12 myths about social media
Friday, January 22nd, 2010

The worst-culprit myths about using social media to engage the people important to your organization…

There’s a lot of hype about social media.  It’s an exciting time to engage pubmythslics using new technologies and approaches.  Lots of people are doing interesting and groundbreaking work and sharing what they are learning with the broader community.

Unfortunately, there are also some persistent myths about social media.   Earlier this week on Twitter, I came across a great list of 12 leading social media myths by a blogger on the West Coast, Pam Dyer.  She does a great job of identifying & responding to these myths.

Here they are, with some of our own thinking on how they apply to public participation.

Do you have other myths to add, or experiences to share?  We’d love to hear about them… Just post a comment at the bottom of the page!

  1. “Social media is cheap or free.” It’s true that many social media tools are free to use.  But getting the most out of them as part of an outreach or awareness campaign requires time and financial resources
  2. “Anyone can do it.” There are lots of people out there who describe themselves as social media “experts”.  But, look deeper and far fewer have actually developed and implemented successful strategies.
  3. “If we create something that’s great, people will find it.” We’ve learned that this definitely doesn’t apply to online consultations, where success requires a multi-channel communications strategy that includes cultivating peer-to-peer or friend suggestions to take part.
  4. “We can do it all in-house.” In our experience, the best results happen when in-house teams and outside expertise collaborate.  It blends deep understanding of the organization with new perspectives, ideas and proven experience.
  5. “You can make a big splash really quickly.” This can happen, often triggered by external events or circumstances, but you shouldn’t bet on this.  Building a community takes time and nurturing – like growing a garden.
  6. “You need to be on all the big sites.” Instead of rushing to develop profiles on all of the leading social media platforms, organizations should invest the time to develop a strategy first, and then choose the tools selectively to meet their objectives.
  7. “It’s for kids.” Thankfully, fewer people believe this any more thanks to powerful statistics on social media demographics.  For example, the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is people aged 35 and older.
  8. “You can’t build quality relationships online.” Our experience in public participation has exposed this myth.  By engaging their publics online, organizations create deeper and more sustainable relationships that transfer into stronger face-to-face events.
  9. “It gives away content and ideas we should be charging for.” In her groundbreaking book The Whuffie Factor, Tara Hunt shows that success for organizations on social media is about building credibility by sharing value with their communities.   Over the long-term, this can build relationships and revenue.
  10. “It’s a fad.” We see social media as more than just technology.  It’s changing the possibilities and potential for how we communicate, connect and collaborate together. And it’s a series of revolutions – social, technological, organizational and demographic.
  11. “Social marketing results can’t be measured.” Right?  Wrong.  There are already powerful tools to measure success that go beyond click-counts to measure who’s saying what about your organization and where, on social media.  But, it’s also about knowing how to use these – after all, a tool is just a tool.
  12. “It’s a cure-all.” Obviously, social media is only one part of a broader communications strategy.  The challenge is working out how social media can best support your overall efforts to reach the people you want.

– Ellis Westwood –

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