Top Social Media Missteps: Are You Making These Mistakes?

There is no doubt that the rapid introduction of various social media platforms has dramatically changed the communication climate for businesses of all kinds. Whether you’re an independent consultant or author, work in a small “mom and pop” retail outlet, or a large multi-national conglomerate, social media is likely to play a part in communicating with key audiences. Unfortunately, sometimes the role of social media isn’t carefully considered. Messages are shared, but is anyone listening? Most importantly, are the right people listening?

We have the opportunity to speak at various conferences and interact with people representing a wide range of business interests. One of the common questions we hear is: “what are the biggest mistakes you see people making in social media?” It’s an important question—mistakes are being made all the time. What we find particularly interesting, though, is that the mistakes are really no different than mistakes made with any kind of communication channel. It just seems that because social media is so much more far-reaching, the impact is greater.

Here are the “big three” missteps that we see being made in social media:

  1. Choosing the “wrong” platform—a platform that is not widely, highly or regularly used by their target audiences. For instance, some businesses (e.g. manufacturing) may be challenged to gain traction with their desired audience via Facebook—yet LinkedIn might be a great platform. Conversely, a boutique owner hoping to connect with potential customers would be challenged to do this via LinkedIn, yet Facebook—or, increasingly, Pinterest—would likely work very well. Solution: do some research to determine the demographics/psychographics of those using the platforms you’re considering.
  2. Not having a narrow enough focus. The key to successful engagement via social media is the ability to share relevant and meaningful information with an audience. This means that the audience should be narrowly enough defined that your messages can be targeted appropriately. Be too general in your messaging and you will lose your audience (note: it may be appropriate to have more than one platform to connect with different audience segments). Spend time considering the audience, or audiences, that are most important for your business to engage with online.
  3. Being too “me/we-oriented.” While social media platforms can certainly be great marketing tools and can generate real results, the types of messages conveyed via social media are not traditional “marketing” messages. If you attempt to directly “sell” to your audience, you are likely to lose them. Instead, be committed to providing useful and meaningful information. A ratio of 3:1 can be a good rule of thumb—3 “they” messages to 1 “you” message (and be sure to keep that “you” message as a “soft sell.”

Want to “get it right”? Start with the end in mind. Before engaging in any communication activity, be certain to consider and clarify your goals and objectives (what will success look like?) and define, very specifically, who you are attempting to influence (your target audience). Everything else should flow from there.

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