Errant tweets, Facebook flubs, withered websites. Social media mess-ups are what late-night comedians fill their monologues with most days. Check over your social media output, and see which of these mistakes you are making—and fix them before anyone can make you a punch line. In true “Late Night with David Letterman” style, we have our “Top 10 list” of social media mistakes (and hints on how to make them right).
Mistake #10: You go on autopilot
“The biggest mistake I see people make is to just set it and forget it,” says Janet Barclay, founder of Organized Assistant, a virtual assistance business. “They preschedule a number of posts using Hootsuite or some other tool, and that's all they do. They never actually log on to read other people's posts or to see if anyone has commented on theirs.” Social media tools are great, but relying on them to do all of your messaging ignores a huge part of the social media landscape: the connecting and communicating with others.
Mistake #9: You are missing the mobile audience
One of the leading ways folks engage with social media is while they are on the go and on their smart phones. “If your website is not mobile-friendly—especially if you're in the restaurant or retail industry— you set yourself up for failure,” says Ari Herzog, digital strategy and new media marketing specialist. He adds that business owners can get into the mobile world easily by either adding a mobile plug-in or hiring a web developer to configure your web site to be mobile-friendly. A little bit of time and minor financial outlay can reap huge social media rewards.
Mistake #8: Your voice is all wrong for your brand
Are your tweets lively or stuffy? Monique Woodard, entrepreneur and marketing expert, suggests showing the person (or people) behind the brand in your content. “It’s okay to occasionally go off-message in order to give your brand some personality,” she says, “If you own an organic snack company and you love your cocker spaniel, take a minute to share a photo of your dog eating a healthy treat on Instagram or in a tweet.” Matthew Iscoe, marketing manager at Thriving Firm Experience, adds, “[Many companies], even small businesses, assign social media networking activities to the junior staff—typically the least informed people in the organization with the smallest amount of experience. Social media conversations become attractive [to potential customers] when they have an opportunity to hear and speak with people at the top.”
Eric Alper, director of media relations and label acquisitions for eOne Music Canada, suggests small business owners keep in mind that manners in real life apply to the online world as well. “You can still be authentic on social media sites, and share your persona and personality, but you don't have to share everything. Every post or tweet can possibility exclude current customers or future ones, if they don't agree with your personal views,” Alper says, “Most importantly, don't say anything online that you wouldn't be able to say to one of your customers directly, face to face.”
Mistake #6: You’ve picked the wrong social media outlet
“Just like marketing anywhere else—television, email, direct mail, billboards, radio—you need to identify what's right for your business,” says Taylor Aldredge, ambassador of buzz for Grasshopper, a virtual phone system helps entrepreneurs sound more professional and stay connected from anywhere. “Foursquare rocks if you want to market to local customers in your city, especially if you're a restaurant or retail business with a physical location. However, if you're a boutique creative agency, a Foursquare page probably makes no sense for you,” Aldredge points out. Focus on one or two areas of social media and build a solid customer following there. When—and if—you want to add more mediums, that core will follow.
Mistake #5: You broadcast rather than engage
Tim Gray, communications director at Blue Fountain Media, sees many businesses failing to do the “social” aspect of social media. “Implement a coherent content plan. Write one or two blog posts a week about things that interest people in your industry,” Gray suggests. An easy way to avoid writing just about your products or services is to focus on content that passes along information. “For example, if you are a florist, try creating a ‘step-by-step’ tutorial that includes basic lessons on creating holiday arrangements and post it on your Facebook page,” offers Gray.
Mistake #4: You look only at the numbers
“The biggest mistake I see [small business owners] making is putting too much faith in the Like/Follower count,” says Kimberly Gauthier, founder of Keep the Tail Wagging, an online magazine for dog lovers. “I have over 7,000 followers on Facebook, but only interact with a fraction of them. Focus on the people who follow your page and whom you interact with. Talk to them, ask and answer questions, and seek feedback.” Those owners who engage with that core customer base create the best chance for positive word-of-mouth to spread about their company via social media.
Mistake #3: You don’t proof your content
Typos in your tweets and or grammatical errors on your website makes your quality control look less than stellar, which reflects poorly on your business. “Social media channels help us bring our brands into a living and breathing form, and if your posts contain spelling or grammatical mistakes, that puts a negative impression into the marketplace about your brand,” says Eric Thiegs, CEO and founder of StageofLife.com, a blogging community for families, “If a customer sees that you can't spell correctly in a Facebook post, will she have confidence that you'll get her order right if she buys from you? Maybe. But maybe not. Why run that risk over something as simple as spelling or grammar.” The fix for this is simple: be sure those folks handling your social media are solid writers—and always, always look over your post/tweet/update before hitting the “send” button.
Mistake #2: You are an inconsistent presence
Nika Stewart, co-founder and CEO of GhostTweeting.com, says one of the biggest mistakes she sees is how small business “ignore their Twitter and Facebook presence for days at a time and then suddenly flood their feeds with a dozen posts.” Whether it is one post or two tweets a day, find that manageable, consistent presence you can keep up. One way is to use those great online tools to your advantage (but beware: see Number 10 above).
Mistake #1: You put the same content on every social media platform
Dustin Nelson, marketing director for (Le) Poisson Rouge, a multimedia art cabaret in New York City, points to a hidden, yet ubiquitous social media mistake. “[Many small businesses] engage customers across all platforms with the exact same content. Customers who are very engaged with your business, and follow you across multiple platforms, may start to unfollow because you've overwhelmed them with the same information—repeatedly,” Nelson says, “It's lazy and people notice. Content needs to be reworked and made unique.”