We were both chuffed and flattered to be asked to speak at last week’s Women@Work Aire Valley networking event at the quirky Russian Tea Rooms in Skipton. It was the network’s third event and for the third time running attracted 50 professional women from the local area, who had asked to find out more about how to make the most of social media for their businesses and organisations – and for themselves.

We joined the Women@Work Aire Valley network when it launched last year after seeing a tweet about it. When we started our business, we decided to be selective about what networking events we went to – we knew how valuable they could be but also what a drain on our time they could be when they weren’t the right ‘fit’. However, this one really stood out to us: inspirational, entrepreneurial and down-to-earth Yorkshire women working in senior roles in a range of diverse sectors meeting in quirky, informal ‘hidden gem’ venues.

Networking that makes sense

Right from the offset, Women@Work Aire Valley seemed different and, although we were essentially gate-crashing as our office is not in the area, we were welcomed into the fold. After each event, the organisers (Managing Partner of Skipton-based AWB Charlesworth Solicitors and Liz Smith, Business Manager at Nat West in Keighley) are responsive to feedback from attendees about what topics are concerning them – and social media seemed to be a universal one.

So, we were asked to partner with Claire Gatenby from Bradford-based web agency Squashed Pixel to host a session on using social media for business and personal development in both the B2C and B2B sectors. But we didn’t just want to roll out generic advice that sells the benefits of social media – we wanted to show how it could be relevant to individuals by starting with the problem, rather than jumping in with the solution. Here are the top five social media for business myths that we broke down to dispel attendees’ fears and reservations as a starting point for a conversation about how it could help their businesses:

Social media for business myth #1: “It’s just a bunch of celebrities using it to talk about themselves”

When you hear stories in the media about footballers, comedians or pop stars putting their foot in it on Twitter, it’s hard to imagine how the domain of Justin Bieber and others could ever be relevant for a small business or charity! However, social media platforms are just that – platforms. You get out of social media what you put in and you can build your own niche network of followers/contacts/connections that is unique to you. What you can learn from celebrities is the power of social media to have your say and communicate with your ‘fans’ and critics directly – and you can also learn what NOT to do in the public domain from those who have made high profile mistakes.

Social media for business myth #2: “It’s only relevant for big consumer brands or those with a product to sell”

This is certainly not the case. In fact, we find it strange that B2C brands were much quicker to engage in social media than small, niche B2B businesses in which ‘people buy people’. It can actually be much harder for big brands to have any real conversation with customers and influencers via social media because no one can engage with them on their level. Social media is a relationship tool, not a sales channel and people want to feel that they are talking to real life humans! This is where social media allows smaller local businesses to really stand out to a niche but much wider audience than they would otherwise be visible to.

Social media for business myth #3: “I’m too busy to be tweeting all day – it will take over my life”

As a business that is 100% bought into the benefits of using social media we are certainly not tweeting all day – our clients would be wondering when we actually get time do their work! When it comes to social media, frequency and consistency is important but often ‘less is more’. We always recommend focusing on quality over quantity and only putting something out into the public domain if it adds real value to people. The end goal is to be useful and get a response, not just to broadcast messages that get ignored.

Social media for business myth #4: “Blogging is a waste of time”

Executed effectively, a blog can become a really powerful business development tool. In fact, your blog should be the hub of your social media presence, providing you with a bank of content to share and start conversations about. Blogging is your opportunity to showcase your expertise in an engaging, useful way that positions you as the leading authority on what you do. We have won business directly from our blog by sharing articles about things that we know are of use to our potential clients and using the content as a ‘door opener’ for a conversation with them.

As with all social media, a blog only pays off when you take a strategic approach to it and it serves a real purpose for your business. By understanding your target market and providing them with a useful resource of insights, you can go from a self-centred blog that goes unread to getting real business referrals and leads from it.

Social media for business myth #5: “I do lots of networking in the real world, I don’t want or need to replace it with online networking”

Online networking shouldn’t be a replacement for meeting people face to face but it can really support and ‘amplify’ what you are doing in the real world. For example, when you attend an event, social media is a great way of maximising your visibility with people in the room and keeping the conversation going once you leave. Also, by connecting with your existing contacts online, you can grow your network by tapping into each other’s contacts.

We know that a lot of you out there are interested in how social media could help your business but either fearful or cynical – or simply don’t know where to start. We can take some of that fear away with our in-house workshops that introduce you to the potential of social media for your business. Get in touch if you’re interested – no question is too simple so don’t be afraid to ask!