We’re some way into the 21st century and yet ‘making money online’ remains the holy grail of many who harp back to the heady dot-com, get-rich-quick days. The mass uptake of social media such as blogs, social networks and microblogs has now reached a tipping point where even the most hardened business executive is trying to determine how the new, disruptive technologies impact business.
Altimeter Group, a US research firm, says that 2011 is the year of social integration for US business. Yet views on business and social media remain polarised. Some are exploring how social media can increase productivity, cut costs and facilitate new ways of engaging with customers and prospects. Many remain sceptical – especially those with recent investments in websites, SEO and pay-per-click campaigns as a sure-fire way of ‘getting e-business’ and who now find themselves having to go back to the drawing board.
Here are some common social media myths that need to be debunked if businesses in Malta are to start incorporating social media in their business model:
Myth#1: Social media is free.
Fact: As a bare minimum, engagement requires content, interaction with users, technology-savviness, channel management, SEO and more. Real people cost real money.
Myth#2: Social media is easy
Fact: The barriers to entry may be low: setting up a blog, or an account on Facebook or Twitter requires little technical skill. Using social media to increase sales, reduce costs, develop a brand and engage with customers and prospects requires strategic content, technical expertise and commitment.
Myth #3: Social media’s a fad.
Fact: The participatory read/write web has been around for over 10 years. Rather than about technology, it’s about a paradigm shift in social engagement: a new sphere of working, networking, communicating, living, and organising. It has become intertwined in our daily lives.
Myth #4: Social media is all about branding and PR.
Fact: Social media is not about broadcasting, but about a personal, more open way of engagement. It’s as fraught with risk as it is rich in opportunity. It flies against many business cultures. The brand lives in the voices of your online community. Use social media to be personable and build trust relationships instead of broadcasting corporate spin.
Myth #5: Social media will lead to a loss of control
Fact: The technologies are disruptive, not least because customers and prospects have access to instant publishing tools. The real myth is that a business never had control over what people were saying.
Myth #6: Success is about content going viral.
Fact: It is more important that the right people view targeted content. Content rarely goes viral.
Myth #7: Participation requires the engagement of a “social media agency” or “guru.”
Fact: You will probably need help with strategy and technology. Always ask for case studies to back up social media credentials. But the champion of change has always got to be found within.
Myth #8: Focus on increasing online visitors, not making money.
Fact: Unless you’ve got VC backing, what you have is a hobby, not a business. Even Twitter now needs to monetise. Conversely, the most popular business model on line is the freemium model, where a very small proportion of online users pay for premium services and online advertising.
Myth #9: Social media is not measurable.
Fact: Social media monitoring tools can provide an array of qualitative and quantitative metrics. From blog comments, media mentions and real-time Facebook advertising outcomes to click-throughs to your website. Conversely: what’s the ROI on your print campaigns, your trade show, on that phone call you just made?
Myth #10: Build it and they will come
Fact: Social media needs to be actively managed. Facebook and Twitter are littered with a graveyard of inactive ‘business’ pages and profiles that potentially damage an existing brand.
Myth #11: User-generated content will lead to money-making opportunities.
Fact: Social media can provide valuable inbound marketing links and bring more prospects to your e-business platform. It is not a guarantee that click-throughs will convert into sales. It’s easier to make money if you have an existing product or service that can be sold online than if you are building one from the ground up on a social media platform.
Myth #12: User-generated content is better than branded content.
Fact. Content is expensive to produce. People do not normally enjoy watching branded content as it’s associated with one-way marketing. Most user-generated content will bring your business zero value. Compelling content is rarely about you.
Myth #13: You can do it all in-house.
Fact: The likelihood is that someone within the organisation has used social media tools. The challenge is convincing internal stakeholders that social media should be considered alongside orthodox marketing, CRM, PR and HR channels. Sometimes, it’s easier to do that with the help of an external change agent with hands-on experience with new media.
Myth #14: Social media is for kids.
Fact: In the US, the 55-64 age group on Facebook is almost the size of the 13-17 group. Older demographics are now joining social media than younger ones.
Myth #15: A business needs to have a presence on all major social media.
Fact: First think of where your clients and prospects are likely to be interacting, then think of the media.
Finally: Get your website social media ready. Incorporate Facebook, YouTube and Twitter alongside orthodox marketing and customer relationship channels. Approach bloggers and other online influencers about your products and services, ask for feedback and engage. Develop a sound social media strategy before you dive in. If you do not wish to engage immediately, just listen to your customers and your competitors. Manage your expectations.
Article syndicated by the Times of Malta