While the buzz surrounding social media is growing, so is the number of people who just don’t get it. In fact, I come across tens of people daily that use Twitter and have a significant following but are totally clueless about maximizing it. They make mistake after mistake and see none of the results social media can bring. Let me emphasize that there is no one way to use social media “properly”, everyone uses it differently, that is part of the very essence of social tools. However, if these people are annoying their audience with spam-like tweets and causing people to unfollow, it is safe to say they are doing it “wrong”.
The problem is that you hear the words social media on every tv show, movie, and talk show, which causes people to join, but where can these people learn how to use this tool? While a lot of it is common sense to some, apparently, others find it challenging to get their message across and actually keep people interested.
I recently read an article written by a friend, Ayelet Noff, entitled “The Top Five Misconceptions about Social Media” and it got me thinking about my experiences. Here is a list of five common myths and misunderstandings about social media that I have encountered:
1: What You Are Doing: This is something I say to anyone and everyone who will listen. I have said it in numerous blog posts, but apparently, I cannot say it enough because many people still have not internalized it. While Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn might ask you “What Are You Doing”? or something similar, the purpose of these tools are not to tell your audience what you are doing literally right now. This is the most common misunderstanding of these tools, and it leads to the famous question I get 10 times a day: “Why does anyone care what I am eating or doing?” In my opinion, your status or tweets should be used to share. Share interesting content, insights, or just general information of any kind. You know who your friends/connections/followers are, so think about them and their interests when sharing your thoughts. Do not tweet for the sake of tweeting. Tweet with your audience in mind.
2: It’s Magic: It is exactly because of all the hype that social media generates, that most people/companies who have never used it, think it is a magical solution. I think people who promote social media are somewhat to blame for this also. It is true that amazing things can happen as a result of effective use of the various social tools, but there is no magic involved. In fact, before you can see any results from social media, you need to invest some serious time building up your audience. The truth is this actually might be one of the downsides to social media compared to the traditional media tools. After all, you can easily post an ad in the newspaper, or make a radio or tv commercial with no preparation in advance. With social media you can tweet from now till tomorrow, but if no one is listening, you’re wasting your time. With social media, the results might be magical, the process is not.
3: It’s Rocket Science: Social media, like many other things, involves a lot of common sense. I like to compare it to SEO (Search Engine Optimization). I do not think you need to be an SEO expert to know that to advance yourself on search engines, you should use relevant keywords and titles. Similarly, you do not need to be a rocket scientist or a social media guru (what the heck is that?) to know that tweeting the same thing over and over and sending people messages on how to get thousands of followers in a week when you have 200, is not going to work for you. Once again, as a result of all the buzz, people are intimidated by this unknown entity called social media, which in reality is simply a new form of communication, which happens to take place online. Social media, as much as people like to pretend it is rocket science, is mostly common sense, apply the same rules you use when communicating face to face, think about your audience, and you are off to a good start.
4: It’s One Way Conversation: In continuation to the previous bullet, there are still some people out there who think social media is a monologue. If, for one second, they would understand that the behavior they portray on the various social platforms would never fly in face to face interaction, and should therefore not be a part of social media, they would actually begin seeing some results. Tweeting about your ebook or your Forex robot will not generate hits unless you are there to reply when responded to. Huge companies like Kodak, Alpha Romeo, and Skittles are listening carefully to what people are saying about their brand. In fact, these companies barely spend time promoting themselves on social media. I don’t think it is always the worst thing in the world to do a little self promotion, but make sure you are around to listen as well.
5: Anyone Can Do It: The flip side of bullet 3 is that it might not be rocket science but it has been proven time and time again that not everyone can use this tool and achieve the desired results. While it might very well be common sense, apparently, many people do not have even have that. If you do not believe me, you can search Twitter for the words Britney, Forex, or Followers (as well as some other words I wont write here) and you will see what I mean. I am not saying you need a degree of any kind to use social media well, but you do need to have a basic understanding of human psychology. I do not believe there is such a thing as a social media guru, but certain people like Gary Vaynerchuck, for example, have proven repeatedly that they know how to effectively utilize this powerful tool (watch the interview with Gary in the video below). These are the kind of people that others want to learn from, not from someone with 60 followers and an ebook, just because they call themselves a guru in their Twitter profile.
There are many more misconceptions and misuses of social media that I encounter daily. Having said that, these are some of the most basic misunderstandings of what these tools are and how we can use them to benefit ourselves as well as the online community.