I've seen a lot of media hype in my 20 years, hell I've created some of it, and social media is just one more communication medium. Not a miracle, not even revolutionary but equally not useless. It one more channel to connect with clients and prospects.

5 Misconceptions about social media

Let me be perfectly honest, I don’t think the social media is worth much as a marketing tool. By social media I am specifically excluding YouTube, which has a fundamentally different strategy from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the others.

That makes me something of a pariah in the marketing world, where so many people and companies are trying to make a living from convincing companies that it’s critical. Why am I out of step with the rest of my industry? Well… experience. I have found that it quite simply doesn’t work.

It’s not just a South African thing – it doesn’t work for my clients in the UK, Australia or Canada.

If Facebook doesn’t work for my clients with an ultra-feminine demographic (you don’t get more Facebook-friendly than a weight-loss and beauty spa and a bridal boutique), then I’m pretty sure that it isn’t going to work for my ultra-macho industrial and construction clients. Those guys don’t communicate when you put them in a room together liberally oiled with a few beers, they certainly aren’t going to sign up with Facebook.

When DOES social media work?

That said, Facebook works amazingly well for my client Harley Owners Group (HOG Africa). Why is this group so different?

  • Harley Owners maybe “macho” (even the ladies) but they are inherently social
  • The H.O.G. Facebook page is only about upcoming rallies, socials, rider training and fun events. It avoids anything remotely like selling.
  • I post daily, and at least half my posts are sharing other members positive comments about rallies, socials, rides and riding, or congratulating people on milestones or achievements.
  • The Ladies of Harley are a powerful sub-group within Chapters, and they are VERY chatty and supportive. almost all shares on my posts are ladies and not the gents.
  • The gents are the strong silent type. They do read (I can see that on my stats) but rarely comment, like or share unless its a joke.

Myth #5: Social Media is about “What I’m doing now”

Yes, Twitter IS status updates. When you open a Twitter account, the first thing it asks you is “What’s happening?” Many people just answer that question.

Tweeting and sharing draws attention to the best information to be found on the internet about a topic that you are interested in – whether it’s climate change, entrepreneurship or immigrating to Canada. When you follow someone, you’re simply saying “I find what you have to say interesting enough that I want to be able to keep tabs on it easily.”

My personal verdict: social media is what you make it. A marketing tool, a branding tool, a social tool, a source of useful content on a specific topic. But it can easily eat up a lot of time. Not because of the tweets and posts themselves, but you are continually drawn to great new content you never knew existed.

Myth #4: Social Media is for people who don’t have a life

I guess you might want to let everyone know about how you’re standing in line to buy groceries but social media is really a communication tool for networking and distributing useful information.

Egotists will use Twitter in a narcissistic fashion. But Twitter isn’t much fun unless other Tweeters take notice of you – which they won’t if your tweets consist entirely of navel-gazing (unless you’re the President or a Kardashian of course).

The people who get the most out of Twitter over the long term are those who identify ways to reach out and engage their fellow human beings in conversations. Painfully obvious observation.

My personal verdict: I assumed when I started that creating original content would attract the most attention, but often retweeting is a better way to be noticed and followed. Being interested in other people is more likely to get them interested in you. I guess that is a universal truth that I should have learned before now!

Myth #3: The short length is a liability

Having limited characters to work with can be frustrating but I believe the 140-character count is one of the best things about Twitter. It requires you to get to the core of the topic you’re tweeting – the key points that will make it interesting. It helps you become a better writer by forcing you to delete superfluous words (it’s amazing how many you can end up doing without). It makes tweets – the really good ones easy to read and follow.

My personal verdict: It is one of the few internet applications actually improving human literacy. You ever hear anyone make the case that haiku would be improved if it involved twice as many words?

Myth #4: There is one right way to use social media

There are social rules, and a few technology requirements. But saying there is a wrong way to use Facebook and Twitter is like saying there’s a wrong way to hold a conversation (actually the wrong way to hold a conversation is to forget to let go!) You should use social media any way that works for you.

For example it’s not rude if you don’t read every tweet or post your followers send. The more followers you have (hundreds, thousands) the more difficult this becomes. It’s also not rude if you don’t follow everyone who chooses to follow you. Maybe you do, maybe you don’t — it depends if you find someone’s twitter feed interesting or not.

My personal verdict: The profoundly wrong way to use social media is as a vehicle for spam, chain letters, fake news, hate speech and stupidity.

Myth #5 The more followers you have, the better.

There are already applications coming out to “increase your followers”. Sometimes you pay a few dollars per 500 followers. Sometimes you agree to follow everyone in the system (and they agree to follow you). The result is a figure for “followers” almost identical to the figure for “followed”.

But you have to learn to not get too excited when you get a boom of followers. I wrote an article on “Network Marketing” and I picked 60 followers in that business. A few then went on to READ the article, and realised that it was extremely critical. And promptly unfollowed. So don’t be upset when you get a a “bust” of followers either.

My personal verdict: social media is a very good way to get instant feedback. It’s not a competition – concentrate on being interesting in your niche field.

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