Which Social Media Misconception Do You Struggle With Most?

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Social media is a great thing. It's completely changed the way we interact with each other and with the world around us. Like anything good, people will find a way to misuse or obsess over it, but those are the edge cases. Social media allows us, as consumers and businesses, to grow and learn and develop and improve. It's been nearly twenty years since Six Degrees launched the first recognizable social media site, yet so many people still have misunderstandings about its pros and cons. That's why we're tackling one social media misconception after another.

Social Media Misconception #1

What exactly is social media? People hear a statement like "Americans spend 5 hours a day on social media," and they instantly assume everyone's wasting time scrolling through Facebook. But that's not the case. Social media is defined as: websites and applications that enable users to create and share content, or to participate in social networking. Another way to put it is that social media is the current state of the internet.

If you can go to a website and create a profile or comment on some item, it's social media. That's the current state of the internet. You can do this everywhere. Facebook to YouTube, Amazon to ESPN, Time Magazine to scientific journals - it's all social. This social media misconception is that social only applies to a few "time wasting" apps and sites, when it fact it applies to just about everything digital.

Social Media Misconception #2

Social media is so easy for everyone to use that you can feel like you're using it well, even if you aren't. There's still a misconception that you create a profile on any given site, and people (i.e. your targets) will flock to you. That's not how any of this works.

That's Not How It Works Meme

In a world where every major social platform has hundreds of millions of users, and consumers are completely distracted by advertisements 150 times everyday, you have to fight to put yourself in front of people, do it often, and do it in as many places as possible.

James, our director of sales and marketing, puts it like this. Everyone eats food. But not everyone's eating healthy foods that are right for their body type and activity level. Social media is the same way. Everyone interacts on social media everyday. But logging on to post a few comments doesn't mean you're doing it well.

What site's best for your brand? How present are you across channels? How often are you engaging with your targets? What value are you providing for those consumers who are searching for the very problems you solve? How are you gaining leads, making sales, and improving your customer service through social?

These are the questions you've got to answer. An effective social media strategy is not "let me get on here every few days and talk about our sales." An effective social media strategy involves finding where your targets spend their time, and regularly providing value for them in that space.

Social Media Misconception #3

A site's popularity does not necessarily dictate its value to your brand. If you're in high tech, for instance, maybe you stay away from Facebook, because that's not where many high tech personalities spend their time. They're more likely to be on a site like Y Combinator's Hacker News forum. If you're in local retail, LinkedIn probably isn't a good fit, or even Pinterest. Instagram, however, might be a solid choice.

If you're a marketing agency, you might do well on Quora answering people's questions with valuable answers instead of tweeting a hundred times a day. The misconception is this: people often think that the size of a site's user base will be directly related to the number of leads and sales they receive from that site. This isn't the case.

You'll need to do some searching around to find the niche areas where your brand can excel. You'll do much better maximizing your dollars within a successful niche than throwing them at a big name for the sake of using a big name. In fact, here's a good list of popular social media hubs and their descriptions. If that's not enough, here's another 75. See which ones might be a good for you, and give them each a shot. Find one where you can excel, and focus on that particular site. This will help you maximize your return.

Social Media Misconception #4

Many, particularly non-Millennials, view social media and our heavy usage of it as a terrible conundrum. Here's the thing. Yes, when we isolate ourselves from living, breathing people, things start to change in the wrong direction. Our independence goes down, as does our confidence and self-security. Our ability to socialize and work with another physical body decreases. However, that's only if we become reclusive, living only through a screen. If you're the average person, who's around people all day and still uses social media, it actually has the opposite effect - positive effects. Take your typical adolescent. These are the ones older generations are worried about because of their heavy social media usage. If you were an average kid twenty or thirty years ago, you'd only be allowed to interact with other kids for a couple of hours a day. Unless you were involved in extra-curricular activities, you went to class all day, goofed off a little, and then went home.

Social Media Sites Smartphone

Maybe you played with neighborhood kids for a couple more hours. Now, when an adolescent leaves school, they can still be social for several more hours. And that's exactly what happens. These kids and everyone else are able to learn and navigate the social complexities of growing up where they couldn't before. Even a well-received post on Reddit can lead to higher confidence and better academic performance.

Like anything, people will find a way to misuse and abuse social media. But what you've got to understand is that social media is not ruining the next generation, or even current ones! In fact, it's empowering them.

Social Media Misconception #5

Over the last year or so, countless people have jumped on the video bandwagon. And for good reason, too! More minutes of video are watched everyday across platforms than just about any other online interaction. Accordingly, many are saying "We've got to creating videos!" But those people are missing the point.

Doing well as a brand on social media is all about engagement. We've known this, and the trend over the past few years has been to focus on micro-engagements (likes, favorites, and 3-second video views on Facebook, Instagram, etc.). People are bombarded by hundreds of things everyday, so let's just grab a smidgen of their time - so the thought process goes.

What the innovators are moving to, and that simply makes sense, is capturing consumers' attention for longer. Figuring out how to actually keep people engaged in a single piece of content. And then being able to transfer that interest through a sales funnel of other likewise engaging content, all the way to becoming a paying customer.

Video is an amazing tool for this. You've got audio and visual components. Separately, they're each highly engaging. Together, they're simply captivating. But there are other ways of captivating an audience, too. People enjoy humor, change, and reading as well. Facebook and Snapchat are excelling because of video's engaging quality. But new places like Medium are blowing up as well because every piece of content on there is engaging. It's long-form content that often has imagery and video included within the writing. Then there's infographics that do really well as an entirely separate avenue.

Social media isn't just about popping up on everybody's feed with something mildly entertaining. It's about providing highly engaging content where people spend most of their time. "Engaging content" will look differently for everyone in each industry, but it typically involves providing as much value as you can concisely as possible.