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The 10 Myths of Social Media

social-media-myths.jpgThe emergence of social media as a crucial paradigm in virtually all sectors of the economy has led to countless assumptions and new ideas about consumer behavior and marketing activities. Yet many of these concepts, when implemented and examined closely, have led to surprising conclusions--many of which contradict the validity and relevance of these ideas in the first place and have been examined previously for decades.

While we are now living in what some call the "golden age of data," this is not the dawn of a new age of related theory. "Many social commerce problems have been addressed previously, and massive amounts of data will not change the continuing need for the understanding of basic and primitive customer behavior which provides the correct lens to view social media data," says Eric T. Bradlow, co-director of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton Interactive Media Initiative.

Bradlow, along with 150 or so B2B marketing and advertising professionals, is in Atlanta today and tomorrow for the Lift Summit--a two-day conference presented by OfficeArrow and WIMI, where real-world examples of social commerce strategies and tactics that are said to drive sales lift, increase customer loyalty, and produce actionable metrics and measurable results are on display. Bradlow opened the first-ever B2B social commerce summit by presenting the following 10 paradoxes of social/interactive media:

Myth No. 1: Today is the golden age of media metrics. While it's true that we can now measure nearly any media metric we want, don't believe for a second that academics and others haven't been working on answering key ROI questions for decades. While this is the golden age of data, do not confuse that with the golden age of knowledge!

No. 2: The rise of data mining suggests you do not need any substantive data knowledge; you just need data. Data will never trump simple theory, and simple models of behavior outperform complex models out-of-sample time and time again. Most phenomena and human behavior are fairly simple.

Myth No. 3: Customer engagement is always good thing. Some people believe engaging your website visitors--not just informing them--is the next critical metric marketers must measure. The truth is, many customers are just looking for a "quickie." Need proof? Visit Weather.com and see how many clicks it takes you get a 10-day forecast for Atlanta! Click stream data tells us more people simply want to gather information or place an order and move on.

Tip: Be careful of the metrics that you optimize against. There is no single metric, and there certainly is no single metric that is correct all of the time (especially when it comes to engagement). Optimize for engagement purposes only the right areas of your site--not all.

Myth No. 4: One-on-one marketing is the future of B2B and B2C Markets. Unlimited targetability is the promise of both business-to-business and business-to-consumer social media marketing, but here's the problem with unlimited targetability: Customers are too "antsy" (i.e., unpredictable) for it to succeed. Grouping similar customers based on behavior as scale is obtained makes money. 1 to 1 is great conceptually but difficult to pull off.

Myth No. 5: Focus on ethnic/gender/lifestyle marketing. The cross-group differences are often "mean"ingless. No one is at the mean; all the action is in the variability of the group. Do not chase (mean)ingless differences.

Myth No. 6: Viral marketing is where it's at. The truth: Viral marketing usually creates nothing more than a sniffle. While it is true that viral marketing is tremendously effective for some companies right out of the gate, when you compute the ROI--how much product you move--it usually does not work. Viral marketing is effective for business-to-business marketers with concentrated markets, but less so for business-to-consumer organizations. Need proof? Check out JibJab.com and see what they're up to these days!

Myth No. 7: Mass marketing is dead. Mass marketing is far from dead and is equally effective as ever; it is just really hard to do with all the different media channels available today. If you drop mass marketing in favor of social media marketing, beware because you need a butt load of people in social media to use your product and share recommendations for you to be able to move the needle in a significant way.

Myth No. 8: The Long Tail rules! If you're unfamiliar with the term "Long Tail," look at a sales chart of all items sold, and you quickly see that a relatively small number of popular products account for a high percentage of sales, while a large number of not-so-popular products also accounts for a substantial percentage of sales. The wide assortment of less popular products comprises what is called the "Long Tail." The problem with focusing so much of your time and effort on the Long Tail is that the presence of more media channels is not leading to cannibalization. Rather, heavy users use each channel heavily, and the heavy users are consuming more product! Invest in heavy users; do not radically alter blockbuster resource allocation or product portfolio management strategies to chase the long tail. A few winners will still go a long way--probably even further than before.

Myth No. 9: Ad creation is a delicate art form. True, somewhat, but modeling/statistical science is a good place to start. Predictive modeling is good art!

Myth No. 10: Content is king. If content is king, then distribution would have to be the ace! Putting content in front of the right consumers and many consumers is key! There is no question content is important but the power is controlled by the distributors. For small companies with low volumes of website traffic, this means getting links from successful sites... if you have no traffic then all of your content will go to waste. Wide distribution is needed for significant impact. Referral programs allow for your content to spread wide.

Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. For more information, visit MikalBelicove.com.

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