Top 5 Social Media Mistakes Small-Business Owners Make

Effectively using social media to promote your business can be tricky. Don't derail your social media efforts by making these 5 mistakes.
September 18, 2014

For small-business owners, social media is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, if your marketing budget is tight, it’s a great way to inexpensively get exposure and connect with prospects and customers. On the other hand, it’s a huge time commitment.

But social media isn't going away anytime soon, so you need to learn how to make the most of it for your business.

To help you do that, let's take a look at the five most common mistakes many others have made so you don't follow in their footsteps.

Social Media Mistake #1: Following the Crowd

Today, there are numerous social networks online—many more than the most popular ones we hear about all the time like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Google+. While it’s simply impossible to be effective on every single network, it’s a battle cry heard from small-business owners on a regular basis: “I have to be on (name the network) because everyone says it’s the best place to be!”

But that’s just not true. You don’t have to follow the pack to the latest and greatest hot new thing. You also don't have to be on every network to make an impact.

It’s a better idea to take a step back and look at the social networks from a strategic perspective to figure out exactly where you should be. To narrow your choice, ask yourself questions like, “Where are my prospects?” and, “How will this benefit my business and my customers?”

Social Media Mistake #2: Not Letting Technology Help You

There are several tools on the market—some free, others at varying investment levels—that will help you manage your social media commitment. 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.

Jess Ostroff, managing editor at Convince and Convert, a digital marketing advising firm, developed a well-thought-out set of questions you can use to simplify your decision-making. She suggests you consider four key areas—outcomes, measurement, competitors and budget—and provides specific questions you should ask on each of these topics before committing to a specific tool.

Social Media Mistake #3: Forgetting You're Talking to Real People

It’s called social media for a reason—that means the expectation for engagement is high. If you took the time to explore the two key questions mentioned in Mistake #1 above, this will be easy for you. But if all you do is broadcast information, people will tire of that very quickly.

Use the golden opportunity before you to connect on a different level with prospects, customers and potential partners. Always make sure you respond to people who've reached out to you in a genuine fashion and be timely about it. A few minutes online is an eternity in real life so take that into consideration when it comes to responding.

Social Media Mistake #4: Being Too Self-Centered

Social media is not all about you—it's about the people you're trying to interact with. Take a look at just about any social network, and you’ll see a lot of “Here’s my new product” or “Read my new post” or other "me focused" efforts. While you definitely want to use social media to get the word out within the confines of your objectives, you also need to make sure you’re sharing other content that would appeal to your audience. Just sharing content that’s about you will put you on the fast track to losing connections. Besides that, sharing other people’s content is a great way to build new relationships with complementary businesses. And it’s good karma.

Social Media Mistake #5: Forgetting to Measure Your ROI

Committing your company to a social media strategy is a huge time commitment. It may not cost you any real cash, but never forget that time is your most expensive investment. That means you need to make sure you get a return on your investment.

A lot of ROI discussions center around website traffic, likes, shares and retweets, but it’s a mistake to focus only on those measures—they just mean you're getting a return on media (ROM). And although they’re important, they don’t help you figure out your ROI. ROI means you can track the financial returns on your time investment. Using tools like Google Analytics with set goals can help you determine what’s really happening as a result of all that ROM you’re getting.

Social media is definitely here to stay, and you can bet there'll be new social networks popping up in the future. Approaching your efforts strategically by determining what’s best for your business and your customers will make it a win for you.

Read more articles on social media.

Photo: iStockphoto