9 Myths About Social Networking and How to Jump Right In

It can be difficult for any business owner or individual to feel comfortable adapting to new fads and trends in technologies. Social networking, or social media, is just another example of how this technological transition confuses and frustrates people.

Many times, the most difficult part is just getting started. In this article, I have shared nine myths about social networking as a way to demonstrate that anyone really can participate in social networking and reach desired outcomes.

Myth #1: You have to do it all. There are many popular social networking channels along with new ones that emerge every day. Most applications have slightly different purposes from one another, which is beneficial as you decide which social media channels are right for you as an individual or for your business.

For example, a business with a storefront may find Foursquare to be useful. When patrons arrive, they can “check in” at the business and send a message out to their network of friends, who may also decide this business is worth checking out. And with the ability to check in more than anyone else to a particular establishment and become the “mayor” of that venue on Foursquare, it adds an element of fun and competition.

While this business may enjoy using Foursquare, other social media channels may not seem as useful or as worthwhile of the time available to participate in social networking. For example, maybe Twitter would be too time-consuming or that every “tweet” would sound too much like a sales pitch.

Social networking is about building relationships and engaging in discussions with others, not just about “pushing” sales information or promotions to people. You don’t have to use every possible social networking platform to join conversations and shape people’s perceptions of you as an individual or business.

Myth #2: The technologies are more important than the message. People get so caught up in learning how to use every feature within a technology product that they forget how important the message delivery is. You don’t have to be the technical expert to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Tumblr. Most important is to learn the basics of how your messages will be seen and how you can build relationships.

You don’t have to know that the “#” in Twitter messages creates a clickable trending topic. You do need to know how many characters you can type in a tweet (140) and how you can communicate with others to build relationships.

The point is, don’t be afraid to start communicating with people just because you don’t yet know all of the technology rules or trends within social networking. Each of the social media platforms has created a help section, and if you can’t find your answers there, try asking members of the community or typing keywords into a search engine.

Myth #3: You have to be pushy. Social networking is not an avenue where pushiness works for most people. Don’t just reach out to people and tell them to follow you, to retweet your posts, or to hit the like button in Facebook every time you post something. If you treat people like they’re a means to an end, they’ll tire of your messages as fast as we all tire of telemarketing and infomercials.

You want to build relationships with people to make social networking effective. Don’t just push your information out to people, but ask them questions, see what they find interesting, etc. And don’t expect to see an immediate return on investment if you’re a business. Sending out a message about a 25% off coupon may attract some followers, but it may take more, such as articles about how to use your products. Again, social networking is about building relationships and partaking in conversations. With the sheer amount of information available on the world wide web each day, you want to get involved so you’re part of the discussions, not just a victim of what someone else could say about you.

Myth #4: Social media is ultra time-consuming. Depending on what you want to gain from your social channels, you don’t have to spend hours a day using each social networking technology. In fact, many people who want to share information daily even set up scheduled times for their tweets to post. The strategy isn’t about how many posts you can share, but the quality, uniqueness, and benefits to the audience. You can provide value to your followers and stay connected without being logged in 24/7.

Myth #5: If you don’t get followers right away, you’re doomed. Social networking, especially in the business sense of using channels for marketing, does not build relationships overnight. When most people start off, they don’t know what to say or they focus too much on pushing information at people. It is important to remain encouraged even if you’ve posted the most interesting articles and no one pays attention.

You can’t expect people to just find you, either. To connect with people, search for others who share similar interests and who write posts about similar topics. Participate in what they’re doing and show genuine interest, and in time, you’ll likely receive more followers and participants in your discussions. Most people are not Charlie Sheen; most people lack the visibility and celebrity status to be overnight successes in social networking. Just stick with it and you’ll see results.

Myth #6: Social media should replace other marketing channels. Social networking can be a viable way to reach friends, customers, and potential business partners. But it’s still relatively new, and its outcomes are not always increased sales and revenue.

Social networking and traditional marketing efforts should be used in conjunction with one another, combining Twitter and Facebook with press releases, direct mailers, sales calls, promotions, newsletters, and so on.

Myth #7: It’s only for young people to announce their daily habits. While it’s true that many young people gravitate toward new technologies and processes, social networking is not just for them. It’s also true that people tend to overshare about their worthless ex-spouses and about how their hangovers are affecting their days.

These are not the best uses of social media if your goal is to attract customers or business partners. Instead, think about what information would be of value to your audience members. It may not be a coupon or a mailing list; it may be a post about five unexpected ways you can use a product.

Myth #8: You have nothing interesting to say. Everyone has interesting things to say. Sometimes, your information may fit in line with what you share the majority of the time. But don’t be afraid to mix it up. If you usually talk about business and education, it’s ok to throw in a post about your favorite bands or your cooking hobby.

Don’t feel like you always have to come up with original content, either. Sometimes, it’s nice to link to a story, tweet, or blog post written by someone else. By doing this, you are still involving yourself in the conversations while you connect with other people who share their information through social channels.

Myth #9: You can say anything you want. Technically, since you’re the one with the keyboard underneath your fingertips, you can say anything you want. However, you need to think about your image, your followers, and the appropriate tone of voice for delivering your messages.

A word of caution: Sarcasm does not translate well online unless people know they should expect it. If your company is traditional, you want to tailor your messages in a more traditional tone rather than delivering one-liners like you’re a cast member on SNL. If your business is edgy, you have more leeway in the ways you describe things.

No matter the tone, make sure you show some personality, i.e., that a real person is sitting on the other side of the computer. Social networking is not about formal greetings or sales pitches. While it is important to show courtesy and to be aware of what you say, it doesn’t mean you should sound like a corporate drone.