Startups have it hard when it comes to marketing. Your brand identity is soft, maybe not even fully formed yet. You don’t have a lot of revenue coming in, and you have limited capital to work with. You probably don’t even have a dedicated team member for marketing — you might be doing everything yourself. Because of this, 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.
These 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, it also doesn’t cost 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 your time is valuable.
2. Every platform is valuable. When most entrepreneurs choose to get started with a social media marketing campaign, their first instinct is to claim a profile on every social media app they can get their hands on. This isn’t a bad idea — claiming your business’s 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, their functionality, or their ties with other strategies), and those are the ones you’ll need to focus on.
3. The benefits are immeasurable. This has been a common criticism of social media marketing for years, and I’m shocked it remains as cemented in the public image as much as it has. Even some practitioners of social media marketing choose to believe that its effects are immeasurable — such as increasing brand visibility and reputation. However, if you want to be successful, you’ll need to measure and evaluate your results tangibly. 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. Ideally, if you create enough “good” content, the audience will come to you naturally. Unfortunately, this isn’t very practical. In reality, even good content starts out existing in a vacuum. You need to promote that content if you want it to be seen by an audience. From there, they 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 they’re necessarily interested in buying from you — or even that they care about your brand. Instead, you need to look at more meaningful forms of engagement, such as click-throughs to your site, and on-site behavior once they get there. The quality of your following can 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 and unbiasedly as possible — only then can you find success.