5 Myths Believed by Those on the Social Media Sidelines

busting social media mythsA few weeks ago I was having a conversation with some people about a matter.  Some of the people were already aware of the situation because I had posted about it on Facebook.  Others, who were out of the loop, proceeded to mock Facebook rather than recognize it was Facebook that enabled some of us to be better informed and better connected than they were.

Social media is having a huge impact on the way people and organizations communicate and relate to each other.  Facebook now has more than 500 million users and has surpassed Google as the most popular site in the world.

Yet some organizations remain on the social media sidelines.  I believe it’s because they’ve bought into some myths about social media, myths I’d like to put an end to right now.

So let me address 5 myths many on the social media sidelines have bought into.  If your organization is one of those still on the sidelines maybe this will give you the motivation you need to get in the game.

1) Social media is a fad. MySpace was once the hottest website on the planet.  Now it’s a ghetto for teenagers, musicians, and stalkers.  Some on the social media sidelines are patting themselves on the back for never getting into MySpace.  And now they point to MySpace’s meteoric rise and fall as proof that social networking sites are just a fad, and eventually Facebook, Twitter, and all the others will eventually meet the same demise.

The truth is while sites like MySpace (and perhaps Facebook and Twitter) will come and go, the concepts of social media have changed the way people communicate.  Communication has gone from being broadcast in one direction, to being a multi-directional conversation. The power has shifted FROM organizations that once controlled what information people got and when they got it. It’s shifted TO the people who now control who they listen to, when they listen to, and how they listen.  Social media will continue to grow and change, but as a form of communication it’s here to stay.

2) Social media is only for young people. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is people over 55.  The age group with the highest percentage of people on Facebook is those 35-54.  While MySpace has always been mostly a hangout for high schoolers and Facebook started as a tool for college students, social media is now ubiquitous among all age groups from teens to seniors.

3) Social media is narcissistic. “I don’t want to read about what everybody had for lunch!” is a common rant among the social media sideliners.  Many have the perception that all people do through social media is fire off meaningless personal updates.

But social media is being used for so much more.  People are using it to listen to their customers, to stay connected with family, friends, customers, and vendors, to share ideas, to sell their products and services, to learn from each other, to encourage and pray for each other, to rally people towards a common cause.

4) Social media is a waste of time. Are the things mentioned in the paragraph above a waste of time?  I don’t think so.  Yes, social media can be a big time suck.  Especially for those people who get caught up in playing all those games on Facebook like Farmville and Mafia Wars.  It takes discipline to use social media efficiently and effectively.  But done well, it will help you achieve your goals.

5) Social media is irrelevant to organizations like mine. Social media is all about relationships and communication, two things that are very important to every organizations of every kind, every size, and in every place.  Whether you’re a church, school, non-profit, or business someone in your field or niche is using social media to engage and communicate with people inside and outside their organization.  Whether you have 20 members/students/customers or 20,000, social media can help you build your relationships with them and connect with new people.

If you’re on the social media sidelines, what’s holding you back?  When you talk with organizations still on the sidelines, what excuses and myths do you hear?

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, elder of CypressMeadows.org, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.

22 Responses to “5 Myths Believed by Those on the Social Media Sidelines”

  1. Whether or not these are myths can only be determined within the context of those using the social media.

    For example, I think #3 needs to be looked at a little further – perhaps from the opposite point of view. It could be that people believe this myth because many social media users abuse their access to so many people. It is not uncommon for someone on Facebook, for example, to post "Good morning. What a beautiful day" for their status. As a result, everyone's time is wasted because of this tidbit of useless information. How often do you scroll through a full page of status updates straining to find one that is truly interesting?

    Also, quite frankly, I do not like to be Tweeted every 5 minutes about how the temperature went up 1 degree or how I can win a prize with a certain contest. When people abuse social media, many of these myths become reality. It can and does become a waste of time.

    • MB1, sure there are plenty of people who post/tweet meaningless to Twitter and Facebook, but it's a myth that all social media is mindless drivel. There are lots of organizations that are listening/engaging with their members/customers and doing good, meaningful, useful things to advance their goals through social media.

      • Social media drivel is akin to have dancing squirrels in my email box. I know who generally sends that stuff and make generous use of the delete key. In the same way, I quickly scroll the first page of Facebook and Twitter. If there's nothing of interest, I move on.

  2. …continued

    While social media is not a fad per se, we are all aware of the fact that as technology changes, so will social media and its components. It is important to note that Facebook may not be a fad, but at the rate technology changes, it may be a fading method for what it accomplishes. Let's face it – even static websites were once considered the end-all of technical advances in communication. Now the use of CMS and blogs has nearly obliterated the static website in terms of usefulness.

    Just words for thought. I believe it is unwise to put all of your communication eggs in the social media basket. The one thing that will never change in life is the fact that everything changes.

  3. I am guilty of being sucked in to time wasting games on Facebook. I also have a MySpace account that I rarely check because it never changes from my 12 friends and I just haven't figured out Twitter yet. (but I have two accounts… one for my business) I belong to a big church and have many friends from my old church as well as a big family… so my friends have grown on Facebook to about 450. So… I have way too many updates to scroll through every day to get to stuff I want to read. I love seeing photos of friends and family and its fun to chat with people I probably would not talk to normally. Or reconnect with a group of kids I went to first grade with and haven't seen in 45 years. It can be fabulous and crazy. I had to learn that certain friends could simply be hidden, so I didn't have to read everything they post. I also learned that all the games could be hidden, (but the ones I play) so I didn't have to see them either.

    I have made new friends because of social media and some of them are potential customers. Not sure I have actually made any sales because of social media, but I have had people connect with me who have been on my site and have purchased scripts from me and now they want to be connected via Facebook or Twitter.

    I'm still waiting to see if having accounts on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn will actually bring more people to my website to buy scripts. The verdict is still out on that one. But I do know that people have been there to look around. Meanwhile… I am enjoying the opportunity to get acquainted or re-acquainted with friends and family and get to chat for a bit with my brother who is out of work, or an old friend or someone who shares my love for drama.

    I have family members who will not get on Facebook if you paid them. They think it is very dangerous. They are afraid of viruses (and I have heard of friends on FB who got them from clicking on ads or various games) or afraid of identity theft. So many on FB are afraid of who can get their information… like address and phone number. Well, I have a web site business and my address is there because people need to send me checks and my phone number is there because my customers need to call me. So… I'm not sure what they are afraid of. Unless you are unlisted… anyone can get your phone number. My sister is back on FB now, but her husband did not allow her to do it for a time because he was afraid of security issues, or possible virus threats, I guess. I have a Mac, so perhaps that is why it doesn't worry me.

    • Warren, do you have a Facebook page for your business separate from your personal profile? If not, you might consider it.

      • Yes I do… thought they would not allow me to set it up totally separate from my personal account… (same email address) it is connected and I have about 85 fans I think. It is also linked to Twitter… so if I write something in Twitter… it also shows up on FB.

  4. please share these with our family and members,informing that we were all praying for then daily.

  5. I admit that I have avoided facebook and other forms of social media. Its not that I don't see some of the points in this article, its just that I hesitate to embark into yet another communication channel when I feel like am already at a point where more would be too much. I know at some point I will almost have to do it. My sister in law only recently started using email and she still only checks it occasionally. I have work email and personal email and both come to my smart phone so I stay current. I hesitate to add another thing I have to keep up.

    • Hey William, my point was not so much to encourage personal use of social media, but to encourage churches, schools, ministries and businesses to use Facebook and Twitter to communicate and engage with clients/members/prospects.

  6. The problem with people who say "I don't want to read what other people had for lunch" have never actually used for social media, so they don't know what actually happens on Twitter or Facebook. They just heard someone else say it, and thought it was clever.

    It's sort of like people not wanting to go to college because they saw Revenge of the Nerds, and they don't want the Alpha Betas to pick on them.

  7. We as Christians are being sucked into the world's philosophy that we need to be everywhere and know everything at all times. We are running about to and fro constantly checking email, getting status updates, posting to Facebook, and tweeting. When are we going to wake up! While all this busy-ness continues on, the lost are going to hell and Christians are losing site of their first love. There is no time for meditation, for praise, for devotion, and for discipleship.

    If there were ever a time for "coming apart and resting for awhile" it is now. Congratulations to those few Christians who can maintain a close relationship to Christ and still fill their day with social media. Don't forget the examples of Christ who actually spent some time with the crowds but then disappeared for his own sake!

  8. Social media may be a fad, but good communication is not. There is one myth that wasn't mentioned, but one I hear all the time: "I need to have a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a YouTube channel to be able to reach everyone." Wrong. You don't need any of those if they don't fit your culture. Social media are a communications tool. Using them unwisely can result in a lot of frustration and missed communication. I really don't think the issue is about social media, per se, it's about the fact that most churches are behind the curve in communicating their message effectively internally and externally. I am helping a team do a social media summit for nonprofits in a couple weeks and we found in our research that only a very small percentage of local churches have websites, and only a small portion were engaging. Don't worry about social media until you have the basics down. Listen, learn, and then implement if it fits you. Good points Paul–keep giving us the good info.

    • Chris, I think you're right that a church ought to have a website before getting into social media, but according to research Barna did more than 2 years ago at that time 62% of churches had websites including 75% of churches of 100 to 250 adults and 91% of the churches with more than 250 adults attending. http://bit.ly/bcuzkr

      I also agree that every church doesn't need to use every social media site. However, somewhere between 30% and 40% of all American adults use Facebook, so it's hard to imagine a church that wouldn't benefit from having a presence on Facebook.

      I'd be interested in hearing more about the social media summit for non-profits you're doing. Could you post a link? Will notes from any of the sessions be posted online?

  9. Thanks for attempting to dispel some of the myths about social media. I look at it this way. There are a ton of people on facebook and twitter and a lot of those people don't go to church. If we want to win souls for Christ, doesn't it make sense to go where the people are? Like you said, it is about relationships and communication. I have a 72 year old friend who use to be a missionary in Africa and the Phillipines. She still has the heart of a missionary and still functions as one, although now, instead of physically travelling to other countries, she ministers to people all over the world via facebook. She uses facebook to build relationships with people and then they begin to ask her questions and ask her for advice.

    For churches and ministries to use social media effectively they need to use social media, not as another marketing channel or as another place to advertise, but as a communication tool to build relationships.

    • PaulSteinbrueck Aug 6, 2010 at 1:54 pm

      Awesome story about your friend! I don't suppose you could ask her if she would write a guest blog post about how she's ministering to people through Facebook, could you?

      Looks like you have some experience helping organizations with social media as well. I hope you'll share your thoughts in the comments as we blog all most about social media, or maybe consider doing a guest post yourself.

  10. So far for me, and my wife, Facebook has been all about relationships. Because to the communication patterns of our children, and many of our friends, Facebook has become how we keep in touch. Unlike the phone, mail, or e-mail [which my kids seldom check any more]), Facebook let's has have a peek into their lives and interests that is broader than before. It also means we get more rapid communication, especially since we have it linked to our pdas.

    I have not gone to Twitter yet because of fear of the extra commitment it might require but plan to look into it.

    All that said, it is also true that I manage my personal Facebook account in a manner to build new, renewed, and rejuvenated relationships that may connect to my ministry, blogs, and website. But it is relationships I want, not marketing. It is relationship that ministry, for me, is all about.

    Keep prodding us Paul and provoking us to think and to listen to those with alternative or enriching responses.

  11. Paul,

    What concerns me is what is going on behind the screens. Who is gathering personal data and selling it to who knows?

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