7 social media lies the gurus want you to swallow

By {grow} Community Member Gregory Pouy

Every time a new marketing “technique” appears, it’s seems like the next revolution. Everything is suddenly going to be easier, faster and cheaper, right? Social media is unfortunately no exception to the rule and there will always be people (often those who claim to be experts or “gurus”) to sell you the newest bells and whistles.

It seems important to me to describe some of the lies that you may confront.

1. The social web is free 

Starting around 2006, viral marketing was announced as the end-all be-all to getting a low cost audience. Today we realize that it’s far from reality.  When there are more than 100 hours of videos uploaded on YouTube every minute, you’d better ante up.

It’s the same with the social web. Since it is actually free to post items on the web, the shortcut to “free” is easily sold. As you know by now, success on the social web comes at a cost in terms of time and the expense to produce content that gets noticed.

With the flood of attention on Facebook, it is not easy cutting through the Edge Rank formula to get noticed without being ready to open your wallet!

2. We’re going to create a brand community

It’s pretty rare to see an advertiser that isn’t talking about creating a “brand community.”  I’m with you – the idea is attractive. Which marketer doesn’t dream of his own community that we can talk with directly — a kind of simplified and low-cost CRM ?

Do you really believe that all brands can create communities just by opening a Facebook page?  For many companies, it is a mistake to think so and a waste of money to even try.

Remember that being part of a community means sharing a value system. It is also typically viewed as a way of defining oneself to others.

A much more clever idea would be to attempt to become a part of an existing community by respecting the way they structure themselves, and by learning the rules they use. This changes the way you should act and measure, and it will therefore change how you perceive your actions to be effective or not.

3. You must have a “social web” strategy

How many requests have we all seen for “social web” strategies?  I’m considered to be a “social media expert” so I’ll admit I’m part of this whole quagmire.  The reality is that there is no such thing as a social media strategy, just like there is no such thing as a digital strategy. There is a communication strategy in which you use an entire set of tools — including digital spaces.

It may not always be necessary to know all of these tools in detail; what is essential to understand is how the social web has affected the way we do business and, in particular, the relationship between the company and its stakeholders (employees, shareholders, suppliers, community members, and customers).

Rather than view social as its own strategic silo, it is best to view this option as part of a fully-integrated into your communication strategy.

4. You’ll get fast results

This is probably one of the worst lies you’ll ever hear but as marketers who are under pressure for short-term financial ROI (read: “what will I get out of this month’s blogger operation?”), the guru’s message of quick results can be seductive.

Success on the social web is neither easy nor quick.  It requires embracing marketing basics —  research, planning, experimentation, content development, measurement. Does this quick or easy?  I didn’t think so.

Of course some actions may have a short-term return on investment but the social web is built mainly on conversations and building relationships that are sustainable.

For short-term results, there are plenty of tools available such as adwords if one is confined to the Web, or using TV spots which are unsurpassed in short-term conversions. And …. NO, increasing one’s Facebook fan base is not a goal. It’s just the beginning of your relationship with your Facebook page and using Facebook for ROI.

5. Just get a Community Manager Intern and you’re good to go!

Community Management is increasingly important … but brands rarely allow an adequate budget for this position.

It is essential that the person who takes the floor for your brand is passionate and knowledgeable, is a gifted communicator, can navigate company politics, knows the industry, knows the company, can answer questions authoritatively, has access to decision makers ….  Does this job description make you think of a student who has a Facebook account and has used Twitter once or twice?

Ideally, this person is in-house and should be guided fairly close by a senior person.  Moreover, it is a position that takes time to master because you must be present for some period of time to learn the community.  Clearly this is not a job for an intern!

6. To be successful on Facebook, you must have a Facebook page

Facebook, the sanctuary social network, seems to be the answer to every marketing question these days. Granted, with its 901 million members, it’s kind of hard to miss.

The question you have to ask yourself is simple:  Is it actually possible to be successful and NOT be on Facebook in 2012?

At first glance it seems logical to open a Facebook page and access its community (yep, we came full circle!) but for many brands, a Facebook page is not necessarily relevant and cost-effective because it costs money (buying fans through deals, creating contests and content, purchasing visibility).

If you develop great content (videos, pictures, etc..), it will be shared by users on social networks and will naturally be posted on Facebook even if that isn’t where you originally posted your video/pic of the day.  Sometimes it is better to put money into developing content and ensuring the appropriate SEO rather than embarking on a battle for the fans.

I believe the key to social media success is interesting content, wherever it may first start. Simply opening a page on Facebook does not necessarily translate to visibility.

7. There is no ROI on the social web

You’ve probably heard this from a number of sources and yet, why invest if no return can be expected?

As Forrester explains, it is important to understand that ROI is not as simple as “the return on a short-term financial investment” (“does my action lead directly to increased sales?”); you must also consider ROI’s other 3 dimensions:

1. Brand equity (long-term financial)

2. Top of mind (short term – non-financial)

3. Brand image (long term – non-financial).

The real issue is not so much whether there is a return on investment from social media activities but rather how integrating these activities into an overall communication strategy impacts organizational goals holistically.

To conclude briefly, I would hate for you to underestimate the importance of the social web. But you also need to think critically, especially when you hear any of these seven “promises” I’ve discussed. Do not lose your common sense over the fear of being left behind.

Pay attention to what people are trying to sell you. The social web is a set of tools will undoubtedly meet some of your goals if used wisely; nothing more, nothing less.

Do you agree with what I have described here? What do you think?

Gregory Pouy is based in Paris and one of France’s leading marketing bloggers. You can learn more about his work on Slideshare and by following him on Twitter @gregfromparis 


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