Twittering Causes Blindness: Busting Social Media Myths

OK, I know twittering doesn’t really cause blindness, but I am constantly hearing all sorts of myths about social media these days, and I’m surprised this one hasn’t made the rounds yet. I’m here to dispel some of the most common myths I’ve heard about social media tools and tactics. I would love to hear some of the myths that you’ve heard.

Myth 1: Social networks are for teenagers.

Busted: Based on the most recent Pew Internet report, the median ages of some of the most popular social networks are:

Social networks are not just for for kids.

Myth 2: You can easily use your Facebook profile for both your personal life and work.

Busted: There are many challenges in combining work and play on personal Facebook profiles. In particular, while you can group friends into personal and work contacts, you can’t separate out who sees your status updates. If your status updates are too work-related, you could turn off your friends, and if your status updates are too personal, you could offend clients and tarnish your professional image.

The better way to more effectively use Facebook for both personal and work is to set up a Facebook Page for your business and keep your Facebook profile personal.

Myth 3: You should start out using Twitter by following a lot of people.

Busted: While a sound tactic for anyone starting out on Twitter is to follow some people to get a feel for the communications tool, following too many people — or following people indiscriminately — can be ineffective for many reasons including:

  • You end up with too much “noise” and can be intimidated and overloaded by the onslaught of tweets.
  • You lose focus and waste time when you follow people whose tweets are not relevant to your work or your interest.
  • You can appear desperate, or look like a spammer when you have a much higher “following” to “follower” ratio.

First, follow a few people you know, then search for a few people — or organizations or companies — that are relevant to your work or industry or interests. Look for thought-leaders in your industry and follow a few of them to get insights into what they are reading or publishing. Follow a few trusted news sources. Then stop following and start listening, engaging, responding and retweeting.

Myth 4: You can save time by linking your Twitter feed to post to your Facebook status.

Busted: The dynamics are very different between Twitter and Facebook:

  • Twitter users genrally have a greater tolerance for a higher frequency and number of messages than Facebook users.
  • Twitter is generally more of a passive tool for reading updates.
  • Facebook status updates can feel more “pushed” since they show up in people’s news feeds on their personal accounts.

Because of the differences between the dynamics of each service, linking your tweets to show up in your status updates on Facebook could immediately turn off many friends and drive some of them to unfriend you to avoid the onslaught of messages.

Understand that each and every social media communications tool operates under different dynamics.

Myth 5: LinkedIn is just a resume site.

Busted: I’m a firm believer that every reputable business professional should have a LinkedIn profile, but I also think that LinkedIn is one of the most underutilized social network by many people, mostly because the company tends to roll out new features in a surprisingly quiet fashion. Some of the excellent features you can use on LinkedIn include:

  • Apps to enhance your profile with multimedia, including slideshows (via Slideshare.net) and other content, including book reading lists (via Amazon), and even your business trip schedules (via Tripit).
  • Groups for discussions, sharing news and promoting products and services.
  • Listing and promotion of events.
  • Polls to survey your contacts.
  • Posting of job openings and getting referrals from trusted contacts.

LinkedIn is not only a rich resource for professional interactions but it has the added benefit to show you how you are connected to everyone on the service, and you can readily get references and warm leads because of this. Do not underestimate LinkedIn!

Myth 6: Social media is the new advertising platform.

Busted: Social media is not an advertising platform. It is a set of communications tools and platforms for people to connect, collaborate and build community. Social media takes us back to where we were in the early 90s when people were using the Internet — and later the Web — for communications and information sharing. Then big business began throwing money at the “new-fangled” World Wide Web. A boom and then a bust ensued.

Haven’t we learned anything from the 90s about adopting new communications tools and technologies? This isn’t about advertising. Anyone who wants to clamor into these spaces with old ways of thinking about marketing is in for a rude awakening. Social media isn’t about advertising. Social media is about conversations and connections being in the hands of individuals — not dictated by broadcast networks, ad agencies or PR firms.

Social media brings power to the people.

Note: I’ll discuss these ideas in more detail in my upcoming book: “Twittering Causes Blindess: Busting Social Media Myths with a Social Media Plan” (Jan 2010).

What social media myths do you hear and want to bust?

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