White Lies that 'Social Media Experts' Like to Tell

Brad Smith Partner, Codeless Interactive, LLC

Posted on July 17th 2012

White Lies that 'Social Media Experts' Like to Tell

The number of Twitter followers someone has doesn't make them an expert.

Which is obvious, but unfortunately misunderstood.

They way consumers shop today has evolved. And social media has enabled the process.

But there are a lot of marketing fundamentals that people are throwing out the door (usually at the request of a "social media expert").

Here are 3 lies that can send you off course.


The Social Media Guru Cartoon ComicImage courtesy of seanrnicholson


Lie #1: Blog Comments are Important

Social media experts love to give generic advice like "be more human", "engage with your customers", and "create awesome content".

And when you ask them to explain, they usually bring up blog comments as an example.

The 1% rule of the internet is a general rule of thumb that says most people (90%) will consume content, while very few will interact (9%) or create it (1%).

This is even more lopsided when you look across different industries. People in these warm and fuzzy industries are extremely active in creating content, and will leave many more comments.

But most of the world doesn’t. So the type of person each industry caters to says more than the actual, real engagement.

You will never get as many blog comments as a “personal development” or “minimalism” blog.

And that’s OK! Blog comments don’t pay the bills.

Even Dan Zarrella, Social Media Scientist at HubSpot, has dispelled the significance of blog comments.


Lie #2: You Need to Be on Every Social Network

Marketing Pilgrim reports that, "the average large company has 178 corporate-owned social media accounts".

That's ridiculous.

The biggest problem with this strategy of "every-department-gets-their-own-Twitter-account" is that community management will deplete all of your resources. Each social network you manage will cost you more time and money.

And contrary to popular belief, social media isn't free. It takes tremendous resources to do it properly, and has an enormous opportunity cost.

For example, most company blogs are terrible. And their email newsletters aren't much better.

Instead of pouring so many resources into several Twitter or Facebook accounts, they should focus on creating better content. Because both your blog and email marketing has a much higher ROI than your social network activities.

If your content is good enough, then other people will share it for you.

And besides, community management is the worst way to build a social media audience. Your marketing ROI on tweeting 15 times per day is miniscule.

Here's what you should do instead...


Lie #3: Social Media Marketing is about Community Management

Social media marketing isn't only community management.

You should also prioritize business development activities. Instead of starting at the bottom and tweeting to only your Fans and Followers, you should figure out how to work or cross-market with larger brands.

These could be other complementary businesses that share your same customer base, or even independent bloggers. The key is to figure out what the other party wants, which is usually one of three things:

  1. Money
  2. Exposure
  3. Access or Expertise

No matter who it is or what they do, if they're interested in doing any type of partnership, then they're interested in one of those things.

Or better yet, combine three different partners that each bring something to the table. Just make sure that each partner has their own unique skill set.

Maybe you're too small, new, or inexperienced. That's OK too. Look around at your peers. The other up-and-comers who show promise but don't have a huge audience yet. Those are the people you want to connect with.

Every business is short on time, money, and energy. So we need to prioritize our tactics. Doing deals and using partners will leverage your small investment and give you the maximum return.

Reach and growth. Take offline marketing practices and figure out how to apply them in a new context. Because social media is simply a new communication toolset.

And the proven marketing fundamentals still apply.


Brad Smith

Partner, Codeless Interactive, LLC

Brad Smith is a Partner at Codeless Interactive, LLC, which specializes in custom web development and customer acquisition services.

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Posted on July 17th 2012 at 12:47PM

Not quite sure if I totally agree. While you do have some points there are quite a few "if-then" possibilities. To qualify the statements as lies in a blanket manner is to discount the fact that all three can apply to different industries. Maybe not all at the same time, but you can rest assured that they can hold true in differing combinations and levels of relevancy.

Nice example - blog comments are especially handy for three of my clients who are in the Personal Counseling industry. Comments allow them better insight into their readers so that they can tailor their content to suit.

As far as being on every social network - The current big three, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, are extremely handy for one of our major clients. They use LinkedIn in order to better develop B2B relations. Twitter is used to keep a certain sector of their employees aprised of weather and road conditions. Facebook is used to engage employees AND their family members which has helped to build a better relationship between the company and both groups. This is not the only client that has had success with cross-network interactions.

Lie three is somewhat of a misnomer. Social media marketing IS about community management. If someone doesn't consider larger brands that are in the same niche part of their community, then they are sorely mistaken. You are right in that they should be reaching out to these groups. 

Trust me, I am NO 'social media expert,' and I know that many of them seem to spout endless gobbledy gook. I do however know what works. It's one of the reasons why my company - Posse Social Media - handles social media marketing FOR the client rather than simply consulting them on how to do it themselves. We let them do what they are best at - handling everyday business - while we handle the social aspect.

Posted on July 17th 2012 at 2:20PM

Hi Danny, thanks for your comment! Completely agree that there are unique circumstancse for each industry - but it was a catchy title, right? :) 

RE: comments - Agreed, but many people are lurkers. In my case (as a consultant), all of my paid clients from my email list have never left a comment. And the niches or industries I was picking on get like 100+ comments per post. You'd never see that in another industry outside of tech, social, personal development, etc. etc. The local plumber or financial services professional will never see that many. 

RE: social network - Again agree with the big three. Each one plays a part with most companies and one of the three is usually really important. But my biggest issue is when everyone is talking about Pinterest, Instragram, Tumblr, etc. etc. etc. Most companies are wasting their time on those.

RE: community management - Again (again) agree that community management is important. But it's not the only thing. I just wanted to get people to think outside the box to hopefully get better results. 

Thanks again Danny - appreciate your points!

Posted on July 17th 2012 at 3:06PM

LOL too true. A catchy title definitely helps get people involved ;)

Just couldn't resist pointing out the other side - get people thinking.

Posted on July 17th 2012 at 4:29PM

Totally get it! Thanks again.

Posted on July 17th 2012 at 3:37PM

I have to agree that you, FixCourse, that not every business has to be on all the social networks especially small busineses and non-profits who don't have the time and budget to really pay attention to more than 3 networks. When you do get to stuff like Pinterest, Tumblr, Instragram, business owners probably need to ask themselves, "Is this vital for my company?" 

Posted on July 17th 2012 at 4:36PM

Pinterest is a good idea believe it or not if you use it to drive contests. It is much easier to set up and run a contest or promotion on Pinterest than Facebook. FB has some uber tough regs that can get you kicked off the site if you mess up and they take offense. That would certainly be bad news for a small business.

Kent Ong
Posted on July 17th 2012 at 1:12PM

Social media marketing is about building relationship. I won't advice my customers the all three above, rather I would advice customers how to understand human behaviour.

Scott Allen
Posted on July 17th 2012 at 3:03PM

Well, there's another "lie of ommission" that some social media experts make, which is that social media doesn't really have anything to do with SEO and reputation management.

But it does. In fact, it's a major factor for SEO these days. And with that in mind...

1. Yes, blog comments are HUGELY important, in ANY industry. I see it every day. I have numerous cases where we've been able to isolate that as the dominant ranking factor differentiator.

2. Yes, you DO need to be on every network. You can automate some of them, and you can centralize your listening and publishing, but again, the impact on SEO -- and especially on reputation management, especially for smaller brands -- is significant.

Totally agree with #3, but while I understand the points you make regarding 1 and 2, you're completely ignoring the SEO/ORM factor, which is significant.

Posted on July 17th 2012 at 3:11PM

SEO is sort of a yes/no situation. Does SEO power your Google ranking? Not so much anymore. Does it help draw people's attention to the message you are sharing? Most definitely.

Scott Allen
Posted on July 17th 2012 at 6:46PM

By SEO, I mean anything and everything you do to affect your Google ranking, including -- in fact, especially -- social.

So yes, by definition "SEO" powers your Google ranking. :-)

Samuel Junghenn
Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 4:58AM

I agree here with Scott's comments, essentially if you are ignoring social for SEO then you just don't "get" SEO!

Posted on July 17th 2012 at 4:22PM

Great Read

I love the points you make in regards to Blog Comments. Blogs are great for numbers, but those numbers need to translate into a measurable ROI. If your goals are "higher rankings" and "tons of hits," then sure catchy titles and current efent-related content will work. If your client, or you for that matter, is happy with a padded excel sheet with  great "numbers" then your job is done.

Social is about content; Content is and always will be King.

You can have 1000 Facebook Fans or Twitter followers with no sales leads or 100 relevant ones that actually champion your brand. Whatever the case if you establish early on measureable goals for your business or your client's business, then you can show growth. 

Posted on July 17th 2012 at 9:47PM

Well put!

I certainly don't claim to know all the answers as a community manager. But I do know what I see: trends —usually the trends of other blogs and websites similar to our field help me get an idea of what works and what's important to our offline and online community).

Posted on July 18th 2012 at 6:11AM

I come from a web agency background and the worrying trend I noticed was that a lot of clients were shifting all their efforts from web to social media.

Social media certainly has its place within your digital interactivity with customers, but I think a lot of people see it as an easy option. I had one client who make their money through online donations on their website, yet they spent more and more time playing around on Facebook and Twitter and not thinking about how any of that activity was going to affect their bottom line. There was no strategy in place for channeling people through to a donation page, no communication policy... it was just disjointed. And in the meantime the website just sat there going stale.

Posted on July 18th 2012 at 9:10AM

And what if one of the main points of your social media presence is to start a conversation?

okay, I am doing social media in academia where the ROI can be measured differently but there is massive pressure on academics now not only to get their research in the public eye but to get people discussion it. This really twists your #1. For Public Engagement, comments + retweets/shares are the main way of checking that you are doing what you are setting out to do.


Another use of social media in academia is funneling students to the institution. For this, we are surely talking about community creation and possibly even management, questioning your no. #3. Also, watching clickthrough rates will be a key indicator.

Also, given limited time, surely it is better to do one or two channels right than to have 19 robotic feeds? How can you engage with users and actually have a conversation if you are too widespread? How can you add to a community if it gets 5 min per week? Surely, for small businesses and organisations where marketing is a smaller share of activity, it would be better to target key networks? 

So, yeah, could you tone down the universality of your advice? It probably does work for Medium-sized and bigger corporates but it has issues when used outside of that environment.


Posted on July 18th 2012 at 10:22AM

Brad, I think your points in general are quite good, but there is one area I think you really need to investigate much more seriously and you seem to be far too dismissive of it for all the wrong reasons.

178 accounts per company largely distributed through FaceBook and Twitter and LinkedIn is not accounts on 178 different social networks. It's a major dilution of the primary three networks and tremendously devalues the reach all of us have in each of those networks, which highlights the value of reaching into *relevant* niche social media, of which 1800 different social networks have more than 2.2 million regular users. If your other arguments about engaging with relevant consumers of your content are valid, then your argument against protecting your brand and engaging relevant consumers on 178 different social networks is invalid - the question is not whether engaging on other networks is a valuable use of your resources, it's a question of how it is managed and on which of those networks do you participate for what reasons.

SEO is one argument for a broadbased social network engagement strategy, reaching less diluted and more industry/consumer relevant followers is another, and protecting your brand from corporate identity theft and brand dilution is yet another.

As for the time spent managing those accounts, yes it is a real expense of time and or money - it has to be. The same way television started with the big three and has evolved to a networked media engagement strategy for brands across more than 1000 channels, social media is evolving every bit the same way and brands ignore customers on niche social media at their peril - remember, FaceBook, Twitter, and LinkedIn combined represent less than 12% of all active social media accounts but currently represent over 90% of all social media advertising spend. Where do you want to have your advertisement heard - on a radio network where you can reach people who can hear it or in the middle of a noisy rock concert where no one can hear anything over the reverb from the speakers and the sound of a waling guitar? There may be thousands more people at the concert, but your message isn't going to get to most of them so what is the true value of the ad in that context?

All I'm saying is that an effective social media strategy is far more complex than simply focusing on the big three and dismissing the others as inefficient uses of your time when there are serious business cases to be made for hundreds of *relevant* niche social networks and when there are professionals like myself who have the tools and expertise available to help brands manage the volume of networks without needing to increase the time commitment by the brand managers to do so.

Scott Allen
Posted on July 18th 2012 at 12:45PM

Well said!

You make a particularly excellent point about participation in niche sites. For the vast majority of my clients, at least one niche network ends up being a gold mine for them -- comparable in value to the big three. And while we can usually narrow the scope to a reasonable number, it still takes testing -- via actual participation -- to discover which one(s) will work best.

Posted on July 19th 2012 at 3:10PM

Both Brads blog and everyones commments were of great value to me.

Posted on July 23rd 2012 at 11:38AM

Interesting post. I believe social media is about building relationships and marketing is neither the only nor the most compelling reason for companies to participate. Conversations with customers provide rich opportunities to understand what they care about and how they want to interact.

Posted on July 24th 2012 at 1:09PM

You know I love comments, I value comments - and I know they don't pay the bills. I've long been on this 'luring the lurkers' kicks, b/c that is the heart of the audience. Totally agree not 1) not being on every network and 2) not being exactly the same on different networks. They are different for many reasons. Yes you need to have a consistent voice, stay true to the brand - but not regurgitate the same tired messages you would on say LI as the 'fun' Twitter or 'way cool' FB brand-page that's specific to an off-kilter product. So many things go into making a Community - and that means connecting w/ others AND connecting them to each other. 

"social media is simply a new communication toolset" I totally agree - minus the 'new.' Think SM has been here long enough - for some of us, anyway. :) And yes, the fundimentals of communications, of business strategy still apply. FWIW.