The worst social media mistakes businesses make

Two business people on smart phone

If you own or run a business, you probably have some sort of social media account, be it Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, YouTube, or a combination thereof. If you don’t, you must get one, or a few. I’ll wait here while you do that.

Are you back?

OK, moving on.

While we all know that it’s imperative for businesses to have social media accounts, many don’t know what to actually do with those accounts. And a lot of people are doing it wrong. It seems so easy. You just sign up, right? It takes five minutes. But, the rub is, after you sign up, you have to populate those accounts with content, and not just any kind of content, social content.

What makes a great social media account vs. a waste of webspace? Good brand messaging. Most of your content should be on-brand and related to what your business does. But it doesn’t all have to be about your business.

So, for example, if you have a coffee shop, the bulk of your posts should be coffee or hot beverage related. But, within that realm, there’s a whole world of possible subject matter you could explore: coffee drinks, latte art, coffee growing practices, coffee flavours, coffee shop tales, health-related coffee stories and studies, and more. Be interesting. That’s just one way of doing things. You have to come up with your own.

Also, you should know what not to do. Here are some of the biggest mistakes brands make on social media.

Having a one-sided conversation
Recognize that social media is social – it’s not advertising. Engage with people and have a conversation. You say something, they say something, you say something. If someone asks a question, you answer it. If they make a comment, you reply to it. You can’t just post ads for your business and expect people to respond.
Scott Stratten, president of UnMarketing and author of UnMarketing: Stop Marketing and Start Engaging, says you have to, “give before take. You have to invest your social currency in a platform before trying to take something out. Connect with people, reply to them, help them out. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen business owners say ‘Twitter doesn’t work!’ And I look at their timeline and all they’ve got is tweet ads for their business.”
On Twitter, you need to retweet other people’s posts, mark them as favourites and offer positive commentary. If you share their content they will share your content, and you will reach a broader audience.

Not understanding the platform
It’s also important to understand how platforms differ, how each works, and how they are best used. Twitter works for short updates, links, pithy commentary, and facts. Facebook is more useful for encouraging ongoing commentary and longer discussion. Instagram is visual. LinkedIn should only be used for professional updates. Choose one or a couple of platforms suited to your business. Don’t try to use them all. You won’t be able to keep up and you’ll look sloppy.
And don’t be too business-y on Twitter or Pinterest, or too personal on LinkedIn. Know the audience for each platform.

Being inconsistent or lazy
Once you start, you can’t just post once a month, or even once a week. Stratten says, “Be consistent and constant: being on your Facebook page once a month isn’t going to work. If you hang your shingle on a social site, people think you’re open for business.”
And you have to keep the conversation going and be present for it, Stratten says. “Don’t send a mannequin to a networking event. Even though it’s tempting to schedule posts/tweets and sync updates across platforms, trying to have a presence on social media without being present is a bad decision.”

Trying to control the message
You also have to realize that, because social media is not advertising, you don’t control the message in the same way. Too many companies might delete a negative comment on Facebook, or ignore an inflammatory tweet. The conversation you’re having is taking place in a free and open environment known as “the internet.” Act accordingly. If someone says something you don’t like at a party, you can’t just shut them down or throw them out. Respond as you would in any conversation. Be gracious, even when others are ungracious. You can’t shut people down. They won’t let you, and you have no right.

Separating yourself from your brand
Finally, realize that it’s all one big conversation, and you can’t separate you and your brand, or your employees and your brand.
Stratten says, “All posts are your own and your business’. Don’t ask employees to put ‘All tweets are my own and not a reflection of my employer.’ Because they are.” Like it or not.
Again, act accordingly and ensure that your employees do as well.

Here are some examples of business using social media well:

T-Mobile on Facebook

SpaceX on Facebook

Jet Blue on Twitter

Oreo on Twitter

Oscar de la Renta on Instagram


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