When Social Media Best Practices Go Wrong

Social media is undoubtedly one of the most exciting, and most frustrating, fields to work in. We’re constantly given new opportunities to improve our skills, knowledge and abilities, while being forced to rethink what we do, how we do it, and, most importantly, why we’re doing it.

In short, we can’t stop getting better and frequently question whether what we’re doing is really the best option. (tweet this)

It seems like every time we nail down a new process or tactic, we’re knocked off our feet by a new announcement, feature, or change in policy from one of the channels we spend a lot of time working on. Aside from these constant changes pushing us to the edge of insanity, they can also make it nearly impossible to keep up.  That’s when good habits turn to bad habits and great tactics turn into wasted efforts. Below you’ll find some of the bad habits I see most often, why they’re actually ‘bad’ and how to break them.

1. You Haven’t Tested Post Types in a While

How it started: When Facebook went through its first visually focused redesign, they gave image posts the majority of the newsfeed and timeline (or page wall, depending how far back you go) space. They also made link posts extremely unattractive and unnoticeable. As a result, engagement skyrocketed for posted images and became nonexistent for link posts. Marketers acted on this change and shifted their strategy to be primarily driven by visuals.

Why it’s bad: Facebook recently started rolling out larger image previews for link posts. I’ve tested this with multiple clients and found that in many cases they’re performing as well for engagement and better for driving traffic. On top of that, the initial reach for link posts tend to be high above that of image posts. This is most likely due to Facebook’s most recent changes in its newsfeed algorithm, which are meant to highlight more “newsworthy” content. In short, image posts might not be your best option if you’re trying to drive traffic and leads.

How to fix it: Start testing post types again. Every audience is different, so there’s no solve-all option that I can give you today. Start mixing in video posts, text posts, images, and link posts. Send the different posts out at different times and track how they perform over time. You’ll either confirm that images are the right choice or discover a new opportunity for a more diverse mix of Facebook posts.

Social Media Expert, Mari Smith, has great ideas on things to test. 

Here’s a great summary of other recent Facebook updates you need to consider.

2. You’re Not Re-Engaging Your Fans

How it started: It’s easy to go “data blind” when you work in social media. You need to consider a lot of numbers for how you measure your success. Instead of looking at the value of individual engagements, we started looking at graphs and numbers. Instead of seeing the people on the other end, we started seeing social actions.

 Why it’s bad: In business terms: You’re earning one-time buyers instead of lifetime customers. You’ve lost focus of “customer retention,” and, more importantly, the main reason people use social media—to engage with others.

How to fix it:

 Facebook: Start tracking your engaged fans and followers. Keep a list of the people who actively engage you and reward them with a little recognition or even a gift card.

 Example: General Electric sent me this book because I was really excited about its partnership with Quirky and I told people about it. GE noticed my Batman shirt in my Twitter pic and took the time to find a gift that would mean something to me personally.

Twitter:  Start adding everyone who engages you to a list, and monitor it. Make it a goal to engage 3-5 people on that list every day.

Pinterest: Invite your more loyal followers on Pinterest to contribute to a secret board and be sure to engage with their recent activity as often as possible.

See more tips on Pinterest.

 Google+: Add them to a new circle and share some posts exclusively with them. If you have the time to commit, you can also create a closed community around a shared interest.

Instagram: Look at what your followers really like and take a photo just for them. You can mention them publicly or take advantage of the new direct messages.

 3. You’re Spread Too Thin

How It Started: You either felt guilty because you weren’t using a popular social network like Instagram or G+, or you felt like you were missing out on one of the new buzzworthy social channels like Snapchat. Even though you didn’t have the resources, you went ahead and started an account and increased your workload.

Why It’s Bad: Instead of really putting the time and energy into being successful on social networks with the most opportunity, you’re spending all your time doing basic maintenance between all the channels you had to have a presence on.

Note: Yes, there’s a benefit to putting time into most of the bigger social media networks, but the time has to come from somewhere and you need to be sure that you’re maximizing the time-to-benefit ratio.

How To Fix It:  You really have two options:

  1. Perform an audit of your social media efforts to date and identify which channels have provided you (or your business) with the most value. Find some good starting points for social media metrics here.

  1. Get more help. Despite what people say or think, social media management is a full-time job. In fact, it can be multiple full-time jobs. Some of the best social brands have entire teams behind the helm, and they have the numbers to justify it. Figure out what your strengths are and what you’d like to focus on. Then, find someone who can excel at the things you’re struggling with. Start here, if you decide to go this route.

4. You’ve Hit a Plateau

How It Started: You started strong with some great growth and engagement. You figured out exactly what your audience wanted and how they wanted you to give it to them and all the important numbers went up, until they weren’t. Now, you’re still running that “perfect” system but not getting any new or improved results, but you keep using the same method.

 How To Fix It:

Step 1. Hand it over to someone else. Our team is encouraged to “trade” clients temporarily anytime someone feels like he’s stuck (or if the results say so). Often, a new set of eyes and a different thought-process can open hundreds of new doors worth testing and exploring. If you don’t have a team to trade with, try buying a colleague a cup of coffee and ask them what he would do.

Step 2. Take your offer beyond content. Quality content that entertains your audience while providing them with direct and applicable value is a good start, but it’s not enough. Remember, you’re developing relationships, so both the conversation and the engagement need to go both ways. If you want them to take a more involved interest in you, you may need to do the same. Try asking your fans questions like “What would make your life easier right now?” and reward the people who take the time to answer. Take a cue from the GE example I mentioned earlier.

Step 3.  Keep stepping forward. A lot of businesses and brands run contests or giveaways to increase engagement or fan growth. What they tend to overlook is that the benefits of those efforts only last temporarily, so if you start doing something that to increase the expectations your fans have, you had better darn well keep it up.

5. You Think All Your Fans Are You

How It Started:  Social media requires you to think and act on the fly, so you usually only have a small window of opportunity to try out your “great idea.” You go ahead and run with it, because you know it’s gold, and you even put a little money behind it. It works just enough to validate your idea, so you get more comfortable with making these calls based of what you think is a good idea. Soon you find yourself staring at a “perfect” post/idea/plan that isn’t working and wondering where you went wrong.

How To Fix It: Step out of social. Talk to your sales team or other members of your marketing department to get insight into who your customers really are. Then, cross check that with your social data. With any luck, you’re data will be close to theirs and you can use some of their qualitative insights to identify new tactics to test. If your social data is completely off the mark and your fans aren’t converting, you need to develop a new strategy moving forward. Here are some things to think about for that strategy.:

  • What have I been doing wrong?

  • What does “right” look like, based on the information I have?

  • What variables do I need to test out right away?

  • How can I gain access to the RIGHT users?

  • What do I need to do differently to engage the audience I actually want?

These are just a few bad habits that can be picked up by new social media marketers or seasoned experts. Without actively reviewing your goals, your strategy, and your results you’re likely to fall into a routine. While routines aren’t a bad thing, they keep you from focusing on one of the most crucial elements of social media, real time actions.

Social media requires you to be focused, flexible, and fast. If you’re doing something simply because it needs to be done you’re probably not doing it as well as it should be done, and you’re probably not getting the best ROI possible.

Here are a few things you can do regularly to keep yourself, or your team, from running on social media autopilot:

Review Your Analytics Regularly

You can find a lot of information out there about what you should be doing but every audience has unique behavior traits that can be identified through your insights. Review analytics across all of your channels to make sure that what you’re doing is actually working for your audience.

Note: Here’s what to do if you find out that your social media isn’t working.

Our (mainly) team uses: Buffer Business, Sumall, Facebook Insights, Tailwind, Followerwonk, and TweetReach 

Test Something New

Just because it was ‘best practices’ yesterday, doesn’t mean there’s not a better way today it today. Even counterintuitive tactics can yield impressive results and change your entire approach to a specific channel or to social media as a whole. Try putting a little more time into a social network that you may have deemed ‘worthless’ in the past, or try doing something completely different on the channels you think you have figured out.

Review Your Goals

Set up a time to meet with your team and your managers to make sure that the goals you’re focusing on right now are still the best way for you to help the company. While it seems like a no brainer, it’s very common for different departments of a marketing team to have varying perceptions of what’s most important to the company and who’s responsible for what. This will also give you a chance to see what else is going and how you might be able to play a more vital role in the bigger marketing picture. Just make sure that any strategy shifts start with the right focus. 

Make Sure You’re Tracking Everything

Do you know how many conversions your team is directly responsible for? Are your conversions separate from the conversions coming in through paid social ads? Do you know how valuable each social channel’s following really is?  There is data that can be gathered to give you a better understanding of how well you’re actually doing and there’s data that can skew that perception. Make sure you’re tracking the right numbers and make sure you know exactly what they mean and how to act on them.

Look At Your Best Competitors

Any business that sells a comparable product or service to the same or a similar customer base can be considered a competitor when it comes to social media. Take a look at what they’re doing and what’s really working and think about how you can capitalize on that information with the resources you have. In this case you’re looking for inspiration, not a direct comparison. If they’re bigger they probably have more resources dedicated to their social efforts. This means that they have the ability to test more tactics more often and keeping an eye on them may save you the time and effort of doing it yourself.


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