Chances are, you startup has it hard when it comes to marketing. Your brand identity is soft, maybe not even fully formed. You don’t have a lot of revenue coming in, and you have limited capital to work with.
What’s more, you probably don’t even have a dedicated team member for marketing — you may be doing everything yourself. With problems like these, no wonder social media marketing has become a major priority target for startups looking to build their reputation and attract new clients.
But while social media marketing is a legitimate and powerful tool for startup entrepreneurs, there are some misconceptions that have facilitated its misuse. Here are six of the biggest myths I’ve seen perpetuated among entrepreneurs:
1. Social media is free.
This is an important one to get out of the way. It doesn’t cost any money to set up a corporate or personal account with any of the major social media platforms you’ll probably consider using (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). Unless you’re going the paid advertising route, you also won’t spend any money to post anything. But that doesn’t mean social media marketing is free. You have to invest time — lots of it — into research, ongoing effort and refinement if you want to succeed. That means dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of time, and as the saying goes, time is money.
2. Every platform is valuable.
Once most entrepreneurs choose to start a social media marketing campaign, their first instinct is to claim a profile on every social media app they can get their hands on. That isn’t a bad idea — claiming your business’ name on each app is a good defensive strategy, and filling out your profile information can improve the accuracy of your listings in third-party apps.
However, don’t make the false assumption that every platform is going to be valuable for your brand. In reality, two or three apps will be far more valuable than the others (due to their demographics and functionality, or their ties with other strategies). Those are the ones you’ll need to focus on.
3. The benefits are immeasurable.
The notion that social media’s benefits are automatic has been a common misperception in social media marketing for years, and I’m shocked it remains as cemented in the public mind as it is. Even some practitioners of this area of marketing choose to believe that social media’s effects are immeasurable — in terms of increasing brand visibility and reputation.
That’s just not necessarily so. If you want to be successful, you’ll alsoneed to measure and evaluate your social media results. Likes, comments, responses and shares are good metrics to look at, but your real value is going to be in your conversions. Look to these to figure out exactly how much impact your campaign has.
4. The audience will come naturally.
The common advice in content marketing and social media marketing circles is to “create high-quality material,” and the rest will come naturally. Create enough “good” content, the notion goes, and the audience will follow. Unfortunately, this isn’t very practical.
In reality, even good content starts out in a vacuum. You need to promote that content if you want it to be seen by an audience. From there, audience members may share it and distribute it on their own — but you need to provide that initial push.
5. More followers equals success.
Above, I mentioned surface-level metrics that can help you gauge the effectiveness of your campaign — including likes. However, don’t get bogged down in chasing “likes” or followers of your brand. Just because someone follows you doesn’t mean he or she is necessarily interested in buying from you — or even cares about your brand.
Instead, look at more meaningful forms of engagement, such as click-throughs to your site and on-site behavior once users get there. The quality of your following may also be gauged based on how often your followers interact with you and engage with your content. One passionate, dedicated follower is worth more than 10 or even 100 apathetic ones — so try not to get too lost in raw numbers.
6. Social media is a separate strategy.
“Social media marketing” is often brandished and described as an independent marketing strategy. In some ways, it is — it has its own best practices, and can technically be performed without any other running strategy. However, social marketing performs best in conjunction with other, interrelated strategies like content marketing, SEO, influencer marketing and personal branding.
These peripheral strategies both support and draw power from your social efforts, multiplying your reach and effectiveness across the board. Utilize them if you want the highest possible ROI.
None of these myths are meant to imply that social media isn’t a valuable or worthwhile strategy; on the contrary, it’s highly cost-effective and can be a major boon for startups. However, if you’re going to be effective with it, you need to know exactly what you’re getting into, and avoid falling into these traps of thinking.
Do your research, form valuable partnerships and pursue social media marketing as pragmatically as possible — and without bias. Only then will you find success.