The 6 Biggest Social Media Mistakes Brands Make

Social media is still new to many of my clients. There are new terms and for most it takes a new mindset. Although there can be a steep lear
June 08, 2011

Social media is still new to many of my clients. There are new terms and for most it takes a new mindset. Although there can be a steep learning curve on both sides, bloggers, especially women, say they want to work with brands. Hopefully pointing out common mistakes brands make can help.

I polled my peers on Twitter and Facebook to get their input. Most reported a struggle to educate brands or PR firms on what they do, their value, and how to best approach their audience.

1. Impersonal initial contact

The initial contact with someone you hope to work with should be personable. Most of the time it’s by e-mail. Someone who is active on social media thrives on community and are most are quite accessible. To get a feel for what they are interested in and care about, read their blog and Twitter stream.

A personalized e-mail with an introduction to the brand should get better results. As Ponn Sabra, of American Muslim Mom, says, “Show that you actually read the blog by commenting specifically about common topics it covers that are in line with your brand or the brand you are representing.”

2. Not being willing to devote the resources to make social media work

Businesses want to get involved in social media, but then don’t put in the time and resources needed to make it work. John Gilbert tells about a client who asked their sales team post on the corporate and personal Facebook pages. Then the owner got upset about how much time everyone spent on Facebook, so he blocked access to Facebook on the work computers.

Meanwhile, “the blog never has any new content, the Twitter page only gets used by sales instead of the whole company, and there isn’t any new traffic to the site. You have to pay the price if you want to use social media.”

3. Ignoring your audience

Another mistake is to get involved in social media without actually getting involved. It’s like getting a phone but ignoring every call that comes in.

It helps me to think of each interaction as if the person is coming to my business and talking to me directly. Online, people aren’t physically going to your business, but they should be treated as if they are. It’s even more important because the interactions you have with them are often public. Their friends and others can see how you respond.

There’s an expectation that if you have a profile, you intend to be social. Sarah Werle Kimmel gave this example. “A brand follows me on twitter, and then I DM them about something, and they never respond. What is the point of following people if you aren't going to end up joining the conversation or doing anything with it!”

Jay Wilson (@JBWPhoto) cites Singapore Airlines. Their Twitter account @sq_usa has a disclaimer. Their bio reads: “We apologise that we will not be responding to tweets." Talk about not "getting" a social media channel.

4. Not seeing negative feedback as an opportunity

Sarah Ward picked up dinner from a local restaurant and ate it at home. “I was totally disappointed with the meal and gave them some honest feedback on Facebook and Twitter. Instead of remedying it, basically they responded that everyone else liked it and that they can't please everyone.” She opened the dialogue to give them a chance to redeem themselves but was it didn’t work. They lost a customer.

I find when most people complain it’s from an honest desire to see improvement. The people who don’t care just won’t go back—and they usually tell their friends. It’s better to address problems up front before it’s on Facebook, Twitter or Yelp.

5. Expecting big numbers and results fast

It’s not often that a brand explodes in social media out of nowhere with little other work or marketing. However, consider that you’re investing in building a community and that takes time and a commitment.
Many have “an expectation that success will happen overnight and then give up or shift attention to other things when it doesn’t happen as quickly as they'd like,” says Nate Moller of Large numbers don’t mean success, an active network that aligns with your communication strategy does.

6. Determined to run a campaign with someone else’s audience “their” way

If a blogger or someone with a strong network or community has shown success, trust them for insight how to best approach their audience. They know what works and are usually interested in partnering for mutual benefit.

Look at the relationship as “an opportunity to receive targeted consumer input, feedback and real-time social interaction,” says Sabra. A partnership that works should generate excitement or buzz through engaging on various platforms (i.e. video, a blog, Facebook fan page and Twitter).

Janet Meiners Thaeler is an Evangelist for OrangeSoda Inc. and the principal blogger for their corporate blog and Twitter account. She regularly advises clients on blogging and social media strategies. Her own blog is (and Twitter account is @newspapergrl). She is passionate about online marketing and is always looking for new insights, resources and trends to help her clients.