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Five Social Media Myths You Need to Know  

 A new study by ComScore says that US Internet users spend 1 out of every 6 minutes online engaging with social networks.  This is a significant increase from 2007 when ComScore reported that Internet users spent 1 out of every 12 minutes online using social networks. As savvy marketers and nonprofit campaigners know, numbers can be sliced and diced. Unfortunately many of these studies never tell the entire story. For example, the latest ComScore study says "Facebook now reaches 73% of the total U.S. Internet population each month."

As you read that stat, you’re probably saying to yourself "wow, that’s impressive. We really need to have a better Facebook strategy for our own organization." And while it maybe true that your organization needs a better Facebook strategy, it’s also important that you dig a little deeper into social media stats. For example, Facebook shares different types of statistics on their own site that I think are more useful when thinking about the role of social media. Facebook has 150M U.S. "active" users, which is 48% of the U.S. population, yet only 50% of active users login any given day. So 24% of the U.S. population logs into Facebook on any given day to check or post updates.

As more marketers release their own social media studies and statistics, the more pressure organizations face to build and/or refine their own social media engagement. As you continue to plan and evaluate social media’s role in your organization, arm yourself with the right knowledge and memorize these five social media myths.

1.    A Facebook page can replace your website.

THAT IS THE WORST IDEA EVER, said Maggie McGarym, the Online Communications and Social Media Manager for the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

“Lets be perfectly clear: while Facebook can certainly be useful as an outpost to your company’s website, it could not and should not ever replace it. Thinking Facebook could take the place of a company’s website is like saying your car is so great soon you can just live in it and get rid of your house,” said McGary.

Why is replacing your website with a Facebook page a bad idea?

  • It has limited functionality
  • Organizations have little control over how things are displayed in their Facebook page and what shows up on people’s feeds.
  • Analytics are limited
  • Organizations don’t truly own their data. Facebook can pull your page down any time they think you violated their TOS. Good luck getting it back up. Also, what will happen to your page and community if Facebook goes away? Nothing lasts forever. #ThatsTheTruth

Check out McGary’s full post here.


2.    Social Media is a great fundraising tool. Just look at the success of Obama’s last Presidential Campaign.

While some organizations like Charity:Water have raised money through social networks, the majority haven’t raised very much. Only 2.4% of nonprofits were able to raise over $10K on Facebook in 2010, according to Frank Barry of Blackbaud. 2% of nonprofits raised between $1K and $10K on Twitter.

Your organization is not the Obama campaign. And you are not running for the President of the United States. Plus, senior campaign staff admits that social networks did not produce great fundraising results during the campaign. "The real drivers were old school. They were email. And they were the web,” said David Plouffe, Chief Campaign Manager.  


3.     Build an app.

Everyone is building an app. Your organization should too. NOT! Consider what the "All-Time Top 20 Iphone Apps" are: IFart, Facebook, IBeer, Google Earth, Super Monkey Ball, The Weather Channel, etc. 

Mobile is on the rise and nonprofits should be investing time in making their websites mobile friendly, optimizing their email and fundraising appeals for mobile email, and testing whether your members are open to texting as part of your multi-channel campaign. But for many nonprofits, developing expensive apps could be a waste of time and a poor return on investment. Take a step back and assess whether that investment is really being driven by the magnetism that mobile apps have as shiny objects or if your app will truly be able to provide value to your target audiences like the successful Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app.


4.    Social Media is a free way to build your brand and list.

The organizations that have built up a presence on social networks and do a great job of engaging people (National Wildlife Federation, Humane Society of the United States) have made a significant staff investment. And as you know staff is not free and time is money.


5.    Social Media should be its own department.

No organization should be working in silos, yet many do. The fundraising department is on one side. Advocacy is on the other side. They often compete instead of collaborating and integrating campaigns. Toss social media into the mix and organizations struggle with where this fits into the organization. Social media should be integrated into your organizations fundraising, advocacy, and communications, etc. It should not be siloed in its own little department.

What social media myths do you think organizations need to be aware of?

Reader Comments (10)

I agree that you have debunked some tall tales. However, there is some truth to each myth because that is how they got started. I have replaced the underlying site on my FB page a couple of times, so yes it can replace your website if you have a strong enough brand. NetworkEtiquette.net
June 19, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Chiles
I agree whole-heartedly with #1 because I don't believe you should ever give control of your brand or your content to a site that you don't own. Thanks for the great list. It's short - sweet - smart.
June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaire Wagner
But when should FB be in front? That's really the discussion worth having, it seems.
June 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGreg
That idea that the Obama campaign raised its money via social networks is one of the great myths of 2008 - roughly 2/3 of the money they raised online came DIRECTLY from someone clicking a "donate" button in an email. That stat's from Blue State Digital staff, btw. More info on the campaign's fundraising in "Learning from Obama" - http://bit.ly/kg6Hjn

Now, some of the people on the email list certainly came to the campaign via soc nets, but plenty of others arrived via canvassing, live events, Google Ads or on their own. In any case, the most common direct-motivator was an email. Will that be true in 2012? We'll know in a couple of years...
June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterColin Delany
It's very easy to start a blog, it takes 5 minutes.
June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMa'ayan Alexander
A good use for social media is to draw people toward your more traditional venues like your web site (the interesting notion that we now often think of our websites as "traditional" venues is not lost on me -g).
June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeff
I agree that starting a blog is easy, but keeping it going is difficult. The thing I find most challenging working in a non-profit is maintaining content after all the excitement dies down!

Great article - I particularly agree that apps must be either extremely useful or extremely beautiful to be attractive to the user.
June 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterClaire O'Rourke
HAHA!! I like the very first paragraph.. I just agree with what you said.. Facebook is not about everything...
June 24, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterm.xzy
I think we all need to recognize that the vast majority of the people you want to reach will NEVER come to your website or join your email list. Thus it is essential to add social media outreach to your strategy and use it to reach out to your full audience.

This is just one reason why social media MUST be part of your online strategy.
June 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlan Rosenblatt
Nice article, I've been at my boss to build an App for our customers to make payments and easily find our self-storage locations. Maybe I will give it a second thought.
August 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCparker

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