It’s not enough to simply use social media, not in a world where just about everyone else is using it, too. Businesses attempting to embark upon or revise their social media presences should fully investigate best practices and potential pitfalls alike.
Some of the most worthwhile advice may seem self-evident enough, but effective social media messaging can be more difficult in practice. Your bottom line probably involves getting results. And that probably means ultimately converting social connections into clients and customers.
Consider social media an important first impression with that audience. Will you hook them with engaging content or turn them off entirely? Here’s a look at a few worst practices to avoid in your bid to build a more robust social media presence.
Social Media Mistake 1: Overstretch
For all but the largest companies, attempting to master each and every social media platform can ultimately be counterproductive. Each account you have requires resources and energy—especially if it’s done right. You can’t possibly hope to be all over the internet overnight. Building a legitimate and effective social media image can take time.
“Please refrain from signing up for every social media platform out there,” writes Business 2 Community’s Pam Dyer. “Yes, it’s important to be in more than one place, but not when you’re just starting out. Especially for small businesses, it’s much easier and more effective to master one platform before you branch out to the next. If you rush to create a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Vimeo, LinkedIn, Google+, Slideshare, Vine, and Snapchat and begin madly posting incoherently on all of them, you will look like you don’t know what you’re doing.”
Finding the right balance is in large part a matter of developing a sound strategy from the outset. First decide which platforms will be most useful in reaching your target demographic(s). Then think about and plan the kind of content you want to share, how often you wish to share it and all the logistics associated therewith (e.g. who’s managing all of this?).
In time, you can always expand your presence to other social media platforms. But you’ll want to be abundantly sure you first develop a successful formula.
Social Media Mistake 2: Too Many Posts
Just as there’s a risk in horizontal overstretch, you can also overdo the content sharing itself. It’s always wise to automate tasks when possible, but you want to make sure your posts are scheduled at intervals that don’t overwhelm your audience. For other users, there’s nothing more annoying that an account that’s obviously spamming the web in a bid to scrape up as much site traffic as possible.
Those kind of efforts are transparent and unappreciated.
Remember, you want to build meaningful relationships with other users. That shouldn’t entail beating them over the head with one post after another. As with all things, pursue some balance.
Social Media Mistake 3: Lack of Regular Posts
Conversely, a lack of sharing can be problematic, too. Some businesses adopt an unfortunate feast-or-famine approach wherein they’re either overwhelming users with posts or failing to post anything at all. That kind of irregularity is a signal that a company doesn’t have it together.
You shouldn’t go a day or two without posting something to your various platforms.
“Spread out your posts and plan them accurately,” writes Post Planner’s Scott Ayres. “The general rule of thumb is on Facebook a page getting good engagement should post 1-5 times per day. Spread your posts out through the day to see when the best time is for your page though.
“Twitter and Google+ are completely different than Facebook however. People consume information there faster and are not sitting on it staring at the newsfeed like on Facebook. So my recommendation is 10-15 posts on Twitter per day and 5-10 on Google+. The great thing about Twitter is you can get away with re-posting the same tweet twice in a day since people may not have caught your early morning rant about the lack of coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts!”
Put simply, send fellow users the message that you genuinely care about your social media image. Failure to do so makes it seem like you simply don’t have the resources to keep up. At that point, you may be better off not having a social media presence in the first place.
Social Media Mistake 4: Excessive Self-Promotion
So you’ve resolved to find the right balance between posting too much and too little. The next step is striking an additional balance in terms of the kind of content you post. The biggest risk here is overdoing it on overt marketing. It’s important to remind fellow users about your products and services, but those kind of posts shouldn’t overshadow content that those users will find useful or entertaining.
“Social selling is all about building relationships and trust that will ultimately lead to sales,” writes Entrepreneur’s Jayson Demers. “Don’t abuse the platform by using it as billboard or commercial. The 80/20 principle is a good rule of thumb: post engaging, high-value content 80 percent of the time and promote your products no more than 20 percent of the time.”
In other words, your first priority should be sharing things that actually interest people. This is how you get your foot in the door, the best way to really expose your brand and familiarize users with who you are and what your business is all about.
Ideally, the content you share has something to do with the market you inhabit. That increases the likelihood that you’re reaching the right kind of audience—people who might actually take the time to check out those product and service posts.
You also want to attract users to your site. Obvious self-promotion may sometimes have that effect. But you’re far better off really hooking your audience with engaging and useful posts. Converting that audience into clientele may take some time and consistent exposure. Just remember that your return on investment can be significant. Compared to many traditional marketing and advertising campaigns, social media is often a far more cost-effective avenue.
Social Media Mistake 5: Repetition
Anyone following your social media accounts closely will be looking for a diversity of content. Though you may want to repost some content at spaced-out intervals (especially on Twitter), you should be careful about overdoing it.
You should also strive to share different kinds of content. Some of it should capitalize on trending topics, and don’t forget those hashtags! Some should be fairly superficial eye candy, graphically oriented posts that might catch a user’s eye. The idea is to mix it up and demonstrate that your business is actually putting some serious thought into what it shares.
As Demers puts it, “Posting the same types of content again and again can convey the impression that your brand is boring, uncreative or just not in tune with your audience. Instead of posting link after link or quote after quote, change things up by posting a wide variety of content.”
Social Media Mistake 6: Unresponsiveness
An effective social media presence isn’t just about sharing content and attracting other users. It’s also about building lasting relationships with those users. That means responding to their questions and comments, even if not especially when that communication may be negative in nature.
Show that you’re paying attention, and show that you care. Think of it as an extension of your customer service. Note that it can be even more important than customer services, because you’re putting yourself in position to attract new clientele.
Communicating with other users via social media can be a golden opportunity to win people over and tell them more about your brand directly.
Keep in mind that timing matters. Unreasonably long response times are only slightly better than the total failure to respond at all. As is almost always the case, you can communicate credibility by responding to people in a timely fashion.
Social Media Mistake 7: Inconsistent Design
Be sure to streamline your design choices across social media platforms, using the same kind of logos, fonts and coloring you use on your website. The last thing you want is for users to be confused about whether they’ve got the right company.
This is a pretty basic element of effective branding, but it can easily get lost in the shuffle when a business begins embarking upon a variety of new platforms.
Social Media Mistake 8: Failing to Use Helpful Tools
There’s no shortage of helpful software out there. It can help you schedule posts, analytically measure its effectiveness in bringing traffic to your site and even aid in your attempts to gauge return on investment.
“There are several tools on the market—some free, others at varying investment levels—that will help you manage your social media commitment,” Open Forum’s Denise O’Berry. “While it can be mind-boggling trying to figure out the best ones to use, your first step should be to decide which social networks you’ll be participating in. Then do your research on what tools can help make it easier for you on those networks.”
These tools can serve as force multipliers for smaller businesses that can’t afford to devote an endless stream of resources to their social media presences.
Social Media Mistake 9: Lack of Oversight, Training or Help
You’ll probably have to assign some duties to a social media officer, but don’t assume everything will run automatically from there. This means keeping some tabs on how the efforts are going and whether there’s a need for additional training or oversight. Micro-management is never advisable, but nor is it wise to completely forget about your social media initiative.
“Your social media managers are the face of your company online,” writes Demers. “With social media now driving almost a third of all referral traffic, it’s absolutely critical that those responsible for driving these referrals are up to the task.”
If nothing else, consider lending a helping hand. For many small businesses, those responsible for social media probably have several other responsibilities, as well. Asking someone to multitask is fine, but keep in mind that social media could easily be a full-time job when done right.
If you find that your efforts are coming up short, it may not be due to incompetence. It may simply be because your officer/manager is slightly overtaxed.
Social Media Mistake 10: Forgetting Your Own Best Practices
Social media image can be invaluable. Think of it as an extension of your own corporate identity. What do you stand for? What do you care about? How do you keep your customers happy? How do you contribute to the public good?
Converting these kind of first principles into a social media brand doesn’t have to be brain science. It will take some legwork and some investment, but you should never forget what makes your business successful in the first place.
That’s really at the heart of all these recommendations. Whatever you do, do it with care and a little savvy. Everything else should fall into place.