3 pervasive social media myths

Fallacies about social media run rampant online. Here are three common digital marketing misconceptions—and how to remedy them.

Fake news has overrun social media sites, but falsehoods and fabrications have consumed social media marketing, as well.

Here are three common misconceptions about online communications—and quick tips for getting to the truth:

1. Social media “likes” drive sales. “Simply liking a brand on social media doesn’t mean you’ll buy from them,” says measurement expert Katie Paine.

A recent Harvard Business Review experiment supports that assertion. It studied 18,000 Facebook followers over four years and concluded that “the mere act of endorsing a brand doesn’t affect a customer’s behavior or lead to increased purchasing.”

What the study did find is that people are more inclined to “like” you on social media after they’ve already bought from you.

“It turns out that we’ve had the correlation wrong,” Paine says. “It’s not that social media changes purchasing behavior; it’s the other way around.”

That doesn’t mean a “like” isn’t valuable. It just means communicators should be more realistic about their online objectives.

“Ask yourself what you expect to get out of social media if ‘intent to purchase’ is taken off the table,” says Paine. “For example, if you’re a federal agency that doesn’t want its budget cut, you’ll then need to analyze shares, comments and engagement in a way that shows whether followers support your mission. Or if you’re in B2B, perhaps your social media goals should be more about ‘spreading the word’ than selling widgets.”

Register for PR Daily’s June 22 “Measurement Demystified Virtual Summit” for more measurement tips from Katie Paine (Paine Publishing), David Rockland (Ketchum Global Research), Natalia Vaccarezza (UNICEF) and Danielle Brigida (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service).

2. Social media measurement software is foolproof. “PR people often ask what the best social media measurement tool is,” says Paine, “but they’re all fundamentally flawed.”

How is that possible? “They deliver terrible data into your system, thanks to the level of spam and bots,” she says. “A client of mine spends an entire day every measurement cycle going through Cision trying to clean up and narrow her data down so it’s all relevant.”

The solution is to “focus your data funnel,” says Paine. “Identify the top 100 social media influencers important to your business, and forget the rest.”

3. Social media is a standalone marketing tool. Social media is often treated like a solo act or an afterthought. That usually leads to a lack of integration across the organization.

“You end up with orphaned efforts and navel-gazing metrics that nobody else cares about outside of your department,” she says. “That’s about as far away from proving your value and protecting your budget as you can get.”

Brian Pittman is a Ragan Communications consultant and webinar manager for PR Daily’s PR University. Katie Paine (Paine Publishing), David Rockland (Ketchum Global Research), Natalia Vaccarezza (UNICEF) and Danielle Brigida (U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) will share more media measurement lessons in PR University’s June 22 three-hour online training workshop, “Measurement Demystified: How to Prove Value and Show ROI forCommunications.”

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