Southern Maine Social Media FirmSocial media is, of course, big news in the business world. If you’re a business owner or business leader, it’s not surprising if you’re feeling overwhelmed by everything you see, hear and read about how to get ahead with social media. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems, especially if you ignore some of the buzz and hype, and focus on the few things that really make a difference.

Here are some common social media myths that can make your life seem far more difficult, but which you can safely ignore…

MYTH #1. It’s All About the Numbers

This is the biggest myth: That success in social media depends mainly on your reach – that is, the number of fans, friends, followers, Likes, retweets, shares, or whatever other measure you choose. Although that seems logical at first glance, it simply isn’t true. Having millions of “followers” on your account doesn’t mean any of them are actually following you in any meaningful way. Even worse, most of them probably don’t even see your posts at all, because they get lost among all the others they follow.

So stop trying to get more followers and friends. Focus instead on consistently delivering value to the people you want to reach, and they will spread the word naturally, and that will get you more followers and friends. More importantly, that approach will get you the right followers and friends.

MYTH #2. It’s All About Engaging Customers

If you’re in a customer service role, then yes, social media channels give you a powerful way to engage with customers. And if you wear a marketing hat, again you can use social media for market research, marketing campaigns and building better engagement with customers and clients.

But if you’re in a leadership or advisory role, that’s not the best use of your time. You might occasionally dip into your organization’s Twitter feed or Facebook page to observe what customers are saying, but you wouldn’t spend every waking hour having conversations with customers. That’s not your job, and if you are spending too much time doing that, you’re not doing your real job!

Instead, use social media as another way to share your key messages and ideas. For instance, if you’re a thought leader, use it to share your blog posts, videos, articles and special reports. Or, if you’re a business leader, use it to share your key strategic messages – both internally and externally.

MYTH #3. It’s All About Facebook and Twitter

When most people use the term “social media,” they are referring to social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. These are important, but they are mainly for amplifying your message.

The real value comes from the tools where you state your message. These are tools like blogs (for articles), YouTube (for videos), SlideShare (for presentations), e-mail newsletter providers, (for e-books) and the iTunes Store (for podcasts and e-books). Use these tools for crafting and delivering your messages, and then use the social networks for sharing them more widely.

MYTH #4. You Have to Do It All Yourself

When you use these tools, you’re engaging as a person, not an organization or brand. So you do need to be authentic, and show your face (literally in videos and profile pictures, metaphorically in your style and voice). This does mean you should be personally responsible for the core message, but you can delegate or outsource some of the other tasks in distribution and promotion.

For example:

* You can be the presenter in your YouTube videos, but your team can publish it to YouTube and share it on your blog, Facebook, Twitter and other networks.

* You can write articles, and your team can publish them on your blog.

* You can use services to publish blog posts to Twitter and Facebook automatically.

* You can use services to send you articles and news stories of interest, but you decide what’s worth sharing with your networks.

MYTH #5. It Needs a Lot of Time and Effort

It’s true that this all takes some time and effort, but it doesn’t mean you have to spend hours a day on social media. Far from it.

Create a realistic schedule for yourself, and stick to it. As a rule of thumb, aim to create one key message a week to share – for example, write a short article (400-500 words) or record a short video (2-3 minutes).

The key is consistency. Building an online platform is a process, not an event. Build your reputation one step at a time, and you’ll be building a strong reputation that creates real value for your stakeholders and boosts your bottom line.

By Gihan Perera (c) 2012