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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The 5 Big Myths Of Social Media

As a consultant working with many brands on social media strategy and efforts, I hear a lot of perceptions about social media. Extended out to the conferences that I attend and sometimes speak at, it is surprising how often I hear the same myths about social media. These are not things that brands are just using as reasons to not engage ... they often come from brands and marketing teams that are actively using social media as well. The following is a selection of some of the myths that I hear most often, as well as some thoughts on why they are simply myths and what your brand can do to get past them:
  1. You need to give up control. By far the most common myth, giving up control is a defeatist way of looking at social media. It means that anyone can say anything about your brand and there is nothing you can do and no input you can have. The truth is actually that control in the best of cases is shared. You have a point of view and your customers do as well. To effectively create a dialogue, you need to be willing to share some of the control with those people conversing online ... but keep some for yourself as well.
  2. It is all about going viral. Starting out with social media with the intention of creating a viral success or getting "X" number of subscribers, followers, friends or fans is a sure recipe to focus on the wrong things. The point of most social media programs is not that they may reach millions of people blindly, but a smaller subset strategically. To that end, focusing on creating something engaging is far more important that just trying to get volume or go viral for its own sake.
  3. Someone needs to be managing it full time. Resourcing can often be a huge roadblock - in part because of the perception that if you don't have someone ready to make social media their full time job, then you are not prepared. The truth is that you can manage social media effectively by making it a core part of someone's job. You do need to identify someone who will take the lead, but this doesn't have to be a 24/7 job.
  4. Everything has to be open, transparent and public. There is a lot of talk about openness and transparency, which often forgets one of the most powerful things about social media: that it has huge potential to foster internal dialogue, enable better collaboration and allow more efficiency. In these cases, you might want to use social media more for something that doesn't (and shouldn't) belong in the public. This is not about hiding information (and you do still need to assume that some or all of it could end up online) - but sometimes the easiest place to start using social media is internally ... and in private.
  5. Measurement just involves "soft" metrics. Every day marketers are learning that social media doesn't just have to be about awareness or influencing perception. Depending on the strategy, you can use social media for everything from direct sales to generating real relationships online which lead to revenue generation. Our own team at Ogilvy has created a metric model called Conversation Impact that goes far beyond the soft metrics to prove the real value of social media to the brands we work with.


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I love that you're going against the dramatic grain -- the idea that you give up control and you're lost at sea in social media is absurd. Shared control is powerful, it doesn't have to be a lose-lose situation. Great post!

Nice post Rohit. I also think there's a belief among the uneducated or undecided that social media is the playground of negative sentiment, worried that it's only unhappy customers that use these channels to voice their grievances.

My theory is: these myths have grown up regarding social media because the first SM PR adopters were primarily marcomms people. If your PR background includes a healthy dose of community and stakeholder consultation work though, beginning a dialogue and giving stakeholders an opportunity to be heard is what it's always been about.

Love the point you make about the SM 'learnings' being something that can be used internally (for strategic resource planning purposes, for instance, as well as to set standards for customer service, etc.).

Your post wonderfully articulates that social media is not a wild frontier where companies should venture with caution. I agree with your points and believe it all leads back to having a clear and focused strategy for social media. I especially love your debunk of transparency. Your clients, customers and public do not need nor want to know everything about you.

These myths came about, and are perpetuated, because people tend to simply repeat what they have heard someone else say if the subject is something they don't know about. I have had a number of my friends seem to be very surprised when I tell them I use Twitter. Most often their comments reflect the fact that they really don't know anything about it, but they have believed myths that have been repeated by others who also don't know anything about it.

Having said that, it is also a fact that these myths are very real for some people. That makes this an education issue, and I will be forwarding this post to some of my friends that still don't get it. Thanks for an excellent summary.

I like the oft quoted 'people don't need a drill ... they need a hole'. Social Media Marketers may well need to ask themselves what they are actually after ... instead of fixating on what it is they are trying to avoid ...

Er, how about #6 "We don't need social media".

Maybe we don't need social media, but clearly by the volume of users..We WANT social media. It has it's place and value when it is used correctly. Hell, we didn't NEED the internet either, or mobiles, Satnavs..or...or...or.

A great article i must say. I totally Georgie. Yes, We WANT it!

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