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December 13, 2007

What Social Media Isn't - 10 Misconceptions

By Li Evans

Public_relations As I delve deeper and deeper into Social Media and it's practical uses in online marketing, I'm just amazed by the lack of understanding, especially by PR Firms and Advertising Agencies.  I've worked in PR, one of my degrees is in it, and when I see other PR Professionals just jumping into the Social Media waters without even thinking things through for clients, I just want to stand up and scream "Hold On A Minute!" 

Sometimes the PR Agencies and Ad Agencies gloss things over with how many awards they've won, not with the true success stories they have had in social media, and that's unfortunate for the companies that look to them for their social media strategies.  Social Media is an entirely different animal, and it needs an entirely different school of thought to be successful in.

There are so many things that Social Media is, and covering those would take a rather long time and make for rather long post.  However, I felt compelled enough after researching and dealing with social media strategies, to address what 10 things Social Media Isn't.

  • Social Media Isn't:  Easy
    So many public relations professionals, advertising agencies and even search marketing firms see Social Media as this "bright, shiny, new medium" that's easy to just throw things out there and think it will automatically just work.  If it were only that easy!  Social Media takes a lot of hard work and it also takes time (the next bullet item).
  • Social Media Isn't:  Fast
    "I put it out on Digg, it should hit the front page in an hour!"  If you have worked in Social Media, and heard anyone say that, more than likely you've snickered at hearing a statement like that.  Only in the very rarest of situations does social media take off like a rocket.  Most plans take time, effort and planning to make them successful.
  • Social Media Isn't:  A Substitute for Sound SEO Practices
    Not ranking in the Search Engine Results?  Think Social Media will shoot you up to the top in no time flat?  Think again!  There can be some cases where it might happen (the keyword "purple and blue polka dotted widgets" comes to mind here), but for any competitive keywords, Social Media alone just won't cut it if you want to rank for keywords.  Websites still need sound SEO fundamentals if they are going to compete in competitive markets.
  • Social Media Isn't:  A Substitute for Sound PPC Practices
    Just like still needing sound SEO fundamentals, if you have a PPC campaign, don't abandon it just because you're dabbling in Social Media.  Social Media can be fleeting.  You can hit big one day and it may last 2-3 more, but then you can sink like a rock for weeks to come.  Abandoning your PPC would only hurt your online marketing efforts.
  • Social Media Isn't:  A Practice to be Done by Interns
    If you are a big company looking at interns to "play around in Facebook", please stop.  Actually, maybe you should, then, you can call a professional (like me, or many of my fine colleagues) to fix up the mess your intern created.  Seriously, Social Media is serious business, stop and think, do you REALLY want to leave your brand's identity in the hands of a college or high school intern?
  • Social Media Isn't:  Another Place to Distribute Your Press Release
    If your public relations company is saying "Oh we'll send this out to the social media outlets, too", run, run far far away.  Ever hear of the "Bad Pitch Blog"?  If your PR Firm or Advertising Agency is offering this, you'll end up there in no time flat!  Then you'll be paying the PR Firm (or it might be better to hire a social media or search marketing professional) to dig you out of the mess the PR Firm created in the first place.
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something That Will Work if Your Site is "Broken"
    How is your conversion rate now?  Are people reading what you want them too?  Are you getting the subscribers you want to your email list?  If your site isn't working - forms are broken, links are broken, shopping carts are difficult to use, etc., Social Media won't fix that.  In fact it might make things even worse, or make you believe your Social Media plan isn't working. 
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something To Send Out Mass Emails For
    This really, absolutely, makes experienced bloggers irate.  Your email gets dumped in the trash.  If you send out a mass email with the same exact wording to bloggers, word will get around and you will likely end up on that Bad Pitch Blog.
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something You Can Do Without Participation
    Many marketers are under the assumption they can just submit things to social media sites and they will have success.  This is where their thinking/judgment errs.  Social Media is about .... *drum rolls* .... being social.  Without a conversation, without being part of the community, the community will backlash and "out" you for what you really are, a marketer.
  • Social Media Isn't:  Something You Can Do in Disguise
    You might want to ask Edleman, Walmart, Sony and Microsoft about this one.  Social media communities can smell a fake right away, and when they out you, it isn't pretty.  Even a year later, we're still pointing to these major snafus as what "not" to do, that should be enough to show you, be transparent from the get go.

Ad_agencies_buttons I could probably add about 5-10 more, but I think these points drive home the point, it takes more than just luck to work with Social Media.  If you are a company that is employing a PR Agency or and Advertising Agency who "Just started a social media practice", please stop and rethink this approach. 

Don't look at the awards they won - awards won't get you conversions or make you reach your "engagement" goals for users.  Look at established internet marketing firms - ones that have experience in how to optimize a website, some of the same principals carry over to Social Media, and having someone that knows that is invaluable.


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» SearchCap: The Day In Search, December 13, 2007 from Search Engine Land: News About Search Engines & Search Marketing
Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web.... [Read More]

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As I delve deeper and deeper into Social Media and it's practical uses in online marketing, I'm just amazed by the lack of understanding, especially by PR Firms and Advertising Agencies. [Read More]


I agree on all points especially this inclusion:

"Most plans take time, effort and planning to make them successful."

If it doesn't take time - it ain't worth it!

Very good, Li. It's something that only the experienced can agree with...

Most of the Social Media Marketing (SMM) campaigns can not about be selling, it is about creating a buzz about the brands across all the social media platforms.

If we choose as an objective SMM will lead to selling, will surely take time.

Overall this is a great article, but I'll have to disagree with your view of interns doing social media. Agreed, interns do need some guidance, but they can do more with social media than many other seasoned professionals can. Take your example of Facebook, for instance; Facebook is an integral part of a college student's life. During my internship at GM I helped spearhead our Facebook initiatives simply because I was active and understood Facebook. I took what I learned about social media from my colleagues and applied it to Facebook. Don't dismiss the immense value of young interns in the world of social media.

I agree soical media is not something you turn on a switch and it works. The biggest misconception after a week is what am I doing wrong. When in reality nothing it just takes time.

Thanks for clearing some of the misconeptions up.

I like your attitude - to the point, honest and blunt. Maintiaining a blog is hard work, but it has it's rewards 'eventually'.

I came across your site reading some threads on other blogs that took the stance that social networking is not marketing. A viewpoint that that I disagree with. It has a completely opposite approach to traditional marketing, it is none the less marketing. Once the ettiquette is respected, it rewards with the same impact as tradional marketing.

Your thoughts?

The comments to this entry are closed.

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