Let's face it, social media marketing is no longer the new kid on the block. Companies have had the best part of a decade to figure out how to leverage social media for business gain. Yet despite this, I continue to hear social media "truths" being spouted that simply don't hold up to inspection - or correlate with the real-world experiences of social media marketers.
Let's look at 7 of these ridiculous social media myths and hopefully leave you better positioned to exploit the business opportunities that social media undoubtedly presents.
Is LinkedIn the social site with the most in-depth information about business-people? Yes. Is LinkedIn the social site on which those business-people can most easily be reached. No.
This distinction is absolutely key. Look at the data on social site usage and you'll see that people spend several times as long on other social sites as they do on LinkedIn. Indeed, the majority of LinkedIn users aren't even active on the site once a month. Ergo, it's not a great platform for getting your message seen by business people.
There's a reason why social media advertising is ten times more expensive on LinkedIn than on other social sites - and only a small part of that is the targeting they're able to offer on their advertising platform. For the most part it's simply down to the fact that they don't actually have that much ad inventory to sell (compared to eg. Facebook) and so the cost of their inventory is bid-up significantly. Speak to major users of InMails and you'll learn that response rates to these are hardly stellar either. But everyone carries on pouring money into the LinkedIn gravytrain because, let's face it, who's going to get fired for saying that their company ought to be investing in LinkedIn?!
So ask yourself, are you pouring the majority of your social media marketing spend into LinkedIn? If so, you owe it to your team at the very least to experiment with other channels and compare the results.
Just as LinkedIn's supremacy is built upon misinformation, so is the myth that Twitter is somehow dying. Whilst it's true that growth in its user-base has tailed off, this is still a site with an ACTIVE user-base of more than 300m people each month. Or put another way, you're 3 times more likely to have your message seen by your target audience on Twitter than you are on LinkedIn.
I'd also contend that Twitter is hands-down the social site where you're most likely to be able to spark conversations with people and therefore generate business leads, partnership discussions, candidate applications - or whatever else it is your business would like as the outcome of its social media investment. If you work in one of the many businesses that has dismissed the idea of Twitter being useful for business, please challenge this lazy assumption and actually put it to the test!
This one is crazier still - and yet is one of the most common things I hear business owners say when they're considering their approach to social media. Let me ask you a question - did you turn on the TV last night to help you decide what car to choose next or what toy to buy a child for their next birthday?! Of course you didn't!! But have those car and toy manufacturers made you aware of their offerings and sowed the seed of you thinking of them next time you're making a purchase? Of course they have.
This is where Facebook is so incredibly powerful. It may well be the case that people will not flock to like your business page on Facebook and devour your every post. But if you can get your message in front of your target audience within a matter of hours - and for a modest spend - then Facebook has delivered to your business three things that LinkedIn can't possibly match: i) far greater reach; ii) faster penetration of your target audience; and iii) a cost that's only a fraction of LinkedIn's.
I don't know if it's a result of the frenzy that's created by media coverage of newer social sites like Snapchat. Or perhaps the armies of social media advisors needing to make their services seem indispensible. Whatever the reason, I encounter a surprising number of business owners who feel it's essential they're not left behind by failing to jump onto the latest new social site and get themselves a Snapchat, TikTok or Instagram account.
My experience is rather different. Firstly, each social site you decide to have a presence on will require an allocation of resource and budget to get results. For most small and medium sized businesses, the reality is that far greater results will be achieved on social media by building a really strong presence on two or three social sites than by trying to be everywhere (as this would involve diluting your efforts in the process). This is particularly true because most social sites have economies of scale in terms of your presence. Investing a bit more in each site to do a really thorough job of building your presence there will typically yield disproportionately greater results. But the flip side of this is that investing insufficiently in any channel will decimate the overall results you get from social media.
This alone should give you pause for thought about whether to pursue every latest social media fad that emerges. But I'd go further and say that the more established a social site is, the more clearly understood are the routes to getting an ROI from your presence on those sites. By contrast, if you're an early adopter trying to get business results from one of the newer platforms, you're much more exposed to the need to undertake costly experiments to figure out how you're going to get results from that site. The upsides can be significant for those who crack the code earliest, but for everyone else it's just money and time squandered.
Given what I've said above, it hardly needs saying that having a social media presence and generating results doesn't happen for free. But I hear with alarming frequency people talking about social media marketing being free and thinking in terms of pennies and dimes when it comes to what they'll need to invest to get results.
At a bare minimum, generating results from social media is going to require a significant investment of time - and that's the time of someone who has social media expertise, rather than simply an admin person or intern. Various tools and subscriptions will significantly accelerate the pace at which results can be generated, so in my view should also be considered an essential cost. If you're not thinking in terms of social media being an investment that will take time and many thousands of dollars to start seeing results, I'd suggest you're setting yourself up for failure.
Let's be clear on two points. Firstly, it's unacceptable for whoever is running your social media to not be held to account in terms of the results that are being generated. Your investment should be set up from the outset so that there are things the business can monitor that demonstrate some value being derived from your social media activities. Whether that be leads coming into the business, a surge in web traffic, candidate applicants... make sure you have something you can monitor that shows progress is being made and results are starting to flow through.
However, some businesses - especially those employing business coaches - take this to the extreme of saying they'll only invest in activities that clearly generate a positive ROI. With any activity where the full value cannot be captured, deciding on spend based purely on ROI can result in the wrong decisions being taken.
Just consider for a minute that you're launching a well-funded new business. Would you for one minute suggest launching the business without investing in building a website for that business?! The website might or might not recoup its costs through additional online sales or enquiries; but to launch a business without a website would be hugely harmful to its credibility and its chances of ever getting off the ground. You wouldn't question that for a minute, would you? Well today, having a credible social media presence is increasingly taking on that same importance. You not having tweeted for two months and only having a dozen Facebook fans speaks volumes about the likelihood of your business being a credible future industry star. Ignore at your peril, even if the ROI calculations are lower than you might like.
I've outsourced a lot of activities in the various businesses I've founded and grown. Ultimately the decision hinges on two issues. Firstly, can I get access to far greater expertise by outsourcing to another company as opposed to making a hire? Secondly, can I get a similar result from outsourcing to another company but at a fraction of the cost of employing someone in-house?
If the answer to either of the above is yes, then there's a compelling reason to consider outsourcing your social media. If the answer to both is yes, then there has to be a really strong reason for keeping activities in-house. Over the years I've found everything from Finance to PR, Search Engine Optimisation to Blogging have been better delivered by an outsourcing company than by being done in-house.
For many of you reading this, the same will undoubtedly be true of your social media presence, particularly if you work in an SME. Do the calculations and you'll find that working with a team like Social-Hire will typically cost you 1/3 of what an employee would cost to hire. Plus you're likely to be able to call upon a broader range of expertise and far greater experience than any one person could bring to the business. One to give serious thought to if you fall into the SME category (book in a call if you'd like to discuss further).
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You might like these blog posts The Advantages of Leveraging Social Media for Business, How to Use Twitter to Promote Your Business, Four Common Instagram Myths for Business, and 4 Ways Social Media Is Making Us Better People.