Social media is often touted as a game changer for small business.  But the fact is, many owners are still scratching their heads when it comes to the real impact social media is having on their small business.  Are you being pressured to buy into these social media fallacies?

 1.  Social Media is Free.  Technically, it is free to set up an account on most of the social media channels that small businesses use.  However – beyond claiming your profile – building a following and generating engagement can cost quite a lot.  Either you’re paying in house talent to manage your social networks, or outsourcing, which can cost in the ballpark of $4500/month just to manage your Facebook and Twitter presence.  That doesn’t even include the cost of refining your strategy or generating social-friendly content like blog posts, infographics, and videos.

Small businesses should be prepared to approach social media as they would any marketing channel, and allocate a portion of their budget to building and implementing an effective strategy.

 2.  Small Businesses Should Tackle Every Channel.  Every business has different models, different prospects and different customers. What works for you might not work for the next guy.  Instead of spreading your efforts over every channel, focus on the ones that fit your business model and resources.  For instance, if your target prospect is a 20-something female, you may find you get the most mileage out of a presence on Pinterest rather than Facebook or Twitter.

 3.  Social Media is a Sales Wand.  The fact is, many small businesses simply don’t have the resources to dedicate to the level of strategy, management, and measurement that social media requires to effectively generate ROI.  Consider these stats from Intuit:

  • 42% of small businesses dedicate $0 spend to social media efforts, with the majority spending less than $100.
  • 74% of small businesses employ no one to exclusively manage their social media.  This is definitely a luxury left to big business.

  • When it comes to Facebook, 51% of small businesses say that wall posts are the best way to reach customers.  On the contrary, 37% of consumers cite special offers and discounts as the best way a company can reach them. This demonstrates a disconnect between small business owners and their customers when it comes to social media strategy.

While small businesses are testing the waters of social media, many have not been able to transfer the potential of social media into real results.  Implementing the talent and technology needed to make an impact is costly. Even the majority of big businesses – with access to many more resources – are still in the process of developing best practices to consistently monetize social media.

Small businesses are bound to innovate ways social media grows their business over time, but tried and true methodology is still being developed.  Social isn’t the miracle worker that it’s often proclaimed to be.  If you’re feeling confused about the measurable value social media is adding to your small business, you are not alone.

That said, don’t let them tell you…

 4.  Don’t Bother Measuring Social ROI.  Like I said, this social media thing is still relatively new.  Even the world’s largest social networks haven’t found a way to truly monetize their platforms.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t valuable, it just means that we are still figuring out how to measure and cash in social currency.

Instead of hiding from social media ROI, small businesses can track its effect on customers and prospects.  Nichole Kelly makes a great argument for using your CRM to track which customers are engaged in social media, and which ones aren’t – then measuring each group against one another.

You may not be able to tie a specific ROI to a specific social media action, but you can measure how conversion rates, cost per opportunity, cost per customer, customer retention, and lifetime value compare between the two groups.

5.  Social Media Killed Email.  Email isn’t dead.  It’s alive and well.  And it is a revenue producer, especially for B2B.  How about capturing interested buyers on social media and nurturing them with targeted email campaigns?  That’s where investment in social can really pay off.

 With the rise of mobile attaching customers to their email 24/7, email marketing isn’t as old school as you may think:

  • For every $1 marketers spend on email, the average ROI is $40. (Direct Marketing Association)
  • For every $1 marketers spend on social media, the average ROI is $3. (Internet Advertising Bureau)

  • B2B marketers listed email as one of the top three tactics for lead origination. (Forrester)

  • Email open rates are the highest they’ve been since 2007 growing year-over-year and month-over-month. (Epsilon)

  • More people are reading email on their phones than on the desktop or on webmail (and 85% of them are using an iOS device). (ReturnPath)

Should you give up on social media?  Heck no!  Social media is an awesome distribution channel!  It has allowed small businesses to move the needle on brand awareness, reach, and engagement.  And businesses are slowly discovering how to sustain and maximize ROI.  Small business shouldn’t abandoned social, but they don’t have to buy into all of the hype.