Social media can be a powerful tool in your marketing and relationship building arsenal, however it's important to not see it simply as a magic bullet - it has to be used strategically and with realistic expectations about what it can and cannot accomplish.
Whatever your goals for social media, you need to plan to be in it for the long haul - showing up every day, providing great content, building and engaging with your community.
All too often I get contacted by companies that are doing a launch or an event in the next 30+ days, they're panicking and they've decided that social media is what will fill their event or sell out their product/service. However, they have yet to build a loyal community on social media.
Yes, it is possible, but ONLY when you've built a community of people who know, like and trust you. You need to have earned this through long term and consistent efforts.
When done correctly social media can certainly provide you with a steady stream of leads and sales.
However, if your brand or business starts out with unrealistic expectations - and certainly when those expectations are not realized - your company can lose faith in the power of social media.
When faith is lost, less of a priority is put on social media or it may be scrapped altogether, which is a big mistake as it likely wasn't that it didn't work, it's that it was viewed as a magic bullet without any need to work at it.
It's likely that for many people/businesses much of what's believed about social media is wrong. They are myths and it is time to debunk them once and for all.
1. I Need to Be On Every Social Media Platform
Myth: Many brands and businesses believe they need to have a presence on every social media platform available.
Sadly, many "social media experts" even proclaim this - I was listening to Gary Vaynerchuk speak at an event that I attended recently and he told the entire audience that they need to be on Snapchat. That's simply not true.
Reality: It's a false assumption that your business needs to be on every social media platform to be successful.
There are a number of reason this is neither true or wise.
Firstly, you'll be wasting your time using a social media platform if your ideal clients aren't using it. This is why I disagree with Gary Vee's statement - you only need to use Snapchat, for example, if your target audience is also using it.
Social media's power is its ability to help you connect and build relationships with your ideal clients, why would you want to put time and effort on a platform where your community is not active or there at all?
Secondly, you should only use as many platforms as you manage effectively. Stretching yourself too thin over too many platforms can actually hinder your ability to build relationships and see results on any given platform.
Doing social well requires spending time creating great content and also engaging in conversations with your community. If you're not responding to comments, questions and generating engagement, that will do more damage in the long run.
Many brands also have the false notion that they need to chase every new shiny object.
You do not need to be early adopter on each new social media platform. Many businesses in fact, don't have the resources or skills to successfully be early adopters on new social media platforms, nor should they try. It can be smart to adopt a "wait and see" approach that can also prevent you from wasting a lot of time.
Early adopters have to be savvy enough to easily master new platforms as well as have the resources to spend time on a platform that may not be around for long. This is because many new platforms never gain mainstream adoption, and some disappear altogether - this happened recently with live streaming platform Blab.
2. I Can Publish the Same Post On All My Social Media Platforms
Myth: In an effort to save time, many brands and businesses will create a single social media post that they'll push out to all of their social media platforms.
Reality: Each social media platform is different. They have different requirements, different focuses and different users.
If businesses want to be successful using a specific social media platform, they need to take the time to understand those differences and use them to their benefit.
For example, LinkedIn is a professional platform. Most B2B businesses can find their ideal clients on this platform and should tailor their posts and content to appeal to this group.
Instagram on the other hand is heavily used by Millennials and businesses using it will be the most successful by creating graphics and images that emotionally connect with their audience.
3. I'm Successful If I Have a Large Number of Followers
Myth: Often brands and businesses will judge their social media success by the number of fans, followers, friends and connections they have.
Reality: While the size of your account can provide a level of social proof, it does not directly affect the success of your social media strategy.
You can have a small social media community and still be extremely successful if you're directly connecting and engaging with your ideal clients, and are turning them into paying customers, loyal followers and/or brand advocates.
Engage and provide value to the community you have on a consistent basis and it will naturally grow over time.
4. I'll See Big Results from My Social Media Activities in 30 to 60 Days
Myth: Many businesses and brands expect that they'll see significant results from social media in the first 30 to 60 days.
Reality: Building up a social media presence and following takes time and effort - most businesses need to be willing to work on community building for 6-12 months before they can expect consistent and predictable results.
There will always be exceptions to this where someone had a viral video or post and built a large following organically in a short period of time, however these are extreme exceptions.
Businesses with a budget for social advertising are able to invest in growing their community more quickly, and can do so with things like paid Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram campaigns.
Keep in mind that while paid ads can significantly increase the speed of your growth and reach, you also require additional resources in content marketing and community management to ensure ongoing engagement and top of mind awareness.
5. I Can Sell On Social Media Simply by Pitching My Product or Service
Myth: Businesses and brands of all sizes are still pitching their products and services on social media and expecting people to listen, care and purchase.
Reality: People don't want to blasted with your sales and marketing pitches - your community wants to be treated like you value them.
You do this by listening, finding out their needs and challenges, creating educational content to help them be successful with those challenges (in their preferred format) and then regularly sharing this in a consistent fashion.
For some businesses the ideal content mix could be in creating inspirational and entertaining content. Once you engage your community via social media you can move them further down your sales funnel.
A sales funnel is a marketing system or process where you have created a defined path that will take your ideal clients through a series of steps that will help them to self-identify their interest to move from prospect to customer/repeat buyer.
This process typically begins with a helpful piece of free (educational) content, such as a checklist or report that they can receive for free in exchange for providing their name and email address.
For many B2C companies the offer to obtain their email address may be for a free sample or a coupon code.
Once you've added them to your email list it's a lot easier to continue to build the relationship, offer more resources and eventually make an offer.
When creating goals, strategies and action plans for your social media marketing, you need to set realistic expectations that can actually be met.
It's also important that these expectations are instilled at every level and department of your company - as unrealistic expectations from senior leaders can and will create a bad social media strategy, which will ultimately hurt your brand or business.