Dispelling 3 Prevailing Myths about Social Media

Cowboys & social media gotta lotta myths around them.

Social media is not a sacred vocation.

There’s an enormous misunderstanding – generally pushed by social media experts – that social media needs to be “authentic” and “genuine.”  That this “honesty” and “transparency” means that marketing and communications departments can’t be in charge of social media activities (like blogging or the company Facebook page).  These experts also insist that social media needs to live exclusively inside of the brand – and not include outside vendors or agencies.

This is, of course, ridiculous.

Let’s look at these prevailing myths one by one to dispel them.

Myth #1: Social Media Can’t Be Outsourced and Must Be a Function of Employees.

Let’s look at the reality of a modern corporation.

First, most corporations outsource many of their internal functions, including (but not limited to) legal, IT, manufacturing, advertising, public relations, administrative support, customer service, delivery and transportation, storage and warehousing, and accounting and auditing.  They also hire business consultants to help with overall strategy.  Then there are the many freelancers providing writing, video footage, coding, design, etc…

The idea that a company or a brand is made up solely of employees is outdated and inaccurate.  Many non-employees act and speak on behalf of brands every single day.

So why do so many believe that social media must reside with employees?  That somehow a hired consultant, writer or video producer working on behalf of a brand lacks “authenticity” and isn’t “genuine”?

Did the successful Old Spice social media campaign back in July lack credibility or effectiveness because it featured a hired actor and was produced by an outside agency for the brand?  Of course not.  It didn’t matter because the effort was sanctioned and approved by the company.  They spoke with the authority and passion of the brand.

Myth #2: Social Media Should Not Be Run by Marketers.

Or as my former colleague Kevin Green recently noted in a post about why marketers shouldn’t blog:

“The reality is, no one wants to hear from marketers.  We simply can’t be trusted…Maybe this stems from so many years of shouting messages via traditional media, but many marketers have lost the ability to cultivate the relationship in bring consumers together over something stronger than promises and tag lines.”

I couldn’t disagree more.  If you have the marketing department that Kevin describes, perhaps you’d better replace them.

Talking to customers and prospects is the purpose of the marketing department.  Marketing exists to produce customer interest in a brand’s products and services.  That’s why brand’s have marketing departments.

So who better to run the brand blog than marketing or communications?  Who better to manage the Twitter and Facebook accounts?  Who better to produce the brand videos?  Who better to operate the Delicious and Digg accounts?  Who better to conduct blogger relations?

That’s not to say that social media needs to be the exclusive property of marketing and communications, but not involving them seems rather foolhardy since engaging with customers is their ultimate responsibility inside of a company.

Myth #3: You Can’t Write About Products and Service on Social Media Channels.

Um, yes you can.  This myth probably has its roots in a post by social media authority David Meerman Scott.  David wrote back in 2008:

“Nobody cares about your products and services except you and the others in your organization. What your buyers do care about are themselves. And they care a great deal about solving their problems (and are always on the lookout for a company that can help them do so).”

I’ll let David speak for himself, but what I think he was talking about was an approach. Urging marketers not to write about speeds and feeds and technical features and functions.  He was talking about writing for your audience – your customers.

But what do you think consumers want from brands if it isn’t information about their products and services?  Consumers want deals.  They want information about how products and services solve problems, improve their lives, simplify the complicated, save them money, amuse and entertain them and make them look smart, hip and fashionable.

So tell them how your products and services can do this for them in creative and interesting ways.  Otherwise, they really don’t hear from you.

So what is your opinion on these myths? Do you agree or disagree?


5 Reasons Why Brands Should Outsource Social Media

ReadWriteWeb post “How the Old Spice Videos Are Being Made”

Kevin Green’s post “Why Marketers Shouldn’t Blog”

David Meerman Scott’s post “Nobody Cares About Your Products and Services (Except You)”

Photo by Kevin Walsh (via Flickr)

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2 Responses to “Dispelling 3 Prevailing Myths about Social Media”

  1. George,

    David Meerman Scott and I are saying essentially the same thing. While everyone can and should participate in social media, many marketers are focused solely on product language and specs and news. I use the term SOLELY because they don’t discuss anything else or understand the needs of their audience.

    Additionally, the points you suggest below are EXACTLY what I wrote in my recent post. Marketers need to understand if they, as an individual, are the best person to represent the brand around specific topics. In many cases, the customer service department or internal thought leaders may have a greater impact and it would be beneficial to support them in their initiatives (By creating videos, blog platforms, templates, etc.) and training them to participate appropriately on behalf of the brand.

    As discussed at a recent conference, brands can’t afford to wait for Marketing and Comms to always approve the response to consumer issues (http://t.co/1andHsL). While “Talking to customers and prospects is the purpose of the marketing department,” hasn’t social media enabled all employees to do the same thing?

    I think you misunderstood my comments and I recommend you read it again with a little bit more objectivity. The whole premise is that marketers should recognize the strengths of all within the organization and develop strategies to support those activities.

    Many brands recognize the value of their people. They support thought leadership and realize there is a benefit to exposing these folks based on their expertise and knowledge.

    I agree that Myth #2 is in fact a Myth. Social Media should heavily involve the marketing and communications teams… they understand the marketplace better than almost anyone in the organization. However, sometimes the best role the marketing and communications team can play is a supporting role.

  2. Hi Kevin:
    Thanks for your comments and clarifications on your blog post.

    You should add some of that to the original post because that’s not exactly what it says. You wrote several times that marketers can’t be trusted and have come to the point where they no longer “say” anything. You also note that a marketer shouldn’t blog and is better served as orchestrator of social media.

    That doesn’t exactly gibe with what you are saying now. I disagree that marketers can’t be more than facilitators and, in fact, can be the best content creators within an organization.

    But I’m happy to see you shifting to my way of thinking!

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