Social media marketing was once relatively new and mysterious and many just weren’t sure how to effectively use it. Today, it’s a much different story. The online world has changed dramatically and we see widespread use — and misuse — of social media by businesses all the time.
Organizations of all sizes and in all industries struggle to meet the challenge of using social media effectively to further their company’s goals. With constant changes, it is no wonder why. But understanding what works and what doesn’t and avoiding common mistakes will enable businesses to continually thrive. Below are some of the most common mistakes businesses make — as well as the No. 1 blunder.
Top Five Business Social Media Mistakes
Ineffective Distribution of Resources — Before the Internet, companies were the gatekeepers of information about their products and services. Companies spent the majority of their resources creating one-way marketing messages, such as newspaper advertisements and billboards. People who wanted information had no choice but to wait for what businesses pushed out to them. That has totally changed with social media marketing today. In fact, according to an article on Pynmts, “Eighty-eight percent of consumers pre-research their buys online before making a purchase either online or in-store.”
Consumers, now equipped with information to make better buying decisions, have the power position. That means businesses must focus on top-level sales funnel activities, such as awareness, interest and consideration, but in a responsive and interactive way. If a business is still spending the majority of its resources “telling” rather than holding conversations with consumers, its priorities are misaligned. Marketing resources need to be refocused to account for the shifts in consumer behavior and the competitive environment.
Businesses need to also consider who they are reaching with their messaging; it’s not just about the numbers. If a business has 10 million followers but none of them are people who are genuinely interested in engaging with its content, what’s the point? Although spending a little money to advertise on social media can help increase a business’s following, I adamantly discourage buying fans or followers (which often end up being spam accounts with no living, breathing people behind them).
No Concrete Plan — A business must have a social media strategy in place to get results. This first requires an understanding of the business and its marketing goals. Unfortunately, many business owners fail in establishing that foundation. Without clear goals, they don’t understand social media’s role in helping to achieve them.
To overcome that problem, it helps to answer the following questions: What’s important to your customers? What matters most to your team? What is the company vision? What are the core values?
Next, in planning the marketing, the business should consider: What is the message you want to convey? Who is the audience? Where is the audience? What do you want them to do? How will you create a message that will resonate with them? How will you measure the effectiveness?
From this process, social media goals can be distilled and established to support marketing goals through awareness, education, customer service, customer engagement and more. A social media plan should serve as a roadmap that lays out the channels, the content, integration with other marketing efforts and measurement methodology.
And that includes avoiding the use of the same formatting on every social media channel; because every social media channel has its nuances, businesses need to pay attention to audience preferences (length of content, frequency of posts, etc.) and platform limitations.
Failure to Launch — A social media strategy is only as strong as its execution. That requires dedicated resources — those who have the time, knowledge and interest in delivering the components of the plan. However, many companies delegate social media to an intern, an administrative assistant or a member of the sales team; in smaller companies, the implementation can be led by a spouse, a child or even a neighbor.
Inconsistency and ineffectiveness happen when businesses entrust their social media management to someone who is not equipped to handle it properly. The end result is no result. It’s a wasted effort.
Outdated Content Strategy — The amount of data on the Web is increasing at startling percentage rates. It is virtually impossible for us to consume the vast amount of content available today. So, how does a business break through the noise? One way is to acknowledge that content creation is only the starting point.
Content must be of high quality, it must be read and it must move (e.g., be shared) to be effective. Yet less than 1 percent of all content on the Web is shared, so how can a business move the needle?
Emotion is the key driver of social sharing. People who share content have an emotional connection to it. Therefore, it’s critical for content to speak to its audience so that people will share it.
Here, again, numbers are not the answer. In fact, there is such a thing as “too much of a good thing.” Posting multiple times a week via the LinkedIn long-form publishing platform, for instance, creates online visibility, but businesses should also keep in mind that when they generate an article, their connections usually receive a notification. Businesses that publish articles too often will wear out their welcome and annoy their LinkedIn contacts. Similar consideration should be applied to the “best practices” advice to post 10 or 20 (or 100) times per day. There are many factors to consider when deciding how often to post. On all platforms, relevancy, quality and consistency should be the top priorities.
And businesses may put a lot of effort toward creating content that goes viral. Yet, virility is rare — and usually short-lived. While viral content may provide a quick boost, it lacks staying power, most likely because content that goes viral is usually short, sweet and lacking in substance. Social media’s magic is in its role as a relationship-building tool — and strong relationships must be built over time and with repeat interactions.
Lack of Integration — Businesses that put social media in a silo miss out on experiencing its full potential. It needs to be integrated into a company’s overall marketing plan, with its website serving as the heart of its online marketing strategy. Businesses that don’t have a website need to get one. If they have a website that is not well-built, they need to rebuild it or make modifications to improve its performance. This is essential for companies that want to incorporate blogging and search engine optimization into their efforts.
Additional ways to integrate social media with other marketing tactics to attract an audience or strengthen a marketing strategy include adding social media icons or links to team members’ email signatures and business cards, encouraging social media connections via direct mail campaigns and print advertisements, and running pay-per-click ads.
Relying on social media alone is a risky venture, especially for small businesses. The more a company can synergize, the better chance it has of achieving its overall marketing and business goals.
The No. 1 Social Media Fail: Leaving It to Al
While automated marketing can supplement an overarching marketing plan, it shouldn’t be done to the point of overkill. Overloading people with too many messages on auto-pilot destroys trust. Unfortunately, technology has blurred the lines between what is “nurturing relationships” and “spamming.”
Robots will eventually have the ability to automate most essential marketing tasks — including algorithmic writing. And many clients will welcome relief from the time and effort it takes to develop blog posts.
However, the Web is already oversaturated with content and rapidly becoming more so. Because of this, each business needs to discover what makes it unique in the crowded and competitive online space. This involves finding its voice and showcasing the human element. While automating marketing functions is technologically possible, businesses cannot automate relationships. They must humanize their brands to build emotional connections and trust.
Social media is different from traditional forms of media, and it needs to be treated as such. Its ROI won’t be immediate, because success with social media hinges on forming relationships. That takes time, consistent effort and interaction. If it sounds like a lot of work — it is. But it’s worth it. As a business gains traction on social media, momentum accelerates (sometimes in exponential proportions), and the awareness and opportunities it generates can far surpass the value of the investment made to get that ball rolling.
Professional Reputation at Risk
Pet peeves for business professionals to avoid on social media include:
- Having a LinkedIn profile without a photo (or with an inappropriate photo).
- Leaving questions or comments unanswered on business social media pages . This can result in hard feelings and missed opportunities.
- Not proofreading social media updates before posting them. Posts riddled with poor grammar and typos look sloppy and unprofessional.
- Sharing inappropriate or overly personal updates on business social media sites. Consultants and other independent professionals whose personal and professional brands are necessarily one and the same should be judicious about what they share on their business accounts.
Rachel Strella is the founder of Strella Social Media, a social media management company serving dozens of clients nationally. She is a regular contributor to Small Business Trends and Social Media Today and has been featured in Forbes and numerous other major publications. She has delivered social media presentations to businesses, colleges, trade groups, etc. She’s also an avid blogger, with her award-winning blog (six awards) having more than 75 posts syndicated internationally.