Many companies want to use social media to help build their business and familiarize people with their brand. However, misconceptions about social media can ruin a company's effort to gain new customers online. Here are five of the most common misunderstandings about social media and how organizations should act in an online world.

Misconception 1: It's easy.

Yes, it is easy to tweet a sentence or two out to the world or to update a Facebook status. As a business using social media, you need to make sure that people are actually reading what you post and responding. Social media is all about capturing attention and creating a dialogue. Although typing out a few words or starting a business page is easy, it's much more difficult to utilize social media in a truly effective way. It might take some research and practice before you see results.

Misconception 2: It means you don't have to use traditional advertising.

Just because you use social media for advertising your products doesn't mean that you can stop traditional advertising. If traditional advertising is currently working for you, don't be so eager to drop it just because you've started a Twitter account. People respond differently to the many types of media. Traditional advertising can help reach people who don't use social media networks, and it can also reinforce your brand among people who have already heard about you online.

Misconception 3: Businesses should use it to push products and services.

Don't look at social media as simply another way to advertise. If all of your tweets sound like a 140-character commercial, then people won't be eager to follow you. Who wants to read advertisements all day long? Offer your social media followers a reason to read what you post. Give advice related to your industry, tell a funny story, remind them of important events, ask customers how to improve your services and share what your company is currently doing. Talk with people, not at them.

Misconception 4: It's just for young people.

Businesses might assume that social media networks, especially Twitter, are used only by a young demographic. Although young people are generally the first adopters of new technology, people of all ages now connect on social media. Would you be surprised to hear that the fastest growing Facebook demographic is made up of people who are more than 40 years old? As online conversations become more commonplace, more people of every age are using social media.

Misconception 5: It's just Facebook and Twitter.

Social media is more than just social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Social media encompasses these sites as well as any other media that encourages conversation. This could include a blog, an internet forum or the comment section of your own website. Don't think of social media as being attentive to just one or two sources. To use social media the most effectively, you'll need to keep up with changes and constantly think about new ways you can create a dialogue online.

Don't fall for these common misconceptions. If your business is starting to use social media, you'll want to be as informed as possible. By just clearing up these misunderstandings within in your company, you can use social media much more effectively and reach more people.

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