Calling ‘Bullshit’ On Four Social Media Myths

There are days I just want to shout at somebody for all the misinformation I hear about social media. I hear all these myths and bad information being passed around the business community, because some know-nothing shyster tried to sell a business owner on social media, and cocked it up so badly, the poor guy is going to just stick with the Yellow Pages and door hangers for the next 10 years.

Here are four social media myths that, if I hear someone mention them with a straight face, I’m going to throw something heavy.

1. You can’t measure the ROI of social media.

This has got to be the biggest pile of BS I come across. And to make matters worse, I hear it from so-called professionals in this industry, who apparently have no clue that this is even possible. Olivier Blanchard just recently ranted about a recent South by Southwest panel where the audience was treated to these little nuggets of stupidity:Photo of a very large bull

  • There’s no ROI for measuring ROI – it’s just too difficult.
  • You can’t put love and trust into a chart. Why? Because love and trust defies logical reasoning.
  • Social doesn’t always need to be quantified. Its not a spreadsheet metric only – trust, relationships, advocacy.

If you’re doing social media for your anarcho-syndicalist commune, then sure, you can’t measure trust, love, or that warm squishy feeling you get when you hand someone a fistful of daisies. But if you’re doing social media for a business that gives you money, then you’d damn well better measure it. Your boss is not going to want to hear about trust and love when she asks you to justify why she just spent $30,000 on your social media campaign. How are you going to demonstrate that the $120,000 your company made was a direct result of your efforts? If your job is on the line, you’ll figure it out.

There are plenty of tools for accurately measuring this kind of thing, the least of which is Google Analytics. It’s free, fairly easy to use, and there are big books you can use to learn how to use it. There are also books about measuring social media ROI, with real formulas and techniques and everything. And I can guarantee that not one jot of ink is spent discussing how to measure trust, love, or warm squishy feelings.

Granted, asking about the ROI of social media before you ever start on a campaign is a bad question to ask, but once the campaign is up and rolling, you’d better be measuring how well you’re doing, or you’re going to be out of a job three months after you launched this thing.

Read these blog posts about how, why, and how easy it is to social media ROI:

2. Social media can replace everything

Social media is just another tool in the marketer’s toolbox. It’s not a tool that can replace everything marketers have been using for the last 100 years. As much as the hipsters like to say newspapers are dead, TV is dead, radio is dead, and any other medium that’s more than five years old is dead, those things are still viable strategies.

As long as there are people who don’t have computers or smartphones, we’ll need TV and radio advertising. As long as there are people who don’t use computers and tablets, we’ll need newspapers and magazines. There are two very large groups of people who don’t use computers, smartphones, and tablets: the poor and the elderly.

In fact, because of these two very large populations, we will still need books and libraries, print publications, the Yellow Pages, broadcast television, and FM and AM radio. Not everyone has a satellite dish, a smartphone, satellite radio, and a laptop with broadband. We need to quit making the assumption that everyone in this country does.

As long as these media channels exist, there will be a need for that type of marketing. Until then, social media is completely ineffective for those two very large populations.

3. More impressions = good, fewer impressions = bad

Marketers who still believe their TV commercials are being seen by hundreds of thousands of people hate social media. They look at the social media stats and freak out when they see that only a few thousand people came to their sites and bought anything.

What they don’t realize is that they’re really seeing the actual size of their audience. They’re getting a real glimpse of what their true customer base looks like, and not the hyperinflated numbers from advertising salespeople.

Want to do a test? Launch a TV commercial, and set up a special URL specifically for that commercial. If you sell hammers for ABC Hammers, get the domain, run it only on your commercial, and see how many people actually come to it. Use your commercials to drive web traffic, and then count the results. Those are the people who were inspired enough by your commercial to gather more information. Did it cause them to buy a hammer? We don’t know. But we can measure (there’s that word again) how many people that commercial drove to the website.

Want to quantify it some more? Let them download a 10% off coupon, redeemable within the next 21 days. Then count how many people redeemed the coupon. It’s not a completely accurate measurement, but you do know how effective your commercial was in driving traffic, how effective your website was in driving coupon downloads, and how effective the coupon was in driving sales.

No, it’s not the couple million viewers you were told would see your commercial on Monday Night Football, but it’s a better picture of who liked the commercial enough to take action. There’s still no mechanism to show you how many of those commercial viewers were in the bathroom. And there’s no way of knowing whether people went to the store and bought your hammer because of that commercial.

So if you keep thinking more impressions means success and few impressions means failure, you’re going to be in for a big shock.

4. The ‘I’ in ROI stands for influence, integration, intent/should be Return On Engagement

This is the hippie tree-hugging bullshit that Jason Falls and I wrote No Bullshit Social Media against. Social media is notYes, you want people to like you. Yes, you want people to trust you. Yes, you want people to be your raving fans.

But do you know what you really want from them?

Money! Being liked and being trusted are all fine and good, but it doesn’t mean a thing if they’re not buying from you. I’ve had plenty of potential customers who trusted me, but until I had a check in my hand, they did not contribute to my bottom line.

Social media marketing is all about marketing. It’s a business tool. And to be a business tool, it has to make money. And to show your boss that it’s making money, you have to measure it. You may even have to show that it’s as good as, or better than, the traditional marketing tools you’re competing with. (Of course, you should be measuring the performance of all your traditional marketing tools too. You’re doing that, aren’t you?)

Until people quit spouting all this nonsensical crap about what social media can and can’t do, it’s going to be slow going for businesses to adopt it. Hopefully the “professionals” who keep spreading misinformation like these four myths will eventually stop doing what they’re doing and go back to bartending, and let the real professionals clean up the mess they’ve left.

Photo credit: Oli R (Flickr)

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.