10 Rookie Mistakes Businesses Make In Social Media and How To Avoid Them

By: Tim Baker

Businesses are finally starting to realize that they need to be involved in social media if they hope to grow and sustain their company. Unfortunately, not everyone has a firm grasp on the basics. Here are ten of the most common “rookie mistakes” made by businesses engaged throughout social media and how to avoid them.

Avoid Cross-Posting
Cross-posting is the act of placing the same message throughout multiple outlets. I should clarify that cross-posting the same theme across your different social networks if perfectly acceptable, but not word-for-word duplications. Services such as Ping.fm that allow you to blast a message to all of your social channels with one click should be avoided. If you can’t take the extra two minutes to log into Facebook and post a more concise update to your followers/fans than you just did on Twitter, someone else in your organization should be handing social media outreach. Nobody likes to read Facebook posts with Twitter hashtags just like nobody likes to read incomplete tweets that are cut off after 140 characters.

Focus On Network Strengths
The beauty of the different major social networks is that they each do something really well. Twitter allows businesses to share quick nuggets of information, whether it be promotions, relevant links, company news or customer service replies. Facebook is wonderful for sharing news and multimedia content (photos/videos) as well as gaining valuable demographics data on your customer base. A well-written blog can humanize your brand more so than any presence on third-party social networking sites. Whatever social media engagement your business is using, focus on its strengths and exploit them as best you can. The brands finding the most success in a particular venue are doing this very well.

Balance
A large part in successfully engaging social networks for your brand is balance. Many often wonder “how often should I tweet/post to Facebook/blog?” Unfortunately, there is no set answer to that question, but there are some basic guidelines.

For many owners, they live, eat, sleep and breathe their business. It’s very hard for them to step back and view themselves through the same lens as the public. Don’t get too hung up on “am I doing this enough/too much,” rather ask yourself “is what I’m going to share something that will add value to my customers?” If you are not sure – don’t post it.

It is important to keep in mind that posting too much does more harm than not posting enough in most circumstances. It’s better to err on the side of caution in the beginning until you feel comfortable. Don’t go diving into the deep end until you know how to swim, but at the same time, you can’t learn to swim if you don’t get wet. As a starting point, here are a few goals to try and hit in the beginning:

Twitter: 2-3 Tweets/day
Facebook: 1-2 status updates/Day
Blog: At least 1 post every 5-7 days

Stop Focusing on the Numbers
This is a point that’s been covered to death by many but it bears repeating: when it comes to fans and followers, it’s quality and not quantity. One fan passionate about your business is worth more than 20 that aren’t. I know it’s hard to do as businesses love ROI and quantifiable numbers, but follower count is not a figure you should be living and dying over. If you want to obsess over numbers, look at your web analytics and see which networks are driving qualified traffic to your site.

Enable Comments On Your Blog
If you are blogging and don’t enable comments, you might as well not be blogging. Blogs are social tools and there’s few things less anti-social that someone on a soapbox that won’t take questions or comments from the audience. Blogs are an opportunity to humanize your business and connect with customers and the only way to connect is to offer an open line of communication.

Don’t Be “Markety”
Obviously the reason you’re engaging your business in social media is to market, and that’s perfectly acceptable. There are brands out there that post nothing by marketing messages on Twitter, Facebook and other channels. The problem with this is that these businesses are limiting themselves from the true power of social media marketing.

The reason brands like Zappos are so successful in social media is because they provide value to the community. Take a look at Tony Hsieh’s latest five Tweets:

Of these last five tweets, only one of them is related to the business. Tony is consistently providing information that is valuable to Zappo’s target audience. Find things that your audience is passionate about and offer content to enrich it. If you own a bike shop, tweet about new advancements in bicycle technology, upcoming races or the latest news in the world of biking. This content will be shared by others and before you know it, bicycle enthusiasts will start following you and become aware of your brand. This may very well lead to a new customer.

Weekends
Unlike many businesses, social media does not take a break on the weekends. I’m not saying you need to spend your entire weekends in front of the computer blogging and tweeting, but you should at least be checking-in, responding to inquiries and showing others that your brand never stops working.

Don’t Censor!
Social media can be scary for those that are new to the game. As many are aware, the Internet is full of people that love to complain. If you’re business is the target of negative comments, the worst thing you can do is erase and ignore them. Always be honest and respectful to commenters and never confront them. Obviously every circumstance is different, but one that that holds true is the cover-up is almost always worse than the crime. You may have an angry customer that will never frequent your business again, but by attempting to resolve their problem in a professional way, you can very easily gain the respect of others that see you truly to want to make the customer happy.

Don’t Overextend Yourself
Not every social network makes sense for every business. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you must be engaged. Start off with one or two outlets and work to grow them. Always remember, one really great blog is much more beneficial than a poorly-executed Facebook, Twitter and YouTube page.

Tell Us How To Find You
What good is all of your social media outreach if nobody knows where you are? If you want others to look at your Facebook and Twitter page with importance, show your customers that it’s important by linking to it on your company website. Tell us how to find it in your email signature, mailing list, business cards and any other location where you represent your brand. You’d be amazed how much these simple steps can help grow your following.

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