bad adviceThese days, it seems like every business wants a seat on the social media bandwagon. Facebook seems to have more users than there are people on Earth. Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Tumblr, Reddit, Yelp and Pinterest all have multitudes of loyal, engaged followers, along with niche social media sites and blogs that pump out conversation like there’s no tomorrow.

With this in mind, the first piece of bad social media advice is that a business has to have a social media presence. It does not. A small business can be embarrassingly successful without ever having any social media pages of their own.

First, there are other methods of Internet marketing with a better likelihood of generating sales and leads — SEO, email marketing and PPC (pay per click) in particular.

Second, many small businesses, especially in B2B, are sales driven; one good sales rep can produce more business in a week than a small-budget social media campaign can produce in a year.

Third, just because zillions of people use social media does not mean they are interested in what you are selling on social media. Most often, they are not.

Fourth, if you’re really good, people will praise you on social media whether or not you’re there yourself.

Another piece of horrible social media advice is that it’s good for small businesses because it’s cheap. It is not.

Yes, it costs zero dollars to set up a page on Facebook, Twitter and just about any social media site. However…the labor cost of maintaining an active, engaging and effective social media presence is considerable, and beyond the reach of many small businesses.

To stand out from the crowd not only takes a lot of hours, it takes a lot of real-time hours, talking to your community during business hours when you could be doing something else that produces sales and profits.

On top of that, social media can become a distraction or a safe haven for entrepreneurs, a time-sucking trap that reduces your ability to sell and deal with the many unpleasant problems of running a business.

Can social media marketing work for entrepreneurs? Sure. If you are fully committed to social media, if you naturally enjoy it, if your customers and prospects hang out on social media and are interested in engaging you there, if your competitors don’t completely overshadow you, if you have the time and if you have a terrific strategy, sustained execution and an accurate way to measure results — then you stand a great chance of being a successful social media marketer.

The point is, social media marketing is not for everybody. Beware of bandwagons, because they often go off cliffs, and a lot of self-proclaimed social media marketing “experts” are more than happy to take you for that kind of ride.

Instead, take a cold, hard look at your resources, the competitive landscape and your other marketing options. Only then can you arrive at a mix of marketing activities that makes sense for your business, not somebody else’s.