5 Of The Biggest Digital Marketing Myths

May 19, 2017

Josh Li

Digital Marketer at Institute of Code

Living in this incredible age of information is a double-edged sword. Sure, it puts all we’ve ever wanted to know (and sometimes, not wanted to know) at our fingertips. But just as it allows heartwarming stories, cute cat videos and memes to go viral, false information too can spread like wildfire, making it incredibly easy for people to believe in the wrong things.

Digital marketing can be incredibly murky - our view of the world, if we look through a digital and social lens, is shaped primarily by algorithms, their inner workings jealously guarded as trade secrets by the companies which develop them. While these algorithms are designed to give us a better user experience, their opacity has lead to a lot of speculation and sometimes, negativity and conspiracy theories. The field is also awash with digital marketing ‘experts’ who spout all kinds of questionable advice with no real evidence to back it up, leading lots of companies astray.

Do you believe in any of these myths?

Living in this incredible age of information is a double-edged sword. Sure, it puts all we’ve ever wanted to know (and sometimes, not wanted to know) at our fingertips. But just as it allows heartwarming stories, cute cat videos and memes to go viral, false information too can spread like wildfire, making it incredibly easy for people to believe in the wrong things.

Digital marketing can be incredibly murky - our view of the world, if we look through a digital and social lens, is shaped primarily by algorithms, their inner workings jealously guarded as trade secrets by the companies which develop them. While these algorithms are designed to give us a better user experience, their opacity has lead to a lot of speculation and sometimes, negativity and conspiracy theories. The field is also awash with digital marketing ‘experts’ who spout all kinds of questionable advice with no real evidence to back it up, leading lots of companies astray.


While good research (and sometimes good ol’ common sense) usually debunks myths over time, there are some myths that just won’t go away. Believing these myths, at best, can prevent a business from reaching its full potential, and at worst, make a company lose a lot of money.

Here are 5 of the biggest digital marketing myths (that won’t go away).

1. Social Media is Free

 A lot of businesses assume that because social media is free to browse, it’s free to market on. And technically, this assumption is correct.

You can still achieve a fair amount on social media without spending any money. For some social media platforms like Pinterest, provided you spend enough time working on it, you can build yourself a nice following.

But that’s as far as this myth goes. In debunking this myth, there are actually two parts to this answer.

As a social media platform matures, its algorithms also evolve. One reason is to curb spam and give users a better user experience by creating a more personalised, curated experience. Another is so the companies themselves can make a bit of dosh (after all, they have mouths to feed too!)

As platforms switch towards an advertising-driven model, it becomes harder for company pages to achieve organic reach. Research over the last few years has seen the organic reach of a Facebook page drop from 16% to 6.5% between 2012 and 2014. For larger companies, organic reach was seen as low as 2%. Based on recent algorithm changes, it’s now safe to assume organic reach hovers around 1%.

This is of course, dependent on many other factors, including whether your page is active, whether your fans regularly engage with you, and how engaging your posts are.

True, there are many companies still smashing it organically and have supposedly ‘cracked the code’. However, to do well using only organic methods is incredibly hard, and the only surefire way to obtain the reach pages used to have is through advertising.

The good news is, social media advertising can be incredibly effective, with companies now spending $22 billion a year on Facebook ads. It’s not all faceless corporation conspiracy theories here!

The other part of this answer is companies often fail to take into account investing in tools that help you run social media. From analytical tools to automating software that streamline your workflow, maintaining multiple social media accounts is incredibly time-consuming work. That’s why many businesses and professionals have turned to suites of tools that help do all the heavy-lifting for them, reducing hours of tedious work into just a few clicks. To get the most out of these tools, you’d most likely pay some kind of subscription fee.

Not sure which tools to use? Read up on our favourite tools in this post!

2. Likes/Followers Matter

The advent of social media has also given rise to an obsession with numbers, namely Likes and Followers.

While having a lot of followers on social media is certainly not a bad thing (just ask any social media influencer), theses numbers are not as important as you might think. Likes and followers are a classic case of a ‘vanity metric’.

For a business, the bottom line is the most important thing to focus on. Likes and Followers are often much further removed from making you money than you think. In fact, one study has shown someone who has liked your brand is actually not any more inclined to buy from you than someone who has not.

While someone following your brand on social media does give you a higher chance for your content to be seen by them, you have to keep in mind it’s quality content and a solid understanding of your sales funnel that is going to eventually win paying customers. It’s too long of a stretch to justify spending money acquiring people who may or may not even see what you’re trying to say - it’s far more reliable to spend money in a way that’s guaranteed to reach people.

As for people who are driven to buy Followers on Instagram? All I have to say is: don’t! I’m not always a stickler for rules, and I’ll admit I’ve tried my fair share of grey-hat marketing techniques, but buying fake followers is just not worth it. Aside from the fact this is a great way to tarnish your brand, social media platforms have gotten very efficient at cleaning up fake accounts. It’s common to see the $10 you spent literally get deleted overnight.

Not sure what you should be measuring, or what a vanity metric? Download our eBook - Introduction to Digital Marketing!

3. Millennials are the only people who are on (or understand) social media

For some reason, this myth somehow just won’t go away! There are still many companies out there who believe social media is a fad made up by young people for young people, and that if your business targets are for people who are over 30, there’s no need for you to get onto social media. In fact, according to the latest Sensis (Australia) data, only 31% of SME businesses actively operate a social media strategy.

This myth can be debunked with just a snapshot of statistics taken from a few reports

Chances are: if you have a business that needs customers, chances are you’ll find them on social media.

As for the ‘millennials are the only people who understand social media’, this is a common misconception. There are many companies who have tasked the youngest person in the office, or a young intern, to look after its social media, purely on the basis of their age. While it’s true younger people might be more on-trend, this only forms a tiny part of what is still a business strategy.

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool - after all, it has completely disrupted traditional advertising and rewritten the book on marketing. It’d be incredibly foolish to hand the reigns of such a powerful platform, over someone who’s not experienced using it to make money. By doing so, you often sacrifice the business value you can take away from it.

4. Email marketing is annoying and doesn’t work

Email has often been derided as an out-of-date method of marketing to people. “I don’t check my email at all”, or “It always goes to spam” are phrases I hear all the time.

People often don’t think they’re susceptible to digital marketing efforts - you’ll never hear someone readily admit to clicking on ads, for example. But the data shows email marketing is one of the most powerful ways of marketing to people.

In fact, Campaign Monitor states email marketing has a 4400% ROI, with an order value at least 3 times that of social media. Other interesting statistics also show email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers platforms such as Facebook, and when it comes to purchasing, email has the highest conversion rate, sitting at an industry average of 66% when compared to other methods.

When you compare it with the statistics of social media, the value of email becomes even clearer. 92% of adults use email (higher than social media), and 90% of emails get delivered to the intended recipient’s inbox, whereas Facebook reach is probably sitting around 1%. All this data points at a platform that is far more capable of reaching people, and converting them into paying customers.

Collecting emails, unlike gaining Likes or Followers, is also a much more sure-fire way to tell if people are picking up what you’re putting down. Nowadays, people are much more wary of spam, so they’re a lot more protective about giving away their personal data. That means if they give you their email details, they are telling you they trust you, and are interested in hearing more. In fact, for startups that do not have paying customers yet often use email subscriber growth rates as a way to prove growth and potential to investors.

The moral of the story? Pump those emails up!

5.You can’t really prove digital marketing works

There are still a lot of businesses who are wary of digital marketing, believing money goes in one end, returns may or may not come out the other, and what goes on in between is a complete mystery (kind of like Schrodinger’s cat!). Often this trepidation is fueled by a few horror story case studies (such as the recent Fyre Festival).

But digital marketing is so powerful because it is so easily broken down and tracked. With the right analytics and metrics in place, you can see clearly your entire funnel. You can break down where most of your customers are coming from, who spends the most amount of money, where you should focus your efforts, and more. Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have amassed gob-smacking amounts of data about their users, and in turn, built in-depth analytical suites for you to pore over. It’s just up to you to invest the time and effort to get to know your customers!

These are 5 of the biggest digital marketing myths that still won’t die! Let us know; have you believed any of these myths before? What are the biggest myths you believe are out there?


Written by: Josh Li

Digital Marketer at Institute of Code