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Social Media Myths Debunked… UNDEBUNKED!

January 30, 2012 Posted in Social Media by

Bright Oak Article: Social Media Myths Debunked... Undebunked

People love to use the word “debunked” in blog titles. At the time of this writing, there were 40,000 exact match results in Google for “social media myths debunked.” There’s just something heroically Mythbusterish about picking apart commonly-held social media beliefs. But what if it’s the debunkers who need “debunking?”

With dozens and dozens of posts out there claiming to debunk social media myths, it wasn’t hard to find some examples of “myths” that probably shouldn’t have been debunked at all.

Myth No. 1 – Social Media is Free

Why originally debunked?

The debunker argues that time is not free, so social media is not free. Depending on what your time is worth, social media could end up being very expensive.

Why unbunked?

The reality is that most in-house social media managers run a very fluid system of work, from social messaging to content creation, and time is eaten up as a natural cost of business. Companies don’t care how long it took or didn’t take to accomplish a social media objective. The results should speak for themselves.

The primary communication platforms in social media are free. And there are plenty of free monitoring and messaging platforms to manage the data streams that social media managers work with—at least the majority of them. If you want to introduce elements like Facebook or Twitter advertising, robust social management platforms, or social automation products, there are obvious costs. But for 99 percent of businesses, social media is free.

Myth No. 2 – You Can Sell Products on Facebook

Why originally debunked?

The debunker points to social media as a conversation starter and occasional lead-generator, but not a direct sales channel. You can’t expect to generate actual sales through social media campaigns.

Why unbunked?

Personal experience. You can sell products on Facebook, Twitter, and any other social channel to a consumer in buying mode. The impressions from social channels may be less relevant overall, but I’ve had success making money from affiliate links posted solely to Facebook and Twitter. It works because of an engaged audience, a proportion of which will click on a link, and a proportion of which will buy the product. I get plenty of Groupon-type deals for free because of similar affiliate links posted to social media.

Traditional e-commerce sites have just as much success because of their highly-motivated, highly-engaged audiences. I happen to know that companies like ZAGG generate thousands of dollars through Facebook by posting discounts or information about new products. In the future, don’t be surprised if Facebook allows purchase and checkout directly from its platform.

Myth No. 3 – You Should Interact As Your Brand and Not As Yourself

Why originally debunked?

The debunker argues that companies should introduce their social media figures, their positions within the organization, etc. because people relate more to other people. The debunker claims that campaigns and brands that do this get more interaction than individuals hiding behind a logo.

Why undebunked?

I can understand why some would argue for an authentic, personal, relatable voice in social media as contrasted with a plain, uncreative, informative tone. First, the line between engaging and unprofessional is rather thin. That’s why so many large companies continually get into PR trouble because of posts – social media writers trying to be a little too creative, witty, or edgy. It’s best to err on the side of professionalism, if only to avoid issues of appropriate vs. inappropriate. Second, I would argue that the longevity of social media success is tied to the consistency of messaging tone. A high-personality writer may be hard to replace if they leave. It makes more sense to give these people unofficial company voice on their personal profiles, rather than to adopt a very dynamic tone from the official profile. Last, I think you want to protect your social media management from becoming the targets of personal attacks and customer service complaints.

Myth No. 4 – You need to have a presence wherever your customers are

Why originally debunked?

The debunker argues customers are everywhere, but companies shouldn’t be. Companies should be selective about their channels to save time, money, and credibility. The debunker points to examples of successful firm-created networks like American Express’s Open Forum or HSBC’s Business Network as evidence that being everywhere isn’t a necessity.

Why undebunked?

It’s 2012. By now, if a customer wants to join a community of business fans, they’re going to look for you on the main networks: Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. I don’t know of one company that succeeds on one of these networks, but can’t hack it on the other one (celebrities are a different story). The only way to meet business objectives with social media is to go where the people are, and cultivate communities in those places. When new, broadly applicable social networks reach a particular critical mass, it’s expected that companies will have a presence.

Myth No. 5 – Don’t Call Yourself a Guru on Twitter

Why originally debunked?

The debunker points to data showing that people who use words like “guru,” “official,” and “expert” in their Twitter bios have more followers than average Twitter users.

Why undebunked?

The issue is not about the data. It is about the assumptions of the data. First, the idea that adding a particular title to a bio leads to more followers, regardless of whether the title is merited, is a flawed assumption of causality. A title like ‘guru’ activates preexisting connotations, and for most Internet-savvy people, that connotation is negative.

So what about the data? I suggest a likely “lurking variable.” Those who would call themselves gurus are the same who would use automation tools to artificially and inauthentically boost follower counts without providing any value. The data may be accurate, but don’t let it lead you to the wrong conclusions.

Myth No. 6 – Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays are Bad Days to Publish

Why originally debunked?

The debunker points to data that suggests email and social media click-throughs are higher on Saturday and Sunday than during the week because total message volumes on those days are lower.

Why undebunked?

Part of the deserved undebunking lies in the wording of the supposed myth. There may be higher click-through rates on weekends, but does that mean that you should ‘publish’ on those days? Network diffusion (share) of content on weekends is definitely lower with the volume of tweets I see on Saturday and Sunday being much lower than the rest of the week.

The headline also fails to mention that Thursday, for example, has just as high of a CTR as weekend days. So when should you publish? For content that obviously has a short shelf life like news, you should publish as soon as you can. Press releases historically go out in the first three days of the week because the eyes that need to see it are better primed to act on the information during the work week.

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