Social media marketing has arguably survived the initial wave of backlash that came when marketers first started leveraging platforms like Facebook and Twitter to reach new audiences. It was said that social media was a fad, or at least that it was impossible to generate a positive return on investment (ROI) with it. Now, more than a decade later, marketers are still leveraging the power of social media for greater brand exposure, more traffic, and more revenue-generating conversions, among many other benefits.
Even so, there are some critical things social media marketers still commonly get wrong:
1. Followers are the most important metric. I’ve been hoping for this misconception to die for years, but it’s unfortunately still circulating. I admit, I can understand why; your follower counts are a direct measure of how many people have expressed an interest in your brand, and represent how many people you can directly reach whenever you make a post. Seeing those numbers go up is a rush, and it pleases clients and supervisors. However, follower counts are not the most important metric, nor should they even really be a priority. The quality of your followers matters far more than the quantity, and engagement rates and traffic are far better measures.
2. Paid advertising is the only sure way to get visibility. It’s true that the organic visibility you can achieve on social media is shrinking — and has been shrinking for some time. However, that doesn’t mean that paid advertising is the only way to earn more visibility on your platforms of choice. Your best bet is to reduce the number of posts you make and instead focus on making better posts; posts with more likes, shares, and engagements will naturally earn more visibility, and a timeline full of only high-quality material makes your brand look better overall.
3. The more platforms you’re on, the better. As Insightly states on their blog, “There’s a tendency for companies to spread their social media umbrella too wide.” It’s tempting to snatch a presence on every social media platform you can find, but the truth is, some platforms are more valuable than others. And, according to Insightly, “If you can’t keep up with your regular posts, you will lose followers and become less relevant.” So, which social media platforms are the most valuable? That depends on your brand. Your target demographics, your brand personality, and the types of content you plan on posting will all factor into which platforms will give you the highest return.
4. Posts should be automated. There are many automation platforms for social media out there, including Hootsuite and Buffer. When used correctly, apps like these can save you lots of time and help you gain more meaningful insights about your campaign. However, that doesn’t mean they should be used to automate your entire campaign — doing so will make your brand seem impersonal and robotic. Succeeding at social media means you really do have to put the social in social media.
5. Hashtags make everything better. Ah, hashtags. In theory, these are great ways to increase the visibility of anything you post; marking a post with a hashtag makes it publicly available to anyone searching for that topic. Unfortunately, spamming hashtags or using a hashtag inappropriately can ruin your reputation or make you appear ignorant. If you’re going to use hashtags, use them appropriately.
6. Traffic is the bottom-line goal. Again, it’s a bad idea to reduce your entire strategy to one metric. Traffic is admittedly a better metric to follow than followers, since it translates to actual interaction, but it still doesn’t give you the full picture. For starters, just because people are coming to your site doesn’t mean they’re interested in buying from you. Just as how quality of followers means so much more than quantity of followers, the quality of your website traffic is far more important than your quantity (in most cases).
7. Social media is free. Yes, it’s free to claim your company’s social media profiles on virtually every platform out there, and it’s free to make posts. However, if you want to be successful in social media marketing, you need to invest hours and hours of time — in research, content drafting, posting, interacting, and of course measuring and analyzing. Time is money, and only a wise investment will see your results pay off.
8. Good content will attract followers on its own. This would be nice if it were true, and it’s the way social media should hypothetically work. Unfortunately, it’s too hard to find new content that isn’t connected to anything else. If you want to attract new followers, you have to make your content visible in new ways, such as by engaging with influencers, publishing on new platforms, or even reaching out to new people who might be interested in your material.
9. Social media is a distinct strategy. This is a big one. Too many companies are hiring dedicated “social media managers,” and too many marketers are thinking of social media as a distinct, siloed strategy. Instead, social media should be an extension of and enhancement for your other inbound marketing strategies, like SEO and content marketing. When working together cohesively as one unit, these strategies are far more powerful than if you built them up independently.
Social media isn’t as straightforward as some other marketing and advertising strategies; it can be used to achieve a number of different goals, its potential ROI is harder to measure, and it’s hard to get a predictable response. Still, correcting these misconceptions and striving to be as accurate and precise as possible will help you become a better social media marketer. Do your research, value your experience, and try to look at your tactics as objectively as possible if you want to see the best return — and the best path of improvement for your own performance.