Social media is a sexy way to promote your business, brand, or yourself. It seems like every company nowadays has a Facebook page, Twitter profile, Google+ profile, and so on. These pages are public platforms that give you the opportunity to expose your brand to a new audience, and get new fans and followers.
But they’re also platforms on which you can make mistakes — very public mistakes. These range from minor oversights to major gaffes. Either way, here’s a comprehensive list of the most common social media mistakes so you can be sure to avoid making them yourself.
Creating social media profiles
1. Ignore social media altogether
There are still people out there who think social media as a promotional tool is a complete waste of time. However, ignoring social media is a huge missed opportunity for so many reasons, but mainly:
- It’s a way for your audience to find you via search engines, as your social media profiles would appear there.
- People looking to form an opinion of you or your products will look for you on social media. It’s unavoidable. If you’re not present there, you won’t look “with it.”
- You’ll give people the opportunity to pretend to be you. This is especially a risk if you’re a celebrity, or the brand/business your promoting is yourself (e.g. consultants, public speakers, etc.)
2. Be on every social network
Again, it seems like every company has a page or profile on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine — I could go on here. But how many profiles is too many? Yes, it’s important to claim your stake on each profile and make sure that you’ve obtained the URL for your company name (for example: http://facebook.com/UStandOut). But if you try to have a consistently engaging presence on every social media site out there, you’ll burn valuable company resources that could be better spent elsewhere, or burn yourself out.
3. Don’t consider your audience
Instead of spreading yourself thin, focus on the social networks on which your audience spends their time. If you target business professionals, LinkedIn probably makes more sense than Pinterest. Conversely, if you’re targeting bride-to-be’s, Pinterest makes more sense than LinkedIn. The most valuable social networks to your brand will completely depend on your audience.
4. Think that having a profile on social media sites counts as social media marketing
Setting up your social profiles, adding your cover photos, and making the pages all pretty doesn’t quite cut it. Without regularly posting new content, your audience will have nothing to consume or engage with, so they won’t have anything to share/like/retweet, and they probably won’t bother following/liking your profile.
5. Assume your audience doesn’t use social media
I often hear the excuse, “My [prospects, fans, readers, etc.] don’t use social media. So I don’t want to bother.” Newsflash: 1.1 BILLION people have Facebook accounts. One out of every seven people on the planet have Facebook accounts. And that’s including regions in 3rd world countries where only 10% of the population use the Internet, and chances are if you’re reading this blog, that’s likely not your target audience anyway. Case in point: most of your audience uses social media.
6. Have a separate social media account for every division of your company
If you already have limited time and resources, you definitely don’t want to split your efforts and social reach across multiple social accounts on the same network. That’s just… nuts. And you’ll drive yourself crazy. For super large companies, like Disney who can split itself into Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Movies, etc., maybe splitting up your social efforts by division makes sense. But otherwise, it’s simply not worth the time and headache, and it makes it more confusing for your audience to know which is the right profile for them to follow.
7. Assume that social media is free
Many “social media experts” out there claim that one of the biggest benefits of social media marketing is that it’s free. If you want to do social media right, that simply isn’t the case. Even if you’re not paying for Facebook sponsored posts or Twitter ads, you’re investing your own time — and probably a significant amount of it — to set up your profiles, post new content each week, and engage with your audience. There is a certain amount of value associated with your time. You might also pay for some stock images to create visual posts, hire a proofreader to edit your upcoming posts, invest in a sponsored story to boost the exposure of an important update, etc. The best social media campaigns are never 100% free.
8. Create a personal profile instead of a company page on Facebook
Many people still get confused as to whether they should create a “profile” or a “page” for their company. They should be creating a page. This post explains the difference between a page and a profile, and why you should choose to create a page every time.
Designing your social media profiles
9. Don’t fit your logo into your profile image properly
If you’re using your own image as your profile picture, you’re either a tiny speck in the distance or you’re showing off your left eyebrow. If you’re using your brand’s logo, it’s cut off. Don’t make this mistakes — just follow these instructions to get it right on Facebook.
10. Leave your cover photos blank
Each social network usually has a big space for an image at the top of the profile called a “cover photo.” Even if you’re not a designer, it’s no excuse for leaving your cover photo blank. This makes your profile look incomplete.
11. Have inconsistent branding across social media sites
Once you decide which social networks to participate on regularly, make the branding of these profiles similar to your website. So many companies and entrepreneurs creating inconsistent logos, images, and messaging for their different profiles, their website, and their blog.
12. Don’t encourage visitors to “like” you
Providing an incentive to like your Facebook page will keep your users coming back for more. A great way to do this is to use a like-gate, a.k.a. reveal tab. Without liking your page, users won’t see your content appear in their news feeds. You’ll then lose valuable visitors who could have been loyal brand followers if you don’t give them a reason to like your page.
13. Automate fan growth
If you use tools that automate the process of getting more fans and followers, those people won’t be relevant followers. A lot of them will be bots or fake people. The rest probably don’t care about what your brand or company offers, so they’re not very likely to engage with your content. Also, when fans do engage with your content, their friends see your updates in their newsfeeds, so you have the potential to get more organic likes. But if you’re spending money trying to get 20,000 fans, and you stop spending cash, you might find it difficult to continue growing your fan base organically if the engagement % is so low.
14. Automate ALL of your updates
It’s a good idea to plan content for the upcoming week or month at once to make sure you have content ready to go. It can also save you some time to schedule these updates for the upcoming week or month using a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite. However, you shouldn’t get into the habit of scheduling all of your updates, otherwise you will be missing out on opportunities to post timely content. If there’s some big news in your industry, you should be able to create a last-minute update about it. So make sure to leave room in your publishing schedule for newsworthy items.
15. Send auto DMs to new followers
This is a huge pet-peeve of mine (and I’m sure many other people out there). Auto DMs is when you use a service like SocialOomph to automatically send your new followers a direct message, often including a link to your website. But this often has negative repercussions, such as immediately losing your new followers. In fact, Optify found that using auto DMs leads to a 245% unfollow rate.
16. Automate everything
The best social media marketers will create profiles that are engaging and interesting to their audiences. Automating your updates will take the human aspect out of these inherently social platforms.
17. The more you publish, the better
While you want to be consistently present, you don’t want to overwhelm your followers, or take over their entire news feeds. This will lead to them hiding or unfollowing you.
18. Only publish self-promotional content
Many companies use social media to talk about themselves. But social media should be about your audience and what they’re interested in. Nobody wants to follow a page that only posts press releases about their own company. Share helpful articles, tutorials, pictures, videos, and fun content that your audience will want to engage in. Then it’s OK to sprinkle in the self-promotional content that your audience would be interested in.
19. Publish the same update to all your social channels
Different segments of your audience will hang out more on different social networks. So what you post on Twitter, a more casual setting, might not be what you should post on LinkedIn, a more professional setting. So don’t automatically publish one piece of content to all of your social channels just to save time.
20. Outsource your social media
You know your company best. You also know your audience best. Outsourcing your social media to a freelancer or ad agency might not actually save you time, because you’ll be spending so much time going back-and-forth to get the messaging right — otherwise the messaging will suffer. Instead, hire someone internally if you need help, and that person can become an expert in your brand.
21. Let an intern manage your social media
It’s a wonderful idea to hire and intern to help with your social media outreach. But don’t let them manage your social channels right out of the gate. Your intern should prove him or herself to be a good writer, detail-oriented, responsible with your brand’s image, and a brand expert before being given the reigns.
22. Make typos or grammatical errors in your updates
Typos look very unprofessional. Someone who catches the typo will focus on the error instead of the actual content of your message. We’re all human, and typos WILL get out there from time to time. But it’s always best to triple-check your own work, and even have a colleague look at your update, before sending it out to the public.
23. Don’t use images in your updates
Visual content gets shared the most on Facebook. In fact, People are 44% more likely to engage with content on social media that contains pictures. Don’t be one of those brands that only posts text updates because you’re afraid to take the time to be a little creative.
24. Make personal rants on social media
Use your personal profiles to rant — never use your business profiles for that purpose. It looks very unprofessional.
25. Include trending hashtags in your updates hoping to be noticed
Your updates should all be relevant to your brand and your audience’s interests. So don’t include an irrelevant hashtag that happens to be trending now in your tweets hoping to get noticed. There are typically too many tweets using the hashtag to be noticed anyway, so you’ll only end up losing followers.
26. Forget to use hashtags at all
Conversely, hashtags are a great way to get noticed by people searching for content relevant to your brand. For example, if you’re a tech company who has reviewed the new iPhone 5S, include the hashtag #iphone5s so that people specifically looking for content about it will find your review.
27. Post only funny updates that don’t relate to your audience’s interests
On the opposite side of the spectrum, don’t only post funny or cute kitten videos from YouTube in an effort to get more likes and shares (unless you’re promoting a veterinary office or animal shelter, of course). If it has nothing to do with your brand, it probably doesn’t belong on your social channels. Keep your content relevant!
28. Post the same type of content over and over
The same type of content, such as text-only updates, or image-only updates, would get really boring after a while. Mix up your content. Post questions, images with captions, videos, polls, links, Instagrams, Vines, etc. Not only will your audience appreciate the variety, but you’ll get the chance to flex your creative chops.
29. Post about the same topics over and over
Similarly, you don’t want to bore your audience with the same content pieces over and over. It’s a good idea to share old blog posts to get new traffic to pre-existing content, but if you don’t have enough content to really mix it up, your social media streams will look really repetitive.
30. Copy others verbatim when you’re having trouble brainstorming
It’s smart to keep an eye on your competitions’ blog and social media updates — they may even help spark some new ideas. But it looks desperate and slimy if you copy all of the ideas in the post, especially if they posted the content recently — then it will be super obvious to them and followers of both of your brands. Straight-up plagiarism is even worse, but you probably know better than that.
Engaging with your audience
31. Don’t be consistently present
I am guilty of this all the time. When I get super busy with my day-job, often working 60+ hour weeks, I’m too drained to continue working on my own site or social media channels. And I always see the negative repercussions from this — my site traffic drops, my fan/follower growth slows, and I don’t post new content for fans to engage with. You may have found yourself similarly wishing for more than 24 hours in a day. To make sure you’re always present, dedicate at least 1/2 hour per day to post updates to your social media channels. Remember, you shouldn’t always post self-promotional content anyway, so you don’t have to feel obligated to create a new blog post or piece of content in order to share it. You can also share content that other people have created, funny posts you find, etc., as long as it’s relevant to your audience. If you neglect your social channels for too long, people will forget about you.
32. Disregard your audience’s opinions
Social media is inherently social. But many brands make their social channels a one-way conversion by only posting content and stories, without being engaging. They don’t ask their audience questions, they don’t reply to comments, and they continue posting content that doesn’t get any likes or retweets (meaning that their audience clearly isn’t interested).
33. Don’t ask questions to your audience
Asking your fans questions shows them that you care about their opinions. Many of the top brands on Facebook ask their fans questions all the time. It also helps mix up the content on your page. There are even clever ways you can ask fans a question while still promoting your own product.
34. Forget to humanize your social media presence
People want to connect with other people, not a corporate logo. Since you probably will use your logo as your profile picture, make up for it by giving your content a voice. Be friendly, witty (without being cheesy), and don’t be afraid to be a little silly. Oreos, Skittles, and Disney are great examples of brands that have added a human element to their updates.
35. Post content that fishes for engagement
To see what I mean, check out this amazing Facebook page: Condescending Corporate Fan Page. It brilliantly mocks the types of updates that fish for likes and shares.
36. Don’t bother monitoring for brand mentions
Sometimes people may mention your brand without using the @ functionality, so you won’t automatically see these updates. Set up a Twitter stream that monitors mentions of your brand or company name so you don’t miss out on conversation opportunities with your audience.
37. Don’t bother monitoring for competitor mentions
If someone complains about your competition, you’d want to know about it, right? Don’t forget to track what people are saying about your competition. You might jump into the conversation to try to help the disgruntled person, or just learn more about your own competitive advantages.
38. Ignore people who compliment you
You may not think that people who have good things to say about your brand need any extra attention, but you shouldn’t just ignore them. Take a couple seconds to say a quick “thank you.” Responding will make your fans feel special, and that’s worth a few moments of your time.
39. Ignore people who ask questions
Many people reach out to brands on social media as a means of receiving customer service. Ignoring questions will lead to frustrated and disloyal fans. So don’t just ignore questions, even if you’re unsure how to handle them. If you’re unsure, take a screenshot of the message and forward it along to someone at your company who could help.
40. Don’t bother creating hashtags for events or webinars you host
Having an official hashtag for a webinar is great way to encourage conversations to take place on the social networks. Your attendees might not have thought to tweet about the content of the webinar, but once they see the hashtag, they’ll realize that there’s a conversation out there that they can contribute to and make new connections from. Forgetting this step is a missed opportunity.
Dealing with negative responses
41. Ignore or delete negative comments to protect your brand
Don’t just delete any negative comments that crop up. If fans notice that they’re being censored, they will get angrier. The only types of posts you should delete are spam, all-cap rants, profanity, and repetitive bashing of your brand or another fan without sound reasoning. A heated debate is fine — you’ll know when your brand or a fan is being attacked.
42. Respond to every negative comment
You should offer an apology where appropriate. At the same time, you don’t have to respond to every single negative comment, particularly those that bash your brand without including a reason, or sounding logical. Your brand will seem more caring and genuine if you ask these posters to explain more about what’s bothering them, but don’t feel obligated to reply to every single rant or rave.
43. Delete your own posts that are getting backlash
Sometimes brands post updates that their fans don’t like or agree with, and people are happy to speak their minds on social media. Even if you regret the post and delete it later, it’s simple for anyone to screenshot the interaction and share it separately. So don’t delete the post to try to cover for yourself — that will only make matters worse and attract even more negative attention.
44. Don’t walk away when you’re angry
Certain brands have made the mistake of using their social profiles as a ranting outlet. In 2013 an episode of Kitchen Nightmares showed the owners of Amy’s Baking Company stole from the staff’s tips, fired over 100 people, and picked a fights with their customers who were in the right. Their attitudes ultimately drove host Gordan Ramsay quit the program for the first time in the show’s history. Backlash poured in on Facebook, Reddit, and Yelp, and the owners took their frustration out on their Facebook page, cursing at their fans and making truly outrageous outbursts. The owners later deleted posts like this and claimed their page had been hacked. But the screenshots had already been taken and posted to the web, so the damage had already been done.
45. Disable comments to avoid negative comments
The potential for negativity directed your way might seem scary. You might even be tempted to disable comments on your social profiles altogether to prevent these types of situations. But that would be worse. Engaging posts on Facebook are seen by more people, so you’ll be limiting visibility by disabling comments. Also, you’ll be missing out on all of those positive, appreciative comments you would have gotten, and usually outweigh the negative ones.
Paying attention to promotion details
46. Be insensitive
When major catastrophes occur, such as Hurricane Sandy or the Boston Marathon bombings, companies race to unschedule regular updates that are supposed to be published that day — otherwise, they’d be seen as insensitive. While you’d hope your audience would be forgiving — you might not be available to unschedule posts, or you might be too glued to CNN to remember — this usually isn’t the case. People race to post comments to your regularly programmed updates like “who cares right now?” So if you go the route of scheduling posts in the future, make sure you will be available on those dates to edit or unschedule those posts if necessary.
47. Promise promotions that don’t really exist
Sometimes, social media teams get so excited to get likes and shares that they forget to coordinate with the rest of their companies, and promote offers that don’t actually exist yet, or aren’t ready for a public announcement. For example, in March 2013, Taco Bell announced to its 9.8 million fans that their new Cool Ranch tacos would be available a day earlier than expected. The post got “Liked” more than 90,000 times before fans got to their local Taco Bell to find that the Cool Ranch tacos weren’t available. Turns out, they were only available in specific locations, which the Facebook post failed to explain.
Measuring your results
48. Assume that you can’t measure social media
It’s true — it used to be very difficult, if not impossible, to measure the results of your social media efforts… six years ago. Now, the social networks themselves often provide dashboards where you can measure your results, like Facebook Insights. This reports let you measure anything from fan growth to the engagement of each post.
49. Don’t measure the results of your updates
You can tell the brands that don’t measure their results. They’re the ones who always post content that gets little to no engagement. Brands that measure their results will know which posts don’t work, and will know to avoid those in the future.
50. Use fan and follower growth as your most important metric
While it’s exciting to see the number of Likes on your fan page increase over time, engagement is a more important metric. If you have 20,000 fans and only 1% of those engage with your page on a regular basis, that’s only 200 fans regularly commenting, liking, and sharing your content. If you have only 1,000 fans, but 40% of them engage with your page on a regular basis, that’s 400 fans regularly commenting, liking, and sharing your content.
What would you add to the list? Share your thoughts in the comments below!