Are You Making These Social Media Marketing Mistakes?

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Social media marketing is simple, right?  All you have to do is log on, chat with a few people in your industry and watch the hordes of hungry buyers come streaming back to your website, right?

Obviously, social media marketing isn’t that simple – though you might have guessed otherwise from the way some companies treat their social presence.  To ensure that you’re getting the maximum return on your social media marketing investment, steer clear of the following mistakes in order to create more engaging – and more profitable – interactions:

1 – Talking all business, all of the time

If the reason that posting nothing but business updates is a bad idea for your company’s image isn’t immediately obvious to you, take a second to think about the way you use social networking websites in your personal life.

You don’t log on to check in with your favorite companies – you open up Facebook or Twitter to check for updates from your friends, web-stalk your exes and find adorable cat videos to waste hours of your life with.  In fact, if you do see any corporate promotions, odds are you give them only a cursory glance before moving on to the next overly-emotional rant from your favorite social network drama queen.

As a result, businesses that post nothing but company-related updates completely miss out on the interpersonal dynamic of these social sites, causing them to appear out-of-touch or too self-promotional.  To avoid this from happening, mix personal updates in with your professional posts in order to engage readers who are more used to seeing light-hearted messages on these social sites.

2 – Going too far off the personal end

Of course, with that said, you don’t want to go too far in the other direction either.  Social network users want the companies they follow to have their own personal voices – but they don’t want to hear about how frustrated you are that your spouse never takes the time to fold the laundry once it’s dry.

To prevent yourself from getting too personal, imagine that every one of your social media interactions is taking place one-on-one with your customers at the checkout counter of a brick and mortar business location.  If you wouldn’t tell casual shoppers what you’re about to post as a status update, you might be looking at a message that’s too personal for your business accounts.

3 – Relying on one type of content

So, you’ve recently read that infographics are the most shared pieces of content on social media websites.  That’s great, but don’t go all out and start sharing only infographics with your social networking followers.  Not only will your readers burn out on seeing the same type of content from you over and over, you’ll get burned out of posting these repetitive messages as well.

If you usually post text updates, mix things up with an image post or link.  Or, if you share nothing but messages announcing your newest blog posts, try shaking up your profiles with an infographic or video post.  Your audience will be grateful for the variety!

4 – Being slow to respond to social media messages

Social media is referred to as a “conversation” because it includes a certain amount of back-and-forth.  So if you post something and then fail to reply to any responses you receive until the next day, you’re preventing this central tenet of social media marketing from taking place!

Now, I’m not saying that you need to spend all day, every day, waiting around on Twitter or Facebook for your followers to respond to your messages.  Most days, you can manage your social profiles in ten minutes or less, but on the days that you publish thought-provoking updates, check back in every so often to reply to any comments you receive.

5 – Talking without listening

Of course, being slow to respond to social media messages is only an issue if you take the time to do so in the first place!  An even bigger problem is never responding (which is the social media equivalent of being the annoying guy who stands on the street corner shouting out Bible verses, even though nobody’s listening).

“Talking without listening” on social networking websites gives the impression that you’re only participating online for the purpose of profiting off of your followers.  And while this may be true on some level, social media users are incredibly sensitive to people they perceive as ripping off the community.  Eventually, they’ll tune you out – causing your token social media marketing efforts to fail to produce the financial impact you initiated them for in the first place.

Instead, use your corporate social media profiles in the same way you use your personal accounts.  Reach out to people, share funny things and ask interesting questions – don’t simply log in and assume that posting a certain number of times will result in higher profits for your company.

6 – Failing to exercise your sense of humor

Social media is an inherently social medium – and nobody wants to hang out with the one guy at the party who can’t stop talking about serious topics!

Have some fun with your social followers instead.  To see how one corporation pulled this off, take a look at the following Twitter conversation that occurred between Smart Car representatives and a user who insinuated that a single bird dropping totaled one of the company’s miniature automobiles:

Image: Forbes

Now that’s how you blend humor into a corporate profile effectively!

7 – Sharing other peoples’ content without giving credit

On social media websites, the concept of copyright laws becomes somewhat blurred.  People share viral images every day without a thought in the world to providing proper attribution to the picture’s original creator.

However, it’s one thing to do this as a personal social media user.  As a business owner, violating copyright protections puts your company at risk for legal action, as you’re presumably using these copyrighted materials to advance your company’s commercial objectives (aka – make a profit).  This leaves you in a far more tenuous legal position than you’d face as a guy who simply shared a funny picture with his buddy.

Instead, take the time to familiarize yourself with the basics of the Creative Commons licenses and do your best to provide proper attribution whenever possible.  If you make a mistake and do receive a DCMA notice (which is typically the first indication that you’ve misused copyrighted content), comply with any and all requests immediately in order to avoid more serious consequences.

8 – Posting statistics without ensuring they’re legit

Here’s one of the biggest problems with the internet…  It’s incredibly easy for misinformation and incorrect statistics to spread, simply because they can be packaged attractively and because most casual social media users won’t take the time to verify their sources before passing on erroneous images.

And again, as a personal user, this doesn’t matter too much (as long as none of your friends take pleasure in posting Snopes links on your profile to disprove your status updates).  As a business, though, posting statistics that are either one-sided or outright incorrect diminishes your brand’s reputation – causing you to look foolish in the eyes of your followers.

The obvious solution here is to check your sources before posting anything to your profiles that involves facts or statistics.  It’s more work than simply hitting the “Share” or “Re-tweet” button, but those few minutes of extra effort could prevent your company from some seriously embarrassing moments.

9 – Mistaking follower stats for engagement rates

Finally, one of the biggest social media mistakes you can make is to think that the number of followers you’ve managed to acquire on any given social networking website constitutes “success” for your marketing efforts.  Simply having followers doesn’t mean much for your brand unless these users actually click through to your website and take some action that results in a better bottom line for your business.

That’s not to say that the relationships you build on social networking websites are worthless – certainly, there’s value to be had when it comes to improving your brand’s reputation in this way.  However, if you only ever engage with your followers on social networking websites and never ask them to take further action with your company, you’re wasting a lot of time on social media websites without the improvement in ROI needed to justify these hours.

At the end of the day, it’s important to treat social media marketing as another tool in your company’s promotional arsenal.  While there are right ways and wrong ways to use these services (as described above), the final valuation of how effective these techniques have been for your company shouldn’t come from vanity metrics like your number of followers, but from the concrete influence your social interactions have had on your overall sales and profit.

Image: misteraitch