Social Media Marketing – Myths or Reality for Small Businesses?

Social Media Myths or RealityIn a recent Business Week Viewpoint article called “Beware Social Media Marketing Myths”, Gene Marks highlights what he feels are 5 myths of social media marketing that small business owners should be aware of. Although all 5 of these statements as he describes are myths, this article is misleading to readers on the value of using social media as a channel to build visibility and awareness for your business and personal brand. So let me weigh in on these 5 myths of social media marketing.

Myth 1. Social media sites are free

Reality: This statement is not a myth but a gross understatement of the value of social media. There is a significant cost in time which is an issue if you do not know how to use these tools to market your business. Not learning and understanding how to use these platforms for marketing will waste a lot of time and you will get nothing in return. But, nothing of value in this world comes for free and you need to invest some type of resource – time or money – to get the most out of them. Think of social media as a channel in which you are able to communicate your value to your ideal client. You must spend time meeting people in these social media sites, building relationships and hearing what they have to say. As Gary Vaynerchuk (@GaryVee) pointed out in his keynote presentation for the Social Media Success Summit, it takes sweat equity to be successful using social media.

Myth 2. Social media sites are a great place to find new customers

Reality: Social media sites are a great place to meet new people and build strong relationships. Will these people ever become customers? Not necessarily, but the reputation you develop on social media sites goes a long way to building a brand that attracts your ideal client. Establishing quality, compelling profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter help you get found more easily by those who are looking to acquire the products and services that you offer.

Myth 3. You need to be on all the big sites

Reality: To make the most of your time, you should select the social media sites that make the most sense for your business. For most business owners, LinkedIn is a must. Some of the niche social networking sites mentioned in the article that are targeted at business owners such as Intuit’s Small Business Community may make more sense now if you are catering to a demographic that for the most part is not on the more “cool and trendy” sites. But I would highly recommend you establish your personal identity on the major social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube now and take control your online identity and reputation rather than letting it develop through what others say.

Myth 4. Social networking sites are not for marketing

Reality: Saying social communities are not for marketing is like saying networking and word of mouth will never get you business. If you think marketing equals pushing your message into the face of everyone, then this statement is true. But most frown upon pushing your message at people for both online and offline networking venues.

Social communities are great for networking and developing relationships and ultimately creating visibility for your expertise. And remember, great customer service increases the value of your brand in the eyes of your customers which helps strengthen your credibility. The key to networking (both online and offline) is utilizing the VCP model: visibility + credibility = profitability. You can easily educate your prospects and customers on the value you offer by the value you provide those you interact with on social networking sites.

Myth 5. Social networking is the future

Reality: Social networking sites are a means to an end, not the end game. Although the platforms will shake out technologically (as does every technology), getting comfortable with social networking sites to develop your personal brand will not go away, even if the platform changes. Believing that social networking is a vanishing trend is dangerous and there are many business owners utilizing these channels to market their businesses successfully.

Marketing using social media should be part of your marketing plan and not a replacement for other more traditional marketing efforts. Newsletters, seminars, partnering, and yes, the telephone, are all ways to have a conversation with your customer. But ignoring social media is not a strategy for success. The best way for most small business owners to market their business is to get involved in social media now as it is a process and not getting the process started is basically suicide. Why give your competitors an edge, making your business anonymous and relinquishing control of your future?

What do you think: Myth or Reality?

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