5 Social Community Myths Hurting Your SMB

I’ve learned quite a bit in my dealings with large and small companies in social media. Mostly that there are still some pretty dangerous misconceptions about the best way to build a community. While companies may understand the importance of getting involved, they’re still not getting what it means to fully become a “social” company. Below are five common misconceptions I see businesses making in regard to social media and community building, and how you can beat them.

“We can give it to the intern.”

Community building may not take the same type of skill learning or certification as plumbing or dentistry, but that doesn’t that just anyone can do it. You want to find someone who has a knack for talking to people and who will be able to blend social relationships with promoting your company. The person you put in charge of your social identity should be comfortable with the tools, comfortable speaking on the behalf of the company, quick on their feet, and be someone who genuinely enjoys making connections with customers. It’s possible that person is the intern already working for you, or maybe it’s someone else on your team. Identify that person before you accidentally push social media off on your teammate with the least amount of social skills. It’s not easy to blend marketing with being human, but it’s important that the person running your social accounts can.

“Community building is an online activity.”

The bulk of your community building will probably take place online. For example, you’ll be tweeting, creating Facebook calls to action, responding to blog comments, putting out fires, etc. But a good community builder will also find ways to take those online relationships, off. Whether that be through attending community events and local seminars or hosting an event in your area, the best way to strengthen contacts you meet online is to bring those relationships to real life. People want to do business and support businesses where they have a connection with the people involved. By routinely creating opportunities where you can “meet” your online friends, you take someone from passive observer to loyal fan.

“Your Community Manger should be friends with everyone.”

Just because you can market to everyone on the Internet, doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to. Or that you even want to. Focusing your time and energy on people who will never be customers or who don’t understand the value of what you do or who you are, is a time suck. That means it’s not your Community Manger’s job to be friends with everyone on the Internet. That’s not a good use of their time. Instead, focus on attracting the people in your area who WOULD find what you do valuable and useful. And engage them. Stay away from the Power Influencers with 100,000 followers or the Twitter users who are angry at the world. Instead, find the people who influence your community, the people using your product, and the folks using your competitors’ products. Become friends with them.

“As long as you’re nice, your flaws don’t matter.”

Excuse me a moment for being upfront: Being liked in social media won’t make your company suck any less. If you’re not putting out a quality product or service, than it doesn’t matter how friendly you are or how well you engage in social media. People are still going to talk badly about you and you’re not going to effectively promote your company. You can’t use social media as a way to avoid fixing a larger problem. Use social media to keep people informed and up-to-date as you fix that larger problem. Simply ignoring it in favor of tweets is only going to anger people more. Ask Comcast.

“Your community comes from your Community Manager.”

One of the most dangerous myths SMB owners buy into with regard to social media is that all they have to do to be social is hire someone to man a few accounts. This couldn’t be further from the true. Having a community manager or a Twitter account doesn’t make you a company that is truly “tapped in”. Being a “social” company means changing how you do business. The ultimate example of this? Zappos.

Zappos build their company around being social and creating “wow” experiences. They did that by:

  • Paying employees $2,000 to quit. If you take it, you’re not serious about the company.
  • Creating a culture book put out once a year where employees share what the brand means to them.
  • Interviews and performance reviews are based 50 percent on values and culture fit.

Zappos has put the steps in motion so that they bleed their brand from every outpost. And that’s been important for them because the brand is now their biggest marketing tool. That’s how you grow a social company. It has nothing to do with Twitter. It’s about shifting the focus inside your company.

Those are some of the biggest social media and community building mistakes I’ve seen companies make. What have been your experiences?


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

20 Reactions
  1. Unfortunately there is too much truth to these 5 points. One day though, companies will realize they need to treat social media as a serious part of the marketing mix instead of a red-headed step-child.

  2. Hi Lisa. Thanks for sharing this post. I think your points present an important “wake-up” call to those businesses who are not engaging correctly with social media with regards to marketing their business.

    Social media is a very powerful tool for connecting to your customers (present and future), but it needs to be undertaken with a strategic plan in mind as opposed to just shooting in the dark.

    Business owners and managers needs to understand exactly what they are trying to achieve before undertaking a social media strategy and then planning around the end game. If they don’t know how, they should ask rather than attempt to do it with no understanding of how to steer the ship.

  3. Very useful cautionary tales! Ten thousand friends on Facebook will not make your product better nor will it automatically increase sales. Like any marketing campaign, it only works if you have something people want and if your marketing targets those people. For some more insights, check out free resources, such as archived webinars.

  4. Great post (and super useful for SMBs engaging on social media)!

    Another important misconception to add to this list is the idea that “it’s social media, you can’t measure its success.” Small businesses generally don’t have the time (or man-power) to take on campaigns that don’t generate direct ROI for their organization. And my agency has found social media to be very measurable, if you understand how to do it properly.

    It’s important to plan for social media in the same way that you plan for traditional marketing campaigns. Before you begin ask yourself:
    1. What are my goals for social media? (i.e. generating leads, managing my brand etc.)
    2. How will I measure the success of my efforts? (i.e. web traffic, number of engagements, number of followers)
    3. Am I engaging on the platforms that are going to generate the most ROI for my business?
    4. Have I set up the technology that I need to track and measure the efforts of the campaign? (i.e. web analytics, tracking links, URL shorteners etc.)

  5. Lisa,

    The two biggest takeaways from your stellar post are;

    1. Don’t give your social media marketing projects to an intern.

    2. Be yourself.

    Thanks. A lot!

    The Franchise King

  6. Martin Lindeskog

    I recently listened to John Jantsch’s interview with Joseph Jaffe, author of the book Flip the Funnel: How to Use Existing Customers to Gain New Ones. He used a term he called “social media with a purpose.” As an experienced purchaser, my recommendation is that you should take an integrated approach to social media activities and the “community manager” should really understand the value of a supply chain. You have to implement a new mindset through the whole organization, instead of relying on the traditional silos of departments.

  7. Rule 6 – Make sure your grammer and spelling are perfect. Spell Check isn’t the same as proofreading. You erode your credibility when you don’t find those mistakes before you publish. Rule #1 should say “Identify that person…” not “Identity that person..” Darn! – It was in the first rule too – when people are probably paying as much attention as they are going to…

  8. Proofreading is essential for people who type for a living, don’t you think?
    “but that doesn’t that just anyone can do it.”

  9. Hello everyone I hereby would like to know more about it, I am currently marketing consultant high tech institute of mexico and try to create space to have or solve doubts and promote the services we do as a business incubator, and set out to create a network social and have instructed me that I am the administrator of this community, anyone can guide me in the strategy would be the best, advice, tips