mean it has anything to do with your business. If you plan to frequent social networks, don’t spread yourself too thin. The companies that choose their weapons wisely and give it their all are the ones that succeed in the social space.
- If you create something that’s great, people will find it. How’s that supposed to happen? Unless you can drive traffic to your social media effort, it’s akin to a tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it. Many tools can drive traffic, including Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, blogs, and SEO, but word of mouth trumps them all — one friend telling another, “Hey, check this out!” is very powerful.
- It’s for kids. Contrary to the perception that social media is for tweens, teens, and 20-somethings, older demographics are rapidly evolving into this space. According to analysis by iStrategyLabs, Facebook experienced 276% growth in users aged 35-54 in 2009 and is its fastest growing segment.
- You can’t build quality relationships online. The thinking on this goes that it’s a waste of time connect with people online that you don’t know in real life — that it’s a pointless exercise that doesn’t lead to lasting relationships with your brand. It’s actually quite the opposite: Social media enables you to be face to face with your target audience. Even if they don’t turn into paying customers, you still gain valuable insight into what they think and what they react to.
- It gives away content and ideas you should be charging for. Simply put: The more you give, the more you receive in social media. You need to let go of the idea that all the content you produce is is proprietary, engage with your audience, and encourage them to share what you’ve created
- It’s a fad. The drumbeat about social media has become deafening. Yet many marketers remain skeptical, hesitating to expand budgets and expend resources on a craze. But social media is a fundamental shift in communication —