Debunking social media myths? Put the FUD gun away

Summary:If you're out there trying to figure out social media, be wary of "debunking" stories as they are often meant to scare, confuse and tap your wallet

B.L. Ochman published an enlightening -- albeit slightly snarky -- article on BusinessWeek.com last week that claims to "debunk" six social media myths. And when I say enlightening, I don't necessarily mean "good." I'll recap some of her points and then talk about why I think the article falls short in the helpful category.

First, the six myths that Ochman tried to debunk:

  1. Social media is cheap, if not free
  2. Anyone can do it
  3. You can make a big splash in a short time
  4. You can do it all in-house
  5. If you do something great, people will find it
  6. You can't measure social media marketing results

The biggest problem I have is that by creating six blanket "debunked" myths she violates the first rule of social media -- do not generalize, strategize. Right? The second large problem I have is that she limits this discussion to marketing when social media is reaching so many other departments in a business.

Now, Ochman is not totally off base. She makes good points (i.e. not ANYONE can do social media, stop calling yourself a guru, etc.). However, the claim about how good social media cannot be done in-house and that it has to cost upwards of $50K is just not true. Not enough substance, too much FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) and no real direction.

Ochman, whether she meant to or not, is creating FUD in the minds of people making social media business decisions. In other words, she runs an Internet marketing business. Of course she is going to tell people that social media strategies can not be done successfully in-house because she wants their dollars. She is taking the stance of essentially saying, "everything you've heard thus far is untrue" and what is not said is "I have the truth." She also reiterates throughout the article how many thousands of dollars a successful campaign should cost. I'm not disagreeing, but do you see a connection? I do.

Let me break it down:

  • In myth #3 she talks about how it's hard to make a big splash in a short time and really focuses on Twitter-generated success. By doing that, she falls into the "Twitter trap," by forgetting there is a big, bad Internet out there to leverage for promotions and brand expansion. Is this really it?
  • In myth #4 she states that "you need strategy, contacts, tools, and experience" and implies that people working in-house aren't able to combine those three things for success. However I think this myth is not actually a myth. I think it should be expanded to say, "With the right team, you could do this in-house. With the right agency / firm, you could do this with their help. Or you could use a mix of both." What it comes down to is finding the right people who have experience accomplishing the objectives that are more important to your specific business. Whether you have them in-house or externally is irrelevant. Just find the right people.
  • In myth #5, she mentions that no one will find your great work without the use of social bookmarking and sharing tools, but those alone are not going to help you spread the word without some good relationship building or a decent Web presence in the first place. While again I agree with the idea, this is exceptionally over simplified and does nothing but prime the readers to ask her more questions, the answers of which might come with a price tag.
  • As for myth #6, she mentions options for tools but doesn't give examples of how to use those tools. Want to know how? Ask Kyle Flaherty. He'll tell you exactly how.

While social media is certainly not free there is lots of free advice out there. Some of it good, some of it bad. Some of it posed to bring in business and some of it (i.e. Flaherty) free due to passion for the craft. Ochman's post is a big marketing piece wrapped up in a pretty Business Week ribbon. If you're really out there trying to figure out the do's and don'ts of social media, be wary of "debunking" stories that are often designed to scare, confuse and tap your wallet. Can we put the FUD gun away now?

Topics: Social Enterprise

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