The relationship between marketers and social media has blossomed in the past several years. And for good reason: in the past several years, social has cemented itself as one of the most popular and prominent digital channels.

For many companies, that has led to increased investment and the establishment of organization-wide best practices.

But just because social media has matured considerably as a channel doesn't mean that there still aren't plenty of social media myths floating around. When it comes to these myths, here are six marketers should ignore.

Listening is more important than talking

Marketers are often told that if there's one thing they must do well in the world of social media, it's 'listen.' To be sure, it is important to listen to what your customers are saying about you. After all, if you ignore them, chances are you're not going to be able to serve their needs well.

But listening can only get you so far. At some point, the knowledge gained from listening needs to be translated into action that moves the needle. Marketers simply can't remain silent, particularly when their goal is to build brand loyalty, spur more sales, etc. Unfortunately, coming up with the right messages (read: ones that are effective) for social channels usually requires a good deal of skill and effort. In short, it's a lot more difficult than sitting on the sidelines analyzing the last 50 tweets about your company, which may produce warm fuzzies but few tangible gains.

There's no ROI

Social media boosters aren't the only ones who continue to promulgate myths about the medium. Although the social media trend (or fad depending on your position) may not have been as short-lived as the most ardent skeptics believed, social media still has its fair share of critics, many of whom often argue that ROI is MIA. But is this really true?

There can be little doubt that poorly-executed social media initiatives probably aren't delivering the sought-after results. But there are plenty of campaigns that do produce ROI. What marketers must get better at: defining KPIs, measuring them and coming up with sensible, accurate ways to calculate ROI so that decision-makers can make sensible investments in the medium going forward.

Some social media is free

There's no such thing as a free lunch, and that's certainly true in the social media universe. Yes, there may be no charge to set up a profile or account on a popular social network, but building a solid and effective presence will reasonably require a significant amount of time and skill.

The costs of the human labor involved should never be ignored or underestimated, and they should always be included in the aforementioned final ROI equation.

Social media equals earned media

Many marketers are convinced that their Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts are earned media. But is that really the case? To a certain extent, the answer is yes. It's unlikely, for instance, that Facebook will stage a takeover of Coca-Cola's Facebook Page.

But brands hardly "own" their social profiles and as we've seen before, companies like Facebook and Twitter can make changes that serve as powerful reminders that they're really in control of who you can reach and when on their platforms. At the end of the day, those are the things that truly matter.

Social media is the future

Half a decade ago, it was still fair to say that social media was the future. Today, with billions of people around the world interacting with popular social media services every month and companies that help marketers manage their social campaigns being bought for hundreds of millions of dollars, it's more appropriate to say that social media is the present.

That doesn't mean that social is as mature as, say, television, but marketers shouldn't delude themselves into believing that social media is some mysterious, nascent channel for which little is known and anything goes as a result. It may not be ready for the nursing home, but social is most certainly of drinking age.

You can't afford to ignore social media

Social media is, in many markets, a very important channel. But the cries of "you can't afford to ignore social!", which often come from social media gurus trying to close a deal, often obscure an important point: there are probably few channels you want to ignore entirely. From email to video, there are plenty of digital channels, some more mature than others, that have a key role to play in an effective digital marketing strategy.

Put simply, pretending that social is the can't-miss channel is doing a disservice to all the other channels that are delivering results for marketers using them wisely.

Patricio Robles

Published 27 June, 2012 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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Comments (5)

Albie Attias

Albie Attias, Ecommerce Director at King of Servers Ltd

Good points Patricio. You also often see these so called gurus touting the importance of using a specific social media network (e.g. a business MUST have a Facebook page) or recommending that a business focusses their efforts on the big 3 networks.

Utter tosh in my opinion. I wonder how big the graveyard of token gesture business Facebook pages really is.

about 6 years ago

Stephen Logan

Stephen Logan, Senior Copywriter at Koozai

Very interesting, although there are a couple of points I would add to the last two on the list. I'm not exactly a social evangelist or guru or anything else for that matter, but I think there is some truth in the suggestion that social elements will inform future marketing practices.

We're all being dragged into an age of real-time sharing and online integration with every device (I'm looking at Google and Apple TV specifically). Whilst not all businesses need or would benefit from a social presence, they are in a very small minority. Facebook is trying to become a search engine and Google is attempting to become a social network; for me, that says a lot about where things are going and why it's probably not a bad time to start thinking about building a social profile.

But like all things, you have to do it properly - as you covered in your first point. Social media can be your marketing channel, it can be your online customer services team and it can also drive traffic and influence in ways that other methods simply can't compete with. It's very much the present, again, as you mention.

I think a lot of these myths are born out of hype and fear. The hype comes from those profiting from it and the fear from anyone who feels left behind. You have to have your own strategies, techniques and voice, otherwise it will become a very bland landscape, very quickly.

about 6 years ago

Jonathan Hudson

Jonathan Hudson, Head Of Marketing at Start-Rite

Totally agree with Albie on his point about business usage. Facebook is excellent if you're a customer facing retail brand, but for many small local businesses I see lots of onpage activity where the only like or comment comes from the business itself. Time for some would be better spent on LinkedIn or Twitter.

about 6 years ago


Neale Gilhooley

Love it! When ROI is MIA, great so see these. As someone involved in Advertising, Design and Marcomms for 25 years I get tired of hearing about how we have to change everything to suit the vague ideas of some fresh kid who mocks all that we do and ignores the bits that are delivering business & value for ‘Social Media only’ solutions. There are not enough SM ‘Gurus’ who truly understand how to make it work within the marketing mix yet.

about 6 years ago


Barry Harvey

Good points all. Like everything in life, the issue is one of balance.

Anyone looking at Facebook last year would not guess what has happened to it this year: underwhelming public launch, no-one clicking the ads. I have never felt Facebook works B2B, but if it is not even going to work B2C, who will be interested.

Social media has a lot to offer, but in terms of marketing, little has changed. There is a - now established - new medium.
Does it change your marketing strategy? Or your customers needs? Will it, single handedly, bring you overnight success?

The difference between traditional broadcasting and the genuine dialogue that SM can lead to is important. Leverage it where you can. The rest is just noise.

about 6 years ago

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