5 Common Social Media Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Whether you love it or hate it, social media is here to stay, for now. So make sure you're using it correctly.
Freelance Writer and editor, Self-employed
February 13, 2012

Most small-business owners feel strongly about social media. They either love it, hate it or both. If they love it, it's because its tools can create tremendous brand awareness. If they hate it, it's because it’s a massive time suck. Regardless of where you stand and how proficient you are at each tool, there is always something new to learn. Here are a few common social media mistakes and tips on how to fix them.

Expecting ROI right away

Ashley Ranger sees this often. As founder of /excelamktg, a social media marketing company based in Los Angeles, potential clients frequently voice frustrations when not attracting a target number of followers or sales captures. Ranger’s advice is always the same: It takes time.

“If you are actively posting and commenting, I’d say it could take you six months to one year to see ROI out of a social media campaign,” she says.

Low on "likes?" Get creative. Ranger recommends that online businesses offer an additional 10 percent off purchases if customers "like" them on Facebook. Another way to engage: Give back. One of Ranger’s fashion clients will post a "look of the day" on Facebook and interviews with designers—both, activities that will help generate traffic.

Failing to plan

A social media campaign is like any other business campaign; it needs a well-laid-out plan before execution. Stephanie Derry, a social media consultant in Richmond, Va., recommends plotting out goals.

“Do you want to use social media as a customer service tool? A way to link to your website?” she asks. “It all comes down to market research. If you know what your target market wants, you can plan accordingly.”

Talk to your customers about the sites they use most, visit competitor’s social media pages and join conversations around your industry before firing up your own campaign, Derry adds. Once you’ve finished researching, assign one person in your company to be the director of your social media program.

“If you don’t have someone responsible, your customers will be talking to no one,” she says. “People want a personality to attach to the brand, they don’t want to feel like they are talking to a robot.”

Automating

Tools such as Hootsuite allow users to write one message and then simultaneously broadcast it to a number of social media sites. While this can be a time saver, Ranger guards her clients against the practice.

“When you automate, it starts to sound robotic,” she says. “You want your posts to have a personal feel, so take time to write different posts on each platform, even if they are similar in content.”

Hard selling

Think of your words on a social media network like the words you’d say to a customer walking into your brick and mortar store. You wouldn’t spam an in-person customer with sale promo after sale promo; you’d first focus on establishing a nice conversation and a relationship. The same goes for customers visiting your social media site, says Ranger.

Try asking your followers questions about personal topics (think holiday decorating ideas, best holiday memories) or quizzing them about their favorite product in your store. Offering a free gift can always inspire engagement, too.

Not connecting to other marketing platforms

Everyone should know you have a Facebook page, a Twitter page, a Pinterest account. According to Derry, it is important to connect your social media presence to your website, e-mail newsletter, print advertising, broadcast advertising, etc.

She says, “Make sure people who are connecting with your company are able to connect in every way; make your social media presence known for maximum benefit.”

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