Content Marketing, Social Media Strategy

11 Big Myths About Social Media and Content Marketing

Jay Baer Blog PostMuch of what we’ve come to believe about social media and content marketing is wrong. They are myths. Time to crush them. I crushed them originally a few weeks ago on a webinar for the Content Marketing Institute:

Myth 1: My customers are not social

2013 data from the Pew Internet project finds 72% of American adults who are online use social networking sites. (note: 85% of American adults are online). Even among Americans 65 years old and better, 43% of them use social. To further put this into context, about 70% of American households had satellite or cable television, circa 2011. So, is it possible that YOUR customers aren’t using social? Conceivably, yes. But even if they aren’t yet using social for business, chances are they are using social in some capacity.

Myth 2: Social is not measurable

Social is extremely measurable, but first you have to do something that can be measured. Tracking URLs, visibility into your purchase funnel, unified customer databases. All of it can answer that “are we making money at this?” question, but too often people expect there to be a magic “social media measurement” button, even though there is no such button for radio, TV, email, direct mail, billboards, or fancy business cards.

Myth 3: Social is for creating new customers

Most of the people with whom you are communicating in social are your current customers. Research from DDB found that 84% of the fans of company Facebook pages are – on average – current or former customers of the brand. Of course they are. We “like” what we actually like. Recognize that in social you are primarily preaching to the choir. And to me, that makes social primarily a loyalty and retention play, not a straight customer acquisition play.

Myth 4: You should ignore negative feedback

Social media is a spectator sport. It’s not about making the upset customer happy (although that would be nice) – it’s about making sure your brand is on record as listening and caring, because thousands of other customers/prospects are looking on with a bowl of popcorn in their laps. Answer every comment – positive or negative – and do it FAST.

Myth 5: Social will kill email

I’m so tired of the “(blank) is dead” red herring, and this one is perhaps the silliest of them all. Given that you must have an email to sign up for any social network, it’s tough to see a scenario by which email vanishes. Further, given that social is mostly a loyalty play, that puts social in the same strategic camp as email. Both are used to keep your brand top-of-mind among people who have given you permission to do so. Email and social are complementary tactics, not oppositional ones.

Myth 6: Company channels are your most important social assets

Simply not true. Social success is about people, not logos. If you add up the number of social connections of your employees, they almost always vastly exceed the connections for your official company accounts. Activating your employees and decentralizing social media is the next phase of success. Easy-to-use software like Addvocate helps companies manage this process.

Myth 7: Content creates thought leadership

Not necessarily. It’s okay – recommended, even – to have content that is high effort and polished (thought leadership), AND content that is lower effort and less polished, but addresses specific questions of your customers/prospects. This lower effort content is often created by your employees and your customers, themselves. My friends at Compendium very much empower this type of program – great content marketing software (FYI, I am moving all of my blogs to Compendium soon)

Myth 8: Content marketing and social media are separate initiatives

Content is fire. Social media is gasoline. Use social to drive awareness of your content more so than awareness of your company. Like social and email, content and social should be working VERY closely together.

Myth 9: Your content marketing should be about your products and services

Is a brochure “content marketing?” Is your content marketing just a repackaged brochure? I believe that if your content doesn’t have intrinsic value – if it can’t stand alone as something people actually WANT, you’re not thinking hard enough. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger, and create content marketing that is related to your business, but isn’t 100% ABOUT your business.

Myth 10: Too much content will give away your secrets

A list of ingredients doesn’t make someone a chef. (tweet this)

Myth 11: The rules are different in B2B

Arrggh. This one always annoys me. Yes, the purchase funnel and some of the tactics are different in B2B. But the strategic thrust of content (help, inform) and social (help, humanize) are the same regardless of what you’re selling. Further, every B2B customer is also a B2C customer, and the marketing playbooks of the B2C companies are changing the expectations of B2B buyers. If you think you can take a pass on this stuff because “we’re B2B” you’re in real trouble.


What are your myths?

What did I miss? Drop a comment, and the ones I really like will get a special, limited-edition Youtility T-shirt.

Business Relationship

  • Jim Knapp

    Good stuff Jay. Especially the ‘Content is fire, Social is gas’ metaphor. But when will the Social Media punditry (not inferring that that is all you espouse) start to connect dots to the gas that traditional media can pour on content. My radio company is proving every day how radio CTAs to content landing pages can fill funnels fast while waiting for online presence to build. Shockingly simple theory don’t you think? Keep up the good work, JK

    • jaybaer

      Huge point. I’m glad you mention it Jim. We’re starting to see it more and more, and we document a lot of those examples in our Social Media Image of the Week blog series, which we run every Thursday. Jessica Gioglio from Dunkin Brands writes that series here, and it’s a must-read for the latest in very smart integration.

  • Jenny Spring

    I’m struggling to convince several small businesses on the importance of content + social strategy. Seems like businesses are ok plugging some tidbit into Facebook, but won’t blog regularly.

    • jaybaer

      Remind them that their blog is found by Google. Facebook isn’t (usually). That alone should be enough.

    • Matthew White

      Interesting. Content of value takes time to create, and you’re right – decision makers often either want to pawn it off on an intern or (if there’s no intern) avoid it altogether!

      I think the ease of social media has lulled so many people into a false sense of comfort. The good news is that the ones willing to make the time investment can really compete.

  • Barry Feldman

    Cha-ching. Great thoughts Jay. #3 really is a nasty myth and perhaps it’s been perpetuated by so-called social media experts. Those that try too hard to connect social media communications to their sales are not practicing the patience it takes to reap an ROI on social. Social media is about building relationships. Like Gary Vaynerchuck says, “There’s no ROI in ‘hello.'” Build relationships. Engage. Offer help. In the long-term, word of mouth and reciprocity shall indeed result in achieving your objectives, including sales.

    • jaybaer

      Thanks Barry. Although my point there is less about engagement vs. direct response and more about loyalty vs. net new customers.

  • Churchill Madyavanhu

    I am also tired of the “(blank) is dead” talk. Loved the way you crushed that one. I fail to see or understand how email could possibly disappear when it is the first thing people ask you for, wherever you go online. It actually goes against what every Internet marketer worth his salt is saying these days, i.e. “The money is in the list”. Great points. Thanks for sharing.

    • jaybaer

      The one issue there is that with more and more people using Facebook to log-in and authenticate, we could end up with a bit of a circle. You need email to get on Facebook, but after that you can just use your Facebook credentials.

  • Dara Schulenberg

    Love that you called out B2B marketers. We are seeing begrudging movement to inbound methods yet struggle with half-hearted (and funded) execution. This *even* occurs within an enterprise has social business leader who ‘gets it’ yet the trenches have spotty insight and remain committed how we’ve always done it methods. Getting people to own how their own customer expectations have socially matured can help bridge the gap and now we have another resource in your post. Thanks Jay!

    • jaybaer

      Hey Dara! Thanks so much for the smart comment. Keep the faith!

  • Jay Perkins

    Jay, love the post and I actually caught the webinar which was great. My question is what are your thoughts on the Social Media folk who say SM is all about engagement. Agree or think it’s exaggerated fluff?

    • jaybaer

      Exaggerated fluff. Engagement is great, but it’s a means to an end. You can’t eat engagement. Or pay your mortgage. Like website traffic, it’s an indicator of behaviors that matter more.

  • Jake Parent

    A great list.

    Super interested in #7. I’m unclear in the difference between thought leadership and solving people’s problems. To me, it seems like they are one in the same. Especially for your typical content market, as only the big dogs seem to be able to hold a reader’s attention long enough to make more abstract points.

    And as a consumer, that makes sense. Why am I going to listen to someone’s thoughts on the future of business if they haven’t yet proven able to solve my problems?


    • jaybaer

      Thought leadership is typically used to boost reputation and gain awareness. Solving problems is used to move people deeper into the purchase funnel (typically)

  • Jim Alexander

    Myth #1, though aimed at social media, hits the larger issue. All customers are social. Humans simply are. I like where you are going with this one. Technology enabled social interactions are on the rise across a variety of platforms. Those platforms are intertwining so even if ones customers aren’t, strictly speaking, using social media they are likely available for meaningful engagement elsewhere.

    • jaybaer

      Exactly. Even if you’re not “Social” you are still social.

  • Diane Garey

    Perhaps related to #7 is the myth that “We can’t trust our employees on social.” If employees have a few guidelines and a bit of common sense, they’re a great resource to expand your company’s presence and network. If you can’t trust your employees on social, you probably can’t trust them with office supplies, in the breakroom, etc.

    • jaybaer

      That’s a whole OTHER myth for another post!

  • Katie Daggett

    Great list! I agree with Barry on #3. It is certainly more measurable than many traditional marketing or advertising efforts, especially if you have a web-based business. You can track through analytics how much traffic social is driving to your website, where they go on your site, as well as conversion rates. How is that not measurable? I worked in an advertising agency for 15 years, and while many campaign won worthless advertising awards, I can’t say we directly measured many sales resulting from those campaigns. Thanks for exposing this myth. I’m working to do the same with my copy & content writing clients.

    • jaybaer

      And being measurable isn’t necessarily the same thing as measuring ROI.

  • aboer

    Well I am in the minority regarding number #3, as I completely disagree. For example, I discovered and learned first about a company called Inbound Writer *solely* through the prodigious social efforts of an influencer named Jay Baer, whom I regularly follow, on various social networks. But for that social channel I would not have become a customer. Social is a communication channel/medium which operates according to different rules, but can carry any variety of communications. This “myth” is like saying that Television is not an appropriate medium for direct sales. (Tell that to Ronco).

    Regarding Myth #7 (wait a second, I think I just learned about a company called Compendium due to a plug that I discovered in social media, again directly contradicting number #3. ) Also, not a myth, while creating content does not always create thought leadership, you simply can’t be a thought leader without creating content,

    Regarding 11, the rules are VERY different. Here are three major ways the rules are different for B2B.
    1) You must cast a narrower net with your content. Unlike B2C, In B2B if you are attracting the wrong prospects/targets as leads, it is not simply misspent money–it is often actually a significant COST to evaluate and qualify them..

    2) Content amplification/distribution is a completely different beast for B2B…you can’t run a B2b content campaign on Outbrain. So you need different channel to attract an audience. Influencers, like Jay Baer for Compendium, for example, become much more important.

    3) Authority and expertise and costs requirements are MUCH higher for B2B than B2C. You need a completely different set of authors and skills.

    Myth #4 is not a myth. It is a straw man.

    • jaybaer

      Great comment. Thanks so much. Indeed, you CAN create new customers in social. Happens every second of every day. But thinking of social through that strategic prism is a road to ruin. And I would argue that even in the Inbound example, the dynamic was different. I talk about Inbound Writer because I am a customer. That is a loyalty and advocacy play, whereby your CURRENT customers go get your customer for you. Totally different than you finding out about Inbound Writer from their own social, which is how most people think about social interactions.

      I hear you on B2B. Of course there are differences. But in the grand scheme of things, B2B and B2C are far more alike than they are different, and the constant refrain of “B2C doesn’t apply to our company” is foolishness of the highest order. Not accusing you, of course, but that’s where that myth is born.

  • Autumnn M.

    Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU for Myth #4. Ignoring a negative post doesn’t mean it never happened–it just means you’ve made the customer (not the problem) go away. Not a great tactic for sustaining business.

    • jaybaer

      Thanks. Of them all, that one perhaps puzzles me the most. Golden rule, you know?

      • Autumnn M.

        In my experience, it’s been lack of understanding on how social works–if execs aren’t social users themselves, sometimes they may not realize comments and posts are public and therefore think it might actually be best to let the negatives go. Our corporation has made strides in embracing social, but not everyone is so lucky.

  • zaneology

    So good!

  • James Seo

    Good stuff, Jay. I would also add a few more points. Coming from the world of journalism and academic writing prior to becoming an SEO, I thought that keeping brief, snappy content, loaded with buzzwords was the way to go. While I agree that this is still true, a solid customer base or audience will equally love thoughtful & detailed content. Also realizing that you can’t just churn out awesome content day in and day out is a good one. It’s a process (just like any writing). Very slowly, ideas get distilled down and only the good stuff is left.

  • Sarah @ Sprout Social

    Thanks for posting this, Jay! While most of us social marketers are well aware of the depth of these myths, explaining to those who don’t understand is often a challenge. I love #11 and I think it could also apply to industries where people don’t think a social presence if necessary. It is absolutely people that make decisions. And people buy from people. I love the shift I’ve seen to brands acting more human, as well as people co-branding with the company. It’s such a more personable and genuine way to connect.

  • Emeric

    I LOVE this list! I’m so happy you raised #2, yes, there is no magic social media measurement button. Because social seems almost free and (almost) easy, too many people think it should be as free and easy to measure as it is to use. But measurement, in social media like in every other online channel, is time consuming and difficult to put into place. But it can be done, and definitely more easily than it is with other media.

    But I also love every other points you’ve raised! Social and email are great complement, I came to realized that the people I reach through social are not the same as the ones I reach through email, and the other way around. Also, social has proven to be an incredible way to connect with existing users of our app, and also to widen the distribution of our content. Actually, when done right (and when we invest enough time on it), social is the best channel to promote our content.

    Oh, and myth number 10 is on my top list too! How can people believe that writing about your know-how will give away any “secret”! What it will do is demonstrate that you are the person to reach out to to get thenm what they need. That reminds me of my previous life as a lawyer when I blogged about US immigration visas. I gave away everything I knew about how to obtain all existing visas. Any reader ready to invest 2 weeks of work could have done his own visa on his own, so my colleague called me crazy. but after 2 months, I kept refusing new clients because the only thing that blog generated was people who were convinced that I was the right person to get their visa! And the colleague lawyers who told me I was “crazy” are still waiting for new clients ;-)

  • Charly Suter

    Good day, great Post thanks. I can sign the most of this 11 Myth, but do have some remarks on Nr. 1 (My customers are not social). First of all, I belive that 99.9% of humans are social in someway. But it does not mean that they are in Social Media. Especialy in in Europe and in the B2B Segment, you will noch reach 90% by Social Media. But they share on Events, they discuss in many personal ways.
    But what I do not understand is the fact that everybody is talking about “the Content Strategie”. I work in a companie with 3’500 Employees, we serve 3.5m B2C and 300’000 in B2B, what is in fact 90% of the Market share in B2B or 50% in B2C. In B2B we have all our clients in different industries. Even if we work with different Personas, I think we are not able to work with One Content Strategie, we need several Strategies (which can overlapp). Am I wrong or due people miss understand more the fact of a content-culture vs. the content-strategie.
    What is right or wrong? Probably I am wrong, but why?

  • Edgar Valdmanis

    Great list!
    My Myth is “Social is handled by the marketing department. I am a manager and therefore I am above that. I don´t even need a LinkedIn-profile”.
    I frequently experience that the worst LinkedIn-profiles are those owned by a Director of sorts.
    No photo. Few connections. Poorly filled in work-history. Only the highest degree from education filled in.
    Sad story and so totally wrong. Since your company, its products and services are all being discussed across social media you need to be aware.
    LinkedIn is a growing place for job adverts. If you are not active there, you can´t see what your competitors are doing, and therefore you can´t discuss with your HR-staff. Interestingly enough many HR-Directors and even recruiters are amongst those with poor profiles. Go figure.

  • Harley Rivet

    Nice summary, Jay. The biggest myth I encounter is #3 – “Social is for creating customers”. I think it can certainly help acquire customers in the long term by building awareness and creating word of mouth, but many organizations place this as their immediate goal of social media. It often ends in frustration and disenchantment.

    Social media should not be used as a replacement for more effective direct selling tactics (Pay-per-click ads, email marketing, personal telephone calls, etc) but simply used to augment those efforts. In my experience, similar to yours, it’s been best for awareness building, customer service and loyalty – Organizations should build social media goals around these three things.

  • Adam Dince

    Great post Jay! Awesome stuff!

  • Faye Caldwell

    Excellent points Jay! Calling out #3 to discuss – I have seen examples of Social bringing in net new customers, but yes, the buying cycle is often longer. I am wondering if the ability to gain new customers could also be influenced by other factors: the brand involved, the general go-to market strategy into which Social is simply integrated, as well as the incorporation of deeper data analytics and how that knowledge is being used, etc.

    And possibly the most important factor that we often forget? Social certainly gives companies the opportunity to reach a larger audience, but converting those opportunities to new customers still comes down to persistence and hard work.

    • jaybaer

      I love your last point here, Faye about work. You are so right. Too many people think social is just magic, and you can set it and forget it. Hardly!

  • Michael Tracy

    Jay as always great posts. In ref to # 3. If a brand/biz leverages Participation Marketing/Peer to Peer, they will have the ability to leverage sm as a lead gen tool.

  • michael bian

    Agreed on this “Social is for creating new customers”

  • Matt Clark – Damang Media

    I like the highlights Jay, I specifically like #11 in relation to B2B. You’re right the sales process is different, however at the end of that process it still boils down to people selling to people.

    It may be a person working for a business that sells to another person working at another business, that does not say B2B… It is still relationships formed between people that make the sales happen for the business.

  • JimYoungPRBrigade

    You’ve really hit these myths on the head, Jay. I’ve come across many people who say, “My business is doing well enough without spending resources on social”. They don’t realize how much better they could be doing if they added some content marketing & implemented a social strategy. Too many people think that if they’re fine without social now, they’ll be fine without social down the line.

  • Vic Williams

    Great thoughts Jay. So many people believe so many myths and as a result get nothing out of social media.

  • Colin Campbell

    Great Read, thanks Jay. Your myth 3 and 4 are the most common “myths” I come across in my daily life – you cover the objection well and I’m going to use your answers. I hope you don’t mind?
    I actually also borrowed your link for one of my blogs, but added a 12th myth – let me know what you think?

  • Stuart Davidson

    Definitely the most common myths I hear. Nicely crushed! Have added this article to my best 20 of the week, out tomorrow.

  • Michael Bian

    Great point and insights.

  • Thelma Case

    Thanks for sharing this great article on myths about social media and content marketing. This is indeed very helpful. Cheers!

  • Sonia Anand

    I Like this list Jay. I am glad you raised myth 2. Frankly speaking I had same thoughts about social until I spoke to a social media expert. You have shared great insights which can be very helpful for my team.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • James Keru

    One myth I have come across is when people think that “Buying likes” = “Getting more buyers for products”…arrrgh!