Snake Oil by Eddie McHugh via Flickr CC

4 Social Media Myths and Lies Digital Marketing Consultants Still Tell You

Like the SEO consultant of old, it seems like there is a ton of snake oil when it comes to social media and digital marketing consultants. As a person in this profession, it drives me absolutely nuts to hear some of the drivel that comes out of these people’s mouths. So, whether you’re a mom-and-pop shop looking to spend a few hundred dollars a month to a Fortune 100 business looking to hire an agency, here are four social media myths that need busting.

First a Warning

Before we get into the social media myths, I want to issue a quick warning. These opinions are neither popular within business or across the industry. Similar to what’s going on in the laboratory in Hawkins on Stranger Things, most people can’t handle the truth, so I have to water it down.

Gotta water down the truth. Via Stranger Things.

Gotta water down the truth. Via Stranger Things.

But, you dear reader deserve the truth. After all, you most likely landed on this page after doing a Google search or were mailed the link from a trusted friend. That’s awesome that you’re seeking the truth, but just know you are about to take the red pill Neo.

Social Media Myth #1: Your Followers See All Your Posts

Back in 2007, Facebook introduced the concept of Pages and Groups to their platform. This watershed moment is what started the “Follower Grab” of businesses because at that time your followers were very likely to see the posts your business was creating. Marketers ears pricked up and you could see their collective conscious think, “You mean we have the ability to send messages to our consumers, for free?!?!?! Quick, get that intern who knows about this Facebook thing to set up a page for us!”

While much has changed in the social landscape, this social media myth has persisted in the minds of executives and marketers ever since. But guess what? If you’re using social media strategy from 2007, you’re probably the same person rocking out a Zune.

Organic-Reach-Chart via Ogilvy Social

Organic Reach Chart via Ogilvy Social.

There is a great white paper from Ogilvy Social called Facebook Zero: Considering Life After the Demise of Organic Reach. In it, they show that for brands with less than 500k likes, only 6.15% of their followers were ever exposed to a message. SIX POINT ONE FIVE PERCENT PEOPLE! AND THAT WAS 2014!

To do a little bit of math, let’s consider a page that has a following of 10,000 fans—a decent number for most small to mid-sized companies—and a fairly average CTR of 0.40%.

  • 10,000 fans * 6.15% = 615 people saw your post
  • 615 * 0.40% = 2 to 3 people clicked your post

Yeah, it’s pretty bad. So why is it so bad? Namely because the whole job of Facebook is to keep people in Facebook. This walled garden approach enables the social giant to accumulate available inventory (read: eyeballs) for businesses to reach with paid social marketing efforts. So, to accomplish this task, Facebook tries to serve up things that people genuinely like and come back for more. This often includes kittens, politics and memes.

Kittens, Politics and Memes

Kitten photo by Tambako The Jaguar via Flickr CC. Donald Trump photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr CC. Dos Equis meme by imgflip.

What? You still don’t believe me? Then check out this video—a must-watch for any digital marketer—from Facebook’s news Feed chief Adam Mosseri where he basically slays this social media myth.


Social Media Myth #2: All You Need To Do Is Post Everyday

This myth is closely related to social media myth number one, that all your followers see your posts. Because, after all, if they’re seeing everything you post it makes complete sense to post something every day.

A close corollary to this is, “You need to post different types of content to the different social channels.” A consultant will opine that LinkedIn is where all the white papers should live, Facebook should show more of your company’s culture and community involvement and Twitter is more about being timely. They wax poetic that it matters how you craft the message and that using a channel in a unique way is desired by your followers.

Oh please. This is some super social snake oil.

Again, NO ONE IS SEEING YOUR ORGANIC POSTS! So why waste all that time cultivating a voice if no one is going to see it? You know how cheap 10,000 impressions is to buy? We’re talking less than $20 and that is also for a highly targeted audience, i.e. the people you specifically want to speak to.

Sure, there may be a smidge of truth that really developing your voice by social platform makes sense. But even if you’re able to DOUBLE the organic reach (a feat that would be amazing in itself), is it really worth the time, effort and energy from your already strapped marketing department? I’ll just pay for the exposure and do other innovative things with my time besides reworking copy on an organic post, thank you very much.

Social Myth #3: Our Audience Isn’t On Social

This myth usually comes down from executives rather than social media consultants. And again, it has it’s origins back in 2007—the argument goes something like this:

“Our audience (especially a B2B audience) isn’t on social. All this social media is just for the Millennials and what’s that new group? Yeah, Generation Z. We need to go back to the marketing that works—get the Yellow Pages on the line!”

Maybe in the early days of social media this argument could hold water. But it no longer does, simply because of this chart:

facebook-historical-user-count-graph via TechCrunch

Facebook Monthly Active Users graph via TechCrunch.

TWO BILLION people are on Facebook. TWO FREAKIN’ BILLION on a planet that has only 8 billion total. This means that 27% of Earth’s entire population is on Facebook. I guarantee that those executives you want to market to are on Facebook, most likely to see what’s shaking with their friends or to see pictures of their grandkids.

Just remember, no one is going to sign a $500,000 annual B2B contract because they saw a Facebook post. However, social marketing does have the ability to influence their decision. Be sure to pay to market materials like white papers or webinars that can help inform the buying decision—copy that solves a specific problem for your target audience can get a click in between seeing cute kittens and memes.

Social Myth #4: You Can’t Measure Social ROI

As opposed to the first and third social media myths with origins in 2007, myth number four was only upended in 2013. Prior to that point, this argument was very relevant—paid social marketing campaigns only allowed you to drive “soft metrics,” things such as: likes, shares and engagements.

These metrics drove executives and number-crunching marketers mad. After all, what is the value of a like? (According to the Harvard Business Review, not much.) But 2013 was a momentous occasion for social and digital marketers because of the introduction of Marketing Objectives.

Rather Be Driving Traffic

Now, instead of driving engagements, I could choose an objective like “Web Traffic.” Over time, more marketing objectives were added, such as video views, app installs, lead generation, messages, conversions and sales. Finally, social marketing was not regulated to the “kids table” at the digital marketing Thanksgiving Feast. We were able to not just join the adults table, but began to kick their ass, namely because it’s really hard to ad block a sponsored post in feed as opposed to an unwanted display banner. Social media marketing can drive ROI and with the use of conversion pixels and attribution, businesses could actually measure it.

Mythbusting Continues

One thing that I’ve learned since being in the digital marketing space since 2011 is that it is a constantly changing and evolving field. As more tools come out and the sophistication in tactics increases, there will be more myths to bust. The key is to either hire the right expertise in a real social media consultant/agency or to encourage your team to constantly test the latest innovations and to determine the fact from the fiction vis-à-vis experimentation. What other social media myths have you found? Let me know in the comments or reach out to @pinojo on Twitter.

Header Image by XXX via Flickr CC. Follow Garrett on Twitter at @pinojo and sign up to the Marketing Bytes newsletter here!


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