Busting six social media myths that could be hurting your business


The digital economy will be worth $4.2 trillion by 2016 and digitally mature businesses are 26% more profitable than their peers. Social media is critical to this ecosystem.

In Australia, 50% of consumers access social media daily, 70% of social search converts to a sale yet only only 31% of SME businesses actively have a social media strategy. That is even though 50% of all mobile searches are conducted in hopes of finding local results. Figures for leaders are worse with only 15-30% using it.

This gap stems from the many damaging myths about social media and if you buy into them you could be hurting your business.

1. Social media is a fad

The narrative here must move on. The major platforms have been established for nearly 14 years, with predecessors many years before that.

LinkedIn was founded in 2002 and has 364 million users from 200 countries in 26 languages.

People think about Facebook as having something to do with that baby-faced college kid Mark Zuckerberg; only Facebook is 11 years old and that ‘kid’ is now a 31-year-old billionaire leading a listed company of 10,000 employees.

There are 4 billion YouTube views a day and other networks like Facebook and Twitter have integrated video and live streaming apps into their platforms to capitalise on people’s interest.

Even relative newcomer Twitter has been around since 2006 and handles 350,000 tweets per minute, 500 million tweets per day and around 200 billion tweets per year. That means a one in a million event happens 50 times a day on Twitter creating an unprecedented amplification effect for your business.

Key social networks are well established and are becoming increasingly sophisticated as more users come online and platforms respond to user-driven needs.

For example, LinkedIn is already knee-deep mapping global talent and recently acquired lynda.com, a leading online learning company teaching business, technology and creative skills to help people achieve their professional goals. Twitter has introduced Periscope for live screening, taking broadcast to a new level. Likewise, Facebook has become a video channel with brands posting native video to Facebook, making it 30% of the news feed with videos performing exponentially better than on all other platforms.

I haven’t even touched on the growth of personal messaging apps like QQ (829 million) WhatsApp (700 million), WeChat (469 million) and Line (nearly 200 million), which pose a threat to social media networks (and which is why they are being snapped up by them).

Truth: social media is here to stay.

 (Source: Statista.com)


2. Social media is about posting photos of what you ate for lunch

Take a quick look at Instagram and it’s no surprise that people think social media is about posting photos of what you ate for lunch. There’s no denying photos are integral to life and social is no different. We are taking a lot of them:

  • 16 billion photos and 1 billion likes happening each day on Instagram
  • 350 million or 4000 photos per second on Facebook.

But put that in context.

Imagine that you’ve had a half-day meeting and break for lunch, someone delivers a tray of food and you turn to a colleague and say ‘oh I love the pies’. This comment is appropriate and reveals something of your human self, vital for building relationships. But it is not what the meeting was about.

Photos in social media are, similarly, a record of a moment in time: I was here; this is what caught my attention. The difference is that a comment evaporates when spoken but once online is recorded and searchable.

Instead of shaking your head at how crazy it is; accept that people love taking and sharing photos, ask how you can put that to work for your business.

Trevor Young provides some great case studies including from travel company Intrepid Travel, which uses YouTube videos and blog content and social media to connect and inspire its customers. Intrepid Express Blog is about “real travel, real traveller tales” and has entered into a partnership with The Perennial Plate showcasing some of the most inspiring, intriguing and sustainable eating stories from around the world and have reaped the business benefits.

Truth: social media captures human moments.

3. Social media is for code monkeys

Social media is not about tools but what they allow you to do – build relationships. You don’t need to know how to code any more than you have to build electronic circuits because you watch TV.

Networks allow you to reach out to people from around the world – shareholders, partners, customers, suppliers, future and existing employees.

The platforms are intuitive to set up and there are hundreds of thousands of tutorials about how to use them strategically available online. All new technologies require learning whether Excel spreadsheets or email or LinkedIn.

Truth: social media is about relationships.

4. Social media is for people under 25

Not even close. On LinkedIn, two adult professionals join every second. On Twitter, the fastest growing demographic in 2013 was adults aged 55-65, for Facebook the 55-65 age group jumped 46% in the same timeframe and Google+ was around 57%.

Nearly 60% of Australians aged 65+ accesses the internet every day (the average across all age groups is 79%).

Apart from rising access by seniors, a critical demographic insight is that the billion new consumers coming onto the market have never lived without it.  

An Ipsos study found for millenials user-generated content is 20% more influential when it comes to purchasing and 35% more memorable than other types of media. You cannot ignore these future consumers, whether that’s for shoes or financial advice.

Investors are influenced by research they find in social media and companies that reach out can create relationships and a competitive advantage. Moreover, this strategy is likely to become more, not less, important as younger digital natives become wealthier, because they rely on and are influenced by social media more.

In the US, nearly 10% of all affluent investors are under 30 and yet lack even basic awareness of financial institutions such as mutual fund companies. Investor Brandscape found investors over the age of 30 were nine times more likely to develop relationships with asset managers via social media than the over-30 group. Additionally, they were twice as likely to depend on advisors for recommendations because of their lack of experience.

Yes, you may have been successful to date without social but if you’re looking around at yourself and your peers for what the future holds, you’re looking in the wrong direction.

Truth: social media is for everyone.

5. Social media is for marketing

Many leaders continue to think about social media as a marketing channel. It’s certainly vital for marketing.

Facebook for example is a giant with 1.44 billion monthly active users, almost 90% of marketers say it’s generated exposure and 67% directly attribute sales increases to social and digital efforts.

Jay Bear says Twitter users are three times more likely to follow brands than Facebook users and, with their above average income, education and propensity to interact with brands, are a huge potential source for mass influence.

LinkedIn allows unparalleled targeting of advertising to the exact industry, company size and even job role that would typically buy your product or service.

Social’s reach though is far greater than marketing, it’s also vital for:

  • Sales – 78% of salespeople using social media outsell peers. Global social selling influencer Timothy Hughes says buyers can be 50% to 80% of the way through the buying process before they speak to a salesperson because they’ve used social media to research the product. People worry about giving away the ‘secret sauce’, particularly professional services companies, but case studies suggest people are using the ‘secret sauce’ simply to validate that selecting a firm is the right choice. According to PR expert Trevor Young, Open Wealth Creation, a team of property specialists, guides people step-by-step to build successful investment portfolios in the Australian market via the relentless provision of content that educates and empowers investors. Open has doubled its business, receives daily warm leads and is a BRW Fast 100 company and is ranked 13th on the 2014 list.
  • Reputation – social media impacts company reputation. 81% of executives want the CEO to be social and according to Brandfog two thirds of customer’s trust companies more if the CEO is social.
  • Customer service – 71% of those who experience positive social care are likely to recommend that brand. For example, Telstra uses Twitter for customer service, if the question can’t be resolved on Twitter, the question is directed to the correct department.
  • Influence – social influences behaviour from increasing voting turnout to influencing voter sentiment or deciding what doctor (41% said social media affects their choice of a specific doctor) or lawyer to use.
  • Customer research – available in real time.

That’s just the start.

What social media, like technology, delivers is an expectation that cannot necessarily be delivered under legacy business structures – immediacy. We expect to find what we want, where we are and act on it. That’s about socialising every area of the business.

Truth: social media is about immediacy, connectivity and impacts the whole of business.

6. There’s no ROI on social media

There are more social media metrics than you can poke a stick at and with the rise of big data, we’ve never known more about customers and how they act.

Nonetheless, only 16% of SMEs and 29% of large businesses measure their return on investment in social media

According to Nicole Miller, you can track ROI by:

  • Tagging links to get data into web analystics
  • Using free Google analytics tools like ‪http://qub.me/Jc9oyg 
  • Using control group analysis to understand social influence e.g. of social users vs. non-social users.

Kauirik’s metrics have also proved popular and are widely used, they include:

  • Conversation rate – number of conversations per post.
  • Amplification rate – number of reshares or retweets per post.
  • Applause rate – retweets, likes, +1s, etc.
  • Economic value – sum of short-term and long-term revenue and cost savings

A Forrester Research reports on how to build an effective social media scorecard considering metrics from four different perspectives:

  1. Financial: Has revenue or profit increased or costs decreased?
  2. Brand: Have consumer attitudes about the brand improved?
  3. Risk management: Is the organisation better prepared to respond to problems that affect reputation?
  4. Digital: Has the company enhanced its digital assets?

While you can measure ROI on social media it’s difficult to measure what counts the most, the value of a relationship. Many brands are moving away transactional measures and the focus has shifted to measures like reach, engagement and sentiment.

Truth: ROI is complex to measure but social and digital deliver measurable value.

These six evidence-based insights should support businesses to overcome a fear of social media and use it to understand the impacts on business and develop a strategy for managing opportunity and risk.

Dionne Lew is the CEO of the Social Executive, an adviser to boards and senior executives on digital and social media rated in the top 1% for global community influence by Kred.

Dionne Lew is the CEO of the Social Executive, an advisor to boards and senior executives on digital and social media rated in the top 1% for global community influence by Kred. Her latest book, The Social Executive, is now available.

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  • http://www.eleven.cc elevenvelo

    Truth: Social Media WORKS, for the right business. That it works for every business IS a myth.

    Truth: Social Media & Content Marketing takes time. A lot of it, if one is going to do it in a way that will engage people over the long term. ROI can be a skewed value in this equation, especially if one is spending a good chunk of time creating quality content to pump out through SM channels. Time = money, so work out how much time you spend on it vs. the return.

    Truth: There is nothing more pointless or more damaging to a business/brand than a badly fed SM channel. If you are telling people to check you out, you better have the goods to offer them when they get there, otherwise you look like a clown.