13 Social Media Mistakes Almost Every Business Makes

by Sheila Olson March 6, 2016
March 6, 2016

How prevalent is social media? According to Pew Research Center, over 90 percent of retail brands are using two or more channels—and over half of all adults have at least one active social media account. It’s clear that social media marketing offers huge advantages for businesses in terms of awareness, engagement, traffic, and leads, especially if it’s done right.

Done poorly, however, it can drive away customers (and potential customers) and damage your brand’s reputation. You can avoid unforced errors with good social media policies and a little common sense. Ready to dip your toes into the social media pool? Check out these 13 easily avoidable mistakes you don’t want to make.

1. No Defined Social Media Strategy

Don’t launch your social media presence until you can answer the following questions:

➤How will social media advance your overall marketing goals?

➤How will you measure your social media efforts?

➤What platforms are most closely aligned with your target audience and your social media objectives?

Blindly jumping into the social media milieu is a recipe for disaster; as with every other marketing channel, you need a policy, a plan, and a measurable set of objectives. A documented social media strategy will ensure your content is consistent, engaging, and helpful to your brand.

2. Not Using an Authentic “Voice”

Social media creates a personal, direct connection with your followers, so it’s important to humanize your social media presence. Before you begin posting and tweeting, think about your brand history and identity and how that translates into a social media “voice.” Once you’ve found your authentic voice, use it consistently in all your posts.

Of course, your brand voice doesn’t have to be stuffy or serious; in fact, this is one marketing channel where it’s OK to show your humorous, quirky, casual side. Consider Denny’s weird—and hugely successful—social media voice:

OK, this voice isn’t right for every brand, but Denny’s has used it to increase growth by 150 percent and boost engagement to an average of over 1,800 interactions per post. That’s 900 million social impressions in two years alone.

3. Signing Up for Too Many Platforms

Your business will likely benefit from having a presence on more than one social media platform, but you don’t need to be on all of them just because you can. It’s smart for an accounting firm, for example, to be on Facebook and LinkedIn, but Pinterest and Instagram? Probably not so much. Match your platforms to your target audience and avoid spreading yourself too thin.

Not sure where you’re likely to find your target audience? This handy post will help you decide where to focus your efforts to engage your brand’s ideal customers.

4. Letting the Wrong People Manage Your Accounts

Social media is a very personal expression of your brand voice and reputation, and you should guard it carefully. This means closely vetting everyone you hand over the keys to your accounts—and tightly controlling his or her access—or you could wind up with a disaster like this one following a layoff at HMV:

393168-tweeting-the-mass-firing mobile app builder

Does this mean you can never outsource your social media accounts or rely on a summer intern to manage your posts? No, but it does mean you should exercise extreme caution and be sure you can shut down unauthorized users before they can damage your brand.

5. Posting the Same Content Across Every Channel

One of the great things about the different social media platforms is that each draws a different audience and is uniquely suited for different types of content. For best results, you should tailor your posts to suit each channel and the interests and characteristics of the people who follow you there.

A deep dive into a recent Supreme Court decision would be appropriate for a law firm’s LinkedIn page, for example, but probably not for its Facebook page, where the audience is less technical—and likely less interested.

Great images, infographics, and videos, however, are the exception to the rule, since this type of content performs well across all platforms, but it’s still important to keep your audience in mind. Remember to write fresh blurbs for each post, specific to the platform, and pay attention to optimal character counts and hashtag preferences for each.

6. Posting Controversial, Personal, or Insensitive Content

Unless your business is expressly religious or political in nature, it’s a good idea to stay away from from these often divisive topics. You might be really excited about a candidate in an upcoming election, but a huge chunk of your audience probably isn’t, so keep it to yourself. And unless your target audience is near-unanimous in its position on a particular social issue, or the issue is closely related to your brand, avoid taking a controversial stand.

There are businesses that go overboard when it comes to personal content—if you can’t think of one, you might be one. While work culture has undoubtedly changed as Millennials entered the workforce (visible tattoos, casual attire, funky workspaces, and unusual perks), there are still boundaries for good social content, and certain personal posts are just out of bounds.

Take baby pictures: It’s OK to mark the birth of a staff member’s baby with a cute newborn pic, but unless you’re in a business that caters to babies, save your baby photos for your personal account.

Keep posts professional and in good taste for your industry—and at least tangentially related to your business or marketing objectives. For example, it’s engaging and fun when a Silicon Valley startup Instagrams the trendy craft beer in the company fridge; not so much when a doctor’s office does.

And stay away from disparaging, insensitive, or offensive remarks.

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7. Constantly Plugging Your Brand

Too many social media neophytes think social media marketing is all about putting their brand out front and center—in as many places as possible. But social media isn’t designed for that; it’s all about building relationships with your customers as individuals. It’s marketing, not advertising.

That doesn’t mean you should never mention your brand or push your products and services—there’s definitely a place for that type of content. But the non-branded content should far outweigh the branded posts, and the branded posts should be engaging, interesting, and worthy of sharing; go easy on CTAs.

8. Getting the Hashtag Thing All Wrong

Hashtags are dangerous in the wrong hands, and when your hashtags go wrong, all sorts of bad things happen.

Hashtags are, however, useful for helping people find your content, and boosting engagement, so you should learn to use them to your advantage. Here are a few simple hashtag rules:

🔹Don’t go overboard. Even though Instagram allows 30(!!), don’t go there. Research shows that three is the optimal number of hashtags per post; more than that, and engagement goes down.

🔹Keep your hashtags short, specific, and simple. Use capitalization when needed for clarity—and don’t forget to proofread to avoid embarrassing yourself.

🔹Use caution when hijacking a trending hashtag to promote your brand and make sure you understand the context. DiGiorno made a costly mistake when it hijacked a trending hashtag about domestic violence in the wake of the Ray Rice assault video.

9. Forgetting the “Social” in Social Media

Unlike your other marketing channels, social media involves regular interaction with your followers—give and take is the name of the game. This means you should monitor your accounts, engage with your audience, and respond promptly to comments and questions.

This is especially true when you get negative or inflammatory comments that could reflect badly on your brand. Don’t ignore or delete your unpleasant feedback, use it as an opportunity to demonstrate your customer service chops.

Here are some tips to remember:

➤Respond to everything—within reason, of course. There’s no satisfying the trolls, but you should probably be answering about 90 percent of your comments and complaints.

➤Avoid the non-apology apology: “We’ve been manufacturing the finest cowboy boots in Texas for over 50 years. We’re sorry your experience with our excellent footwear didn’t meet your expectations.”

➤Know when to escalate. Your goal is to solve the problem that caused the complaint, not simply address the complainer. If there’s a technical issue, for example, pass it on to the engineers.

➤Know when to take a conversation out of the public eye. Comments on social media are visible to everyone and too often, negative comments result in a pile-on. Suggest a direct message or an offline channel to resolve the situation one-on-one if it threatens to spiral out of control.

➤Take the time to personalize your response and avoid automated replies.

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Image via The Financial Brand

10. Spamming Your Own Followers

You should definitely be active on your social accounts, sharing content and status updates on a regular basis. But you shouldn’t overdo it and risk turning off your followers. Finding the right balance involves multiple variables, including the size of your audience, how active they are, the platforms you post on, and of course, the resources you have to manage your accounts.

While there’s no hard and fast rule about the optimal frequency for social media posts, here’s what the research shows:

🔹Top brands on Facebook averaged one post per day.

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Image via socialbakers

🔹Engagement drops off after the third tweet per day.

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Image via socialbakers

🔹Posting 20 times per month on LinkedIn will reach 60 percent of your audience.

🔹Brands grew their audience fastest when posting 5 or more times daily on Pinterest.

🔹The average brand posts 1.5 times per day on Instagram, but there appears to be no downside to posting more frequently.

11. Not Posting Updates When Your Audience Is Most Active

You spend a lot of time creating fabulous content; wouldn’t you like to post it when it’s most likely to be seen? Knowing when your audience is active on social media can boost your engagement by 30 percent or more, according to marketing research.

Fortunately, you don’t have to experiment yourself to figure out the best time to post on each channel—you can find all the information you need to reach your social audience at the optimal time in this handy infographic.

12. Not Using Automated Social Media Management Tools

If you’ve read the last two mistakes, you’re probably wondering how you’ll manage to post with the right frequency at the right time of day on each of your social platforms. Managing your social media accounts is a daunting task if you hope to get the best results from your efforts.

There are a number of online tools that take the work out of scheduling your posts; some even offer enhancements like social listening, analytics, and reporting. Many are free and/or offer affordable monthly plans with loads of extra features. Here are some of the best:

🔹Hootsuite has a full suite of social management tools including scheduling, analytics, social listening, and RSS feeds connecting with 35 different social apps. Hootsuite plans include a free version for personal use, as well as pro and enterprise versions starting at $ 9.99/month.

🔹Buffer is a superior multiplatform scheduling tool with powerful analytics and a browser extension for posting. Individual use is free and small business plans start at $ 50/month.

🔹SproutSocial is an engagement and management platform with a Smart Inbox that routes all your social media messages into a single filterable stream. Plans start at $ 59/month for up to 10 social profiles.

For single platform management, you should also check out TweetDeck, a free tool for anyone with a Twitter account; SocialOomph, a tool for organizing Twitter accounts with optional Facebook features (free and Pro versions); Friends+Me, a free tool to manage your Google+ account; and SocialBro, a tool to target and engage your Twitter audience.

13. Buying an Audience or Paying for Likes

A huge following and a pile of likes validates your social proof and builds your visibility—but only if they’re genuine and organic. Paying for an audience is a desperate tactic that doesn’t boost engagement, improve ROI, or help you build relationships. In fact, it can damage your brand and your legitimate social accounts. Avoid the headaches and just don’t do it.

One last tip: Don’t forget to monitor, measure, and analyze your efforts to make sure you are driving traffic, reaching the right people, and seeing a good return on your social media investment.

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