Social Media Mistakes that Businesses Make

I was recently interviewed by a journalist for a piece for a business trade publication on the common mistakes made by businesses when using social media. It’s a great topic and one that could easily be expanded to the broad range of communication tools in general because the same types of mistakes occur in old as in new media.

Focusing specifically on new media– in this case social media– though, I shared with the reporter some of the common missteps I see as I work with clients and as I analyze social media usage while online.

First, and foremost, and this may be somewhat counterintuitive, but one of the biggest mistakes that many businesses–large and small–may make is using social media in the first place! Despite its popularity it is not for everyone. Much time and effort can be squandered by businesses that think they need to be active in social media. That waste is really twofold because, if not relevant, time spent online could have been spent pursuing other, more impactful, communication efforts.

With any communication initiative, the first questions that marketers must ask are:

  1. What are my objectives? (what results do I wish to see?)
  2. Who is my target audience?
Armed with this information they can then begin to determine whether various social media channels are right for them–or not.
Other mistakes that I’ve seen:
  • Using the number of followers/friends/fans as a barometer for social media success. It’s not so much about the numbers as it is the quality of the connections you have and the degree to which your followers/friends/fans are engaged with you in relevant discussion (relevant in terms of your original objectives). I’ve audited many social media sites to find that the majority of those connected are either employees. other organizations/individuals trying to “sell something,” or spammers. Only real followers count and, then, they only count if their engagement leads to desired results.
  • Not being active enough or consistent enough to create conversation. Posting sporadically and not engaging in interactions with those who are following/friending/fanning you is another common problem. Engaging effectively with social media requires an up-front commitment to be active on an ongoing basis.
  • Selling more than telling. Social media is about sharing useful information widely and freely. It’s not about–or should not be about–blatantly attempting to sell your products or services. Instead, small business marketers should be attempting to provide valuable information to their audience (again, based on their objectives and their understanding of their specific target audience’s needs and interests).
Those are just a few of the “big rocks.” Check out our many other blog posts on the use of social media.

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