Ten social media mistakes to avoid

As with any business activity, the use of social media needs to be carefully planned. A social-media marketing campaign requires objectives, strategies, realistic allocation of time and money, and a clear understanding of why you are doing it. In particular, you need to be aware of the potential pitfalls, of which these are the ten basic ones. There are others, of course, but if you avoid this lot, you will be doing OK.

Failing to set concrete and relevant objectives

It seems blindingly obvious, but it is worth restating: every business activity must have its objectives, and social media is no different. It’s pointless simply launching into a blog or a Twitter campaign without having a clear idea of what you are trying to achieve, and of how you are going to measure results. If you fail to follow this basic principle, you will simply waste your time, effort and money.

Doing too much

There are dozens of social media platforms, of which the main ones are LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Pinterest, and YouTube; you could also add Instagram, Flickr and Vimeo if you like. The temptation is to leap in with accounts on several of these at once, as well as running a blog. But even for businesses with sufficient resources (and you would need substantial resources) this does not necessarily make sense. Think about which platforms are best for your business: what social media do your customers, suppliers and competition use? Which platforms will enable you to meet your social media objectives? Consider starting with one or two outlets on which you can concentrate your resources, and building from there.

Over-promoting your own business

Avoid hyping your business or products too much: if you spend all your time talking about yourself and how brilliant you are, the message is likely to be lost. Bear in mind that social media is just that – social. So avoid overt selling messages: listen to the market, get feedback from your customers, engage with them, look at what other, related businesses have to offer. And don’t be afraid of mentioning or even promoting someone else’s (relevant) products and services: it shows you are in touch with the market.

Neglecting your social media accounts

If you are a small business, you may be too busy to post every day, but try to do it every few days, and at least once a week. Remember that if the market sees a blog or Facebook account is inactive, they will not engage with it – and thus with you. Set time aside to deal with your social media updates, and don’t let anything else get in the way. Even if you only spend an hour a week, it’s going to be time well spent. If you genuinely can’t afford the time, invest in the services of a freelancer or social media agency; and if you don’t have the resources to do it yourself or to get someone else to do it for you, you might be better off not getting involved with social media marketing at all.

Failing to be business-like

People following your social media activities are interested principally in your business and your brands, so posts on your business Facebook page should be different from your individual account. As mentioned above, social media is social, but you should avoid being too personal: unless it is entirely relevant, don’t share your political or social views. It’s fine to show your human side, but your market is not usually interested in your holiday photographs or what you had for lunch.

Ignoring what your followers say to you

If someone responds to a blog post, acknowledge it promptly and politely – even if it is critical or disagreeable. Respond positively and quickly to any Tweets, Facebook, Google Plus or LinkedIn comments. If you just ignore what people say, it could indicate to your market that you are unresponsive to their needs – and if they feel that, they are likely to go elsewhere.

Failing to respond to negative feedback

No business is perfect, and dissatisfied customers may sometimes post negative comments about your business, your products or the service that you provided. Don’t ignore the comments and don’t delete them, even if you can. Instead, try and deal with the issue immediately and positively: don’t be either defensive or aggressive, even if the feedback is rude and unfair. If your customers see that you face up to issues and handle complaints fairly, they will appreciate your honestly and transparency. The only exception to this is if/when you are attacked by so-called “trolls” – maybe a vindictive competitor or a disgruntled former employee or supplier; delete them and use security software to stop them posting again.

Not measuring

It’s vitally important to measure whether the resources you devote to social media marketing are well utilised. Your social media plan needs measurable goals, with targets that you want to achieve. Check the support sites for the social media platforms that you use to see what analytics are available, and search online for other tools to measure your key metrics.

Failing to see what’s right for you

Not all social media is right for every type of business. Facebook is generally more suited to B2C than B2B businesses (although not exclusively), whereas LinkedIn is not really relevant for consumer marketers. For businesses in niche markets, a registration-only forum might be the best way to interact with customers and potential customers. And if social media is not right for your business, don’t get involved.

Of course, there are mistakes to be made in every area of business management, from financial planning to human resources. The three major differences with social media are that (a) the pitfalls are not always obvious; (b) mistakes can sometimes be very public; and (c) getting it wrong can be difficult to put right. Being aware of the potential issues is a good foundation for getting it right.

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