There’s plenty of social media marketing advice out there—a lot of it quite terrible.
Here are 10 common myths to bust before your next planning meeting:
Myth 1: You must be active on every platform.
Brand managers should focus their efforts where they are most effective and relevant, including social media.
To best serve your audience, establish a presence where they’re already spending their time. Companies don’t have to be active on all platforms, though it’s wise to set up accounts on popular sites in case your strategies evolve.
Reflect on your company’s function and role in the lives of your audience. Decide which accounts you’ll prioritize and emphasize and how each platform will aid your communication goals.
Myth 2: Simply publish content, and people will engage.
It’s not enough to promote content passively. Solicit ideas from your audience, and make it simple for them to take the actions you desire.
Consider how often you want to promote content and how you’ll work within the confines of each platform to generate engagement, clicks and attention.
Myth 3: Social media will take all your time.
Scores of available automation tools can help you schedule content and monitor alerts.
Invest in automation software, and have a swift response plan in place so criticism doesn’t catch you off guard.
Myth 4: Recycling content ad nauseum works.
Reposting the same content on a loop will annoy your followers. Be judicious about reposting articles and links, and don’t set your Facebook content to auto-post to Twitter.
Try adding GIFs and photos to your Twitter links. Tweak headlines, and evaluate which ones perform best on what channel. Publish a mix of promotional and useful content.
Myth 5: Social media is the best tool to gain new customers.
Most brand social media fans are current or past customers. Your efforts should center on driving loyalty through repeat purchases and encouraging endorsements. Brand managers should not expect social media to be a primary driver of sales from new customers.
Social media is mostly for cultivating customer retention and increasing brand loyalty.
Myth 6: Social media opens you up to damaging attacks.
Social media is an ideal forum to exchange and manage feedback—good or bad. Like it or not, the online conversation is already happening, and without proper monitoring, you’re simply not able to respond.
A complaint opens the door to dialogue. Not all conversations will be positive, but it’s important to understand that online criticism will not ruin your company—but being ignorant of its existence might.
Myth 7: Social media is about sales.
Promotional articles should play second fiddle to content that’s useful, educational or entertaining for your audience.
Giving your audience a steady stream of content that helps them succeed builds credibility, trust and rapport. Content should relate to your business or industry and should not incessantly pump up your product. Use social media to bolster relationships and build community.
Myth 8: The bigger the following, the better.
Many businesses buy followers—through paid advertising or sketchier means—to create the illusion of clout. The misconception that bigger is better leads brand managers to emphasize follower count as a vital success metric.
There’s little to gain (and plenty to lose) by adding thousands of apathetic, spammy followers. Artificially inflating your following damages your credibility and reputation. Don’t fall into the fake follower trap; focus on engaging your devoted audience.
Myth 9: You should never promote your competitors.
Sharing valuable content produced by your competitors is a powerful way to show leadership, confidence and genuine care for your audience. Extending the olive branch can create new partnerships and goodwill.
No one’s going to retweet sales promotions of a direct competitor, but sharing a helpful article penned by the CEO of a like-minded company shows an awareness and interest in your industry beyond sales. Your audience is likely to appreciate the gesture. Your competitor might even reciprocate and share your content.
Myth 10: Go for reach over niche.
From foodies to truckers to the cat-obsessed, niche sites can be a boon for brand managers looking to connect with a specific audience.
Social media offers limitless opportunities to increase loyalty and foster genuine connections with real people. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach here; it’s all about exploration, testing and continual refinement to find a mix that works for you and your organization.
A version of this article first appeared on PR Couture.