Misconceptions and Myths About Social Media

I recently conducted a Social Media Marketing (SMM) training session with a group of small business people. Their comments, concerns and assertions revealed some common misconceptions and myths about SMM. All were aware that many of their customers and prospects use social media and they had clear expectations for what they wanted to take away from the training. Some of their expectations included:

  • To learn how to be more proficient at social media
  • To gain more insight on using social media to promote their organization
  • To learn the benefits of social media
  • To understand SMM watch outs

How Old Are Social Media 2016.v02.11.16

Social media is a relatively new phenomenon when compared to traditional marketing communications tactics.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube are all less than 15 years old. Given the relative novelty of social media, I was not surprised by the level of skepticism, doubt and misunderstanding expressed by the students.

Myth One: Social Media Marketing Won’t Cost Me Anything

Time is money and it takes time to plan, research and develop a marketing strategy that incorporates social media. It can take a significant amount of time to produce relevant content that target audiences will want. It also takes time to implement, activate and monitor a social media marketing strategy. According to the 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, 80 percent of marketers spend up to 20 hours per week on social media marketing.

Hours Per Week                       Source: 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report

The amount of time spent is related to the size of the business and the length of time they have been using social media in their marketing. Experienced social media marketers in large firms spend more time than beginners in small firms.

Two thirds of small businesses choose the Do It Yourself (DIY) method of social media marketing. These companies are on the low end of the time spent chart above because they spend little if any time on strategy and focus solely on execution. The extent of their SMM is to set up a company page on social media and post status updates or announcements.  SMM is viewed as less critical to the business than traditional media. While this approach to social media marketing is low cost/no cost, the truism “you get what you pay for” is at work.

A third of business owners choose to outsource social media marketing. Mack Collier, recognized by Forbes magazine as one of the Top Social Media Marketers in the world, has written about the costs of social media marketing. In 2012, he reached out to several of the leading social media consultants and identified industry average monthly costs for various social media marketing services.

SMM Costs Source: Mack Collier.com

He noted several changes that have occurred in the social media consulting industry over the last few years.  Since 2010, businesses, in general, have increasingly accepting the permanency of social media. It is no longer seen as a fad, but rather as a necessary component of an overall marketing strategy. In my view, medium and large business are at this point already, small businesses and non-profits are getting there.

The growing acceptance of social media as a necessity resulted in mid-sized and larger companies building their in-house social media capabilities. For Social Media Consultants this means a shift away from day to day social media tasks (e.g., account set ups, content creation, customer interaction etc.) and toward higher value services (e.g., strategy, training, consulting etc.). This shift is reflected in a change in prices. In general, since 2010 outsourced prices for day to day execution has gone down while higher value services have increased in price.

Clearly, social media marketing will cost you, whether you DIY or outsource it.  However, these costs can be managed. For DIYers, implementing social media marketing can take significant amounts of time out of their day, so a degree of discipline is required. For small businesses, time management is key.  Creating a strategy and plan for social media marketing will enable you to be more efficient with your time. One of the biggest mistakes small businesses make is not having a plan that enables them to schedule and prioritize their efforts.

Another way to manage the time spent on SMM is to start small. There are over 200 social media platforms and the number continues to grow. A small business marketer should attempt to master no more than two platforms, at least in the initial phase. Mastering a social media platform involves more than just posting content. It requires taking the time to understand the unique characteristics of each platform. This includes the site demographics, the tone and context of the interactions.

The goal of SMM should be to get involved in the conversations taking place on social media platforms and become a valuable contributor to those conversations. This means resisting the temptation to sell and focus on being social by developing and cultivating relationships over the long term. You can become more comfortable with this approach if it is aligned and complimentary to your traditional outbound marketing which is squarely focused on sales.

Finally, even though outsourcing SMM is cost prohibitive for many small businesses and non-profits, there are cost effective alternatives. There are a number of smaller SMM agencies that specialize in the small/medium sized business and non-profit market. Local Chambers of Commerce and community colleges may offer SMM training sessions and classes. There are several blogs that provide great information for small businesses that are new to social media. Check out:

In our next post we will discuss another small business misconception about Social Media Marketing: “I have a website, I don’t need Social Media Marketing”

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