• Erin H

5 social media myths debunked for small business owners

I'm breaking down the five most common myths I hear about the use of social media for small businesses.

Social Media Manage in Coffee Shop

When I work with a client, I like to begin the engagement by level-setting on the role that social media plays in the larger business strategy. It’s important for me to put social media in its place with my clients to remove the fear, mystery and confusion around the impact these channels have on their business.

Without further ado, here are the five myths I'm most commonly confronted with:

1. I should be on every social media channel to reach as many people as possible

I’ve heard plenty of “experts” talk about the value of being on as many channels as possible because each has a slightly different value for your brand. I’m here to give you permission to say no to that madness.

As a small business owner, you have limited time and resources, so you need to be very intentional with how you’re spending them. I’m not opposed to you claiming your handle on different channels so you have them available for future growth or to try some stuff out here and there, but let’s take a deep breath, pause and look at it logically:

  • Only 5.5% of your audience sees your organic content. Roughly translated that means if you have 1,000 followers, only 55 people are seeing your organic posts on Facebook.

  • .52% is the average engagement rate of your organic content. Of those 55 people that see your content, less than 1 of them are engaging with it (liking, commenting, sharing, etc.).

  • .13% is the average growth rate of your Facebook page. So amassing any kind of a following is going to take some time—be patient.

That’s not a great case for social media as an investment, I realize. My intention for sharing these statistics is not to prove that social media is not worth your time, but rather to show you that it shouldn’t take all of your time or energy as a small business owner. Which is a great segue into the customer journey and myth #2…

2. Social media is doesn’t work; it doesn’t convert sales

I hear so often from clients that social media doesn’t work. What that often means is that social media isn’t translating into sales. But as highlighted above, if you’re only using organic posts to promote your business on social media, you’re not reaching a whole lot of people. Plus, social media wasn’t created with the intention of being a sales tool for your brand or business. It was created for you to connect with your audience and build credibility + loyalty.

Customer Journey

Let’s consider the buyer’s journey for a moment. As shown above, social media isn’t intended to be a conversion tactic. It’s not often the final point before someone decides to make a purchase (and when it is, that’s just a bonus). So I cannot stress this enough, assign the right measurements of success to the right tactics.

I cannot stress this enough, you have to assign the right metrics to the right tactics to accurately define success.

3. Social media only works if you pay for it

Given all of the data I’ve provided up to this point, that would be a fair conclusion. True, if you want to get in front of a new audience, you're going to have to pay, but it’s not quite that cut and dry.

Algorithms are responsible for determining when + how you show up in the feed. And, at the end of the day, the algorithm wants to reward brands + businesses who are using all of the features of the platform. On Instagram, for example, that would mean you need regular content for the feed, your stories, reels, IGTV (lives), and ads. Plus, your content should be diverse—photos (of course), videos, gifs, carousel images, infographics, etc.

Are you overwhelmed yet?! Don't be. This simply goes back to my point in Myth #1 that you shouldn't be on every channel. Pick the channels that make sense for your business and for your target audience to see, hear and experience your brand.

4. Hashtags—Use Many; Use Often

The hashtag—both friend and foe. What really is the purpose of the mysterious number sign? A great debate for sure. Likely you’ve seen this scenario:

Love this post about #socialmedia #marketing for #smallbusinessowners that covers the use of #hashtags.

Or This:

Love this post about social media marketing for small business owners that covers the use of hashtags #socialmediamarketing #smallbusiness #smallbusinessowners #hashtags #digitalmarketing #marketing #brand #businessstrategy #marketingstrategist #socialmediastrategist #brandmarketing #integratedmarketingplanning

Ah—yikes! Simply put, hashtags are a way to help your content get found. People use social media to search for products, services, etc. For example, on Instagram, you could use the Search tool to look up #socialmedia and see the most popular and most recent posts about the subject. But, honestly, you can search the same topic without using hashtags, so it’s valid to question the use of them.

I try to think about hashtags as a formula: use three-ish branded hashtags, three-ish popular hashtags and three-ish niche hashtags.

Pro-Tip: Try to avoid the use of hashtags with a million+ uses. It’s overused and your brand isn't going to show up as the most popular or the most recent because you don’t have the following to support the promotion of your content.

5. I can create posts and a caption to post every day myself—I don’t need help

Grabbing a quick photo and writing a quick caption may not take a lot of your time, but if you’re simply snapping a quick photo and posting a caption, you’re likely doing very little in the way of creating a consistent brand experience.

Do all of your pictures convey the same aesthetic, feel and/or vibe? Do your captions reflect keywords that are part of your keyword strategy? Are you using varying content types (photos, videos, gifs, infographics, etc.)? Are you taking advantage of all of the tools available on the platform (the feed, stories, reels, lives, etc.)? Are you measuring what content works and what doesn’t (if you aren’t measuring it, why are you doing it?)

There was perhaps a time that required less strategy on social media (though I’d still argue that everything you invest time and resources into should be part of a larger plan, but I digress), but today, social media platforms have evolved. There are many capabilities available within each platform and the algorithms are sophisticated enough to understand and rate your use and engagement with them.

You don’t have to be an expert to get value out of social media. Even if you don’t have the resources to hire a full-time professional, I highly recommend hiring a consultant to help you frame your social media strategy within the larger business plan to get the most out of these channels. A consultant will help you develop things like core messages, content ideas, keyword strategies, a content plan and KPIs that you can take and implement either on your own, with the help of an intern or with a freelance social media manager. You don't have to spend a fortune, but you do need to have a strategy to be successful with social media. I believe this to my core.

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