5 Lies About Social Media Marketing for Small Businesses

Good day Method users!

Once again it’s Alex, your friendly neighbourhood documentation man-about-town, stepping out from behind the editorial desk to bring you some food for thought for your small business.

I’ve talked before about how companies leverage their social media platforms into leads and customers, and since it’s a pet topic of mine I’m going to address the wide world of the World Wide Web once again today.

There’s a lot of misinformation that gets spread around about what social media is and isn’t, and more importantly, what it can and can’t do.  My years in advertising taught me how to avoid many of these pitfalls, so I am passing the savings on to you.

Behold: the 5 lies you’ve been told about social media marketing, and better advice from yours truly!

A great deal is made of the “organic” nature of social media interaction, and some self-proclaimed gurus will tell you that your marketing plan should be equally organic (also known as “not planned out in advance”).

To plan a campaign is seen in some circles as cynical, and a misappropriation of the medium.  Not so!
While it’s true that social media campaigns have to be more flexible than traditional marketing (because you’re interacting directly with your potential customers in real time), having no plan whatsoever is a good way to lose focus, direction, and ultimately, potential business.
You don’t need to pre-script every Tweet, but you do need to know what your goals are and what assets you want to leverage to reach those goals.  And on that note…


Of course the whole point of owning a business is to make money, but the correlation between social media marketing and sales isn’t a 1:1 ratio, nor should it be.

Unlike traditional marketing, social media marketing is less about guaranteeing sales (in fact, the more you push the self-promotion angle the less effective your campaign will be!) and more about developing relationships with potential customers, networking with complementary businesses, and showcasing your customer service.

Remember: in a Web 2.0 environment, conversation equals conversion, so start talking!

Okay, so you have a website, a Facebook business page, a Twitter feed, maybe an Instagram to highlight relevant photos, and if you’re really enthusiastic you might even have a YouTube or Vimeo channel for video assets.

That’s a lot of real estate – good for you! Now, what are you going to do with it?  If your answer was “nothing; I’ll let my customers come to me”, you need to reassess your strategy.

Online communities don’t build themselves, even though it might look like it sometimes.  Reaching out to existing customers and leads means making them aware of your social media activity (think about adding your Facebook and Twitter to your business cards, for example) and then providing relevant content to keep them coming back.  It’s a relatively minor investment in time that can increase your visibility and open your door to more customers.

All right, I think we’ve determined that social media marketing is a valuable tool, but don’t listen to the gurus who’ll tell you it’s the only tool your business will ever need again.
Particularly for certain types of businesses, an online presence in place of all other marketing can be a shot in the foot rather than a shot in the arm.
Remember that print advertising and other traditional forms of marketing will target a demographic that won’t necessarily be reached through the internet.
In modernizing your business, you don’t want to alienate customers and leads who favour a more traditional approach.  Find the balance that’s right for you and run with it.

Even after all the years I spent working with clients in my advertising days, this one still baffles me.  I don’t know who is running around telling business owners that a Facebook page or a Twitter feed is going to totally overhaul their business overnight and that by morning a ravenous host of new customers will be beating down their doors, but if I find them I’m going to kick them in the shins.

Social media, like any other form of advertising, is both a gamble and a long-term strategy.

Yes, it allows you to connect with your customers and leads in a more meaningful, human way than a billboard or print ad might, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to have a lineup out the door inside the first day, the first week, or even the first few months of a campaign.  Invest in solid social media real estate and cultivate it, and like a tilled field, you will reap the benefits in due time.

So I turn it to you, business owners – what have your experiences been in using social media tools to promote your business?  What’s worked?  What’s failed spectacularly?
Let us know in the comments, or you can find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, watch our great instructional videos on our YouTube channel, and check out my regular stomping grounds at the Method Help Center.