Social media marketing has the potential to be the most cost-effective form of advertising any business puts together. It builds connections with potential brand advocates, maintains a feeling of meaningful partnership, and holds the possibility of viral spread for your most important messaging.
Most companies make mistakes that harm the benefit of the hours they spend on these platforms. For individuals and businesses, social media is a potential engine of procrastination and wasted effort. We don’t think any company can avoid social media pitfalls 100 percent of the time. Still, if you spot and eliminate these 10 blunders, you’ll come closer than the competition:
1. No customer personas
You’re familiar with customer personas and why they’re essential. So are your counterparts for all your competitors. But it’s confusing how few companies apply this standard practice to their social media marketing.
By harvesting the likes, follows, hashtags, and mentions shown on their feeds and profiles, you can develop a strong sense of who your core clients are and what interests them most. There’s no excuse not to do this and even less reason not to build your social media plan based on those personas.
2. Promotion-only posting
If you’re like most people, you have one friend who sells insurance, participates in a multi-level marketing scheme, or has a business they just won’t shut up about, even at inappropriate times. Ask yourself: Does their constant self-promotion make you more likely or less likely to buy what they’re selling, even if you have a legitimate need for it?
It’s even worse on social media. If you only post about your product, your company, and your industry, nobody will follow you for long. It feels predatory and corporate. Worse, it’s boring.
Instead, develop a deep well of topics your customer personas find interesting. Share at least 10 items of interest on your channel for every one post about your company or product. Engage in conversations about interests you and your customer base share. Make connections that don’t feel like small talk before a sales pitch. Once you’ve established that relationship, people will listen when you mention you can sell them something they already want.
3. No private channel
The benefit of social media is you can reach everybody instantaneously and for free. That means your message can reach qualified, interested people for less than ever before in marketing history.
The drawback of social media is you’re talking to almost everybody. It’s hard to make people feel special, and people like feeling special. One way you can mitigate this is to broadcast your essential news and offers and have a members-only media stream people can qualify to join.
Private Facebook groups, login-only portions of your website, and subscription newsletters are examples of private channels you can use to upgrade a lead to an elite team of supporters. Not only does this help them feel special, but it also serves as a prequalifying step, so your sales team knows where to focus their efforts and attention.
4. Stretching too thin
There are currently over 75 major social media platforms your business could be spending time on, not counting specialized industry-only sites.
If you try to have a presence on too many platforms, one of two things will happen: either you’ll have too little presence on them all to leverage profitably, or you’ll resort to auto-posting services that disengage you from your audience.
We recommend narrowing your focus to dominate your space, rather than spreading your resources out over too many platforms. As a rule of thumb, ask any full-time social media person to take on no more than three platforms, and assign only one outlet to somebody with a different primary duty who handles social media on the side.
5. Making it everybody’s job (or nobody’s job)
Many small and medium businesses have an informal social media relationship. They expect team members to approach social media in their spare time or as inspiration strikes, rather than making it somebody’s specific and defined task. That’s fine for a fantasy football league, but it won’t keep up with the competition at a business level.
Ideally, you would have one full-time person whose only job is running your social media, planning your content strategy, executing it in real time, following up on leads, and analyzing the metrics. Companies that can’t afford this should still clearly define expectations and design for their social media marketing and assign every element to specific individuals. Otherwise, things will fall through the cracks.
6. Getting lured into fights
There’s a joke about how we have the power to communicate globally and access all human knowledge, but we use it mostly to share pictures of cats and get into arguments with strangers. There’s some truth to that, but it should not be accurate for your business.
We get it. Arguing with people who are wrong on the Internet can be entertaining or it can feel like our duty as better-informed citizens. But even for private individuals, it can cause problems. For a business, it can be catastrophic. Unless you intend to be political as part of your brand identity, you’ll lose leads and fans when engaging in such shenanigans.
This is especially, albeit counterintuitively, important about low customer reviews and online complaints. If somebody leaves a negative comment about you, especially if the facts are questionable, it can be tempting to fire back a momentarily gratifying response. But most of the time, no response at all is the better option. Arguing makes you look petty and often further enrages the irate commenter.
If, on a rare occasion, the comment gets the facts wrong or is in bad faith, still keep your comments polite, professional, and use supporting evidence.
7. Firing and forgetting
We mentioned auto-posters early. These are platforms like Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and the internal tools now available on Facebook. These can make social media management more comfortable by letting you enter many posts all at once and escape from the real-time demands of maintaining your feed. They’re also a mistake.
The power of social media comes from the real-time interaction auto-posters help you avoid. What you initially share has little leverage compared to the relationships you form when talking about those posts with the people who engage with them. If you fire and forget your posts, you miss that opportunity and lose much of the benefit from posting.
There is a middle ground. You can load your auto-poster for a week in a single long session, grouping tasks, and then schedule social media monitoring into your daily calendar to still participate in the conversation.
8. Only using free techniques
You can get a lot from social media engagement methods that require only time, but you will reach a plateau rapidly and take a long time to resume upward motion. Eventually, you need to invest some funds in various advertising forms to boost your social media mojo.
Every social media platform you’re likely to use has some in-house paid options. Multiple outside companies will either help you promote inside one platform or promote your social media channel across numerous online platforms. Research each about costs, targeting, and terms before jumping in, but you will need to prepare your budget for this step.
If at all possible, opt for advertising that offers a PPC or PPI pricing option. That way, you’re paying for actual people interacting directly with your marketing, not just for the chance of that happening.
9. Buying followers
Speaking of paid social media techniques, never buy engagement. Many developing nations’ operations take advantage of the cost-of-living difference to hire thousands of people working in a sweatshop to like, follow, share, subscribe, and otherwise engage with a payer’s account one time each. Many of them operate hundreds of individual accounts. They bump up your numbers but don’t contribute to meaningful engagement or increase your attraction of qualified leads.
Even at the low prices, your money is better spent on organically attracting real followers, engaging in real conversations, and winning real brand advocates’ trust and loyalty. It’s a slower road but carries superior benefits.
10. Not using metrics
Much like the customer personas, this is a factor everybody knows about, but surprisingly few people use it. You should watch, track, and respond to social media metrics as closely and proactively as you do for major campaigns for which you spend thousands of dollars. Not only does this help you improve the power of your social media efforts, but it can also give you valuable insights about your customer base faster than you would get from other channels.
The specific metrics you should watch will vary depending on your goals and individual platforms’ qualities. By tracking these metrics, you’ll learn how your campaign is going overall, how well your most recent attempts performed, and how to improve things in the future.
We’ve spent this article telling you whatto avoid in your company’s social media game, but we haven’t said much about what you should do. You can find out about a variety of great strategies here.
Beyond those specific techniques, start each quarter, month, week, and day with a strategy mapped out. It helps you keep forward pressure on the proven activity that drives your social media success and avoid the time-wasters that can kill your productivity and even your overall message.