Social media is like a conversation, but instead of talking to one person, you’re talking to thousands. In real life, when a conversation goes well, the other person walks away feeling like they like you more, like they trust you more, and if it’s a business context, they might walk away feeling like they’ll do business with you in the future.
Unfortunately, the opposite can also happen. People can walk away feeling like you didn’t understand them, that you weren’t looking out for them or that they don’t want to do business with you after all.
That’s exactly how social media works. If you do it right, you can make a fantastic impression on thousands of people. They can end up turning into buyers as well as referring their friends. They can end up hosting lively discussions about your products and becoming your brand’s ambassadors.
On the other hand, if you do it wrong, the opposite can happen. People can leave and never come back. People can bad mouth you. People can influence their friends not to buy or link to you.
So how do you create the former impression and not the latter? By avoiding common social media mistakes. Here are ten of the top social media mistakes to avoid.
Mistake #1: Not Proofreading
When you post on your own Facebook feed, typically you just come up with an idea and post it. The same goes for all your other social networks. You don’t have another person look over it to double check your posts.
That’s fine for personal social networking, but not for building a brand or a business. Let’s face it: When you write this spontaneously, there’s going to be mistakes. Maybe not in every tweet or update, but even one in ten is enough to do harm.
It might be misspellings. It might be something off brand that you didn’t realize was off brand. It might be a message that could alienate a part of your audience. It could just be bad grammar.
As the writer, it’s very hard to catch these things yourself. Have someone else look over your posts before they go live. It could just be a co-worker or a friend. You don’t need a professional proofreader, just get a second set of eyes.
Mistake #2: Not Claiming Your Profiles
Did you know that on many services, profiles can be created for your business by someone other than you? This can happen on Google Places, Yelp and Facebook just to name a few. Other people create your page for you so they can comment on your business.
If you haven’t claimed your business pages, you’re essentially letting the conversation run rampant. Wrong information, like wrong hours of business for example, can be put on the page. The page will also likely be incomplete. It might not have your website, your phone number or other important details.
Claiming your page is easy. Generally all you need to do is take a phone call at your registered number to verify that you are who you say you are. The whole process takes just minutes.
Mistake #3: Not Using Monitoring Tools
Being able to monitor everything that people say about your brand manually can prove quite difficult and time consuming. There will be times when you’re extremely busy and just won’t have the time to check your social media for days. Twitter especially is incredibly difficult to monitor because of the high volume of tweets.
If you just let people talk about your brand without carefully monitoring what they say, a lot of damage can be done. If one of your employees trips up and makes a mistake, people could start talking negatively about your brand instantly – And it can spread quickly.
What’s the solution? Use social media monitoring tools like http://www.twilert.com, for example. These tools will watch for specific keywords, like your brand name or your product names and alert you whenever someone says something about you.
You can then take a look at what they’re saying. If it’s something negative, you’ll be able to respond immediately to quench the fire. If not, you can still jump in and participate in the discussion.
Mistake #4: Over Promotion
Constantly selling, selling and selling is not the path to success on social media. Social media is all about connections. It’s all about creating content that people love so much that they want their friends to see it too.
People who focus on making direct sales instead of joining in the conversation are looked at with disdain. They’re treated as if they’re from outside the community, trying to leech value from those inside. People stop sharing your content, stop reading your content and will generally stop following your content.
It’s okay to sell every once in a while. But the overall tone of your feed or page should not be salesy. The overall tone should be a conversation. You should generally be providing value. Don’t over sell.
Mistake #5: No Calls to Action
On the flip side, you have businesses that don’t have any calls to action at all. Though this mistake isn’t as bad as over promoting, it’s still a serious mistake.
If you have no calls to action, you aren’t going to get people involved with your site or your business. Your Twitter followers will forever just be your Twitter followers, your Facebook fans your Facebook fans. They’ll never turn into subscribers, contest participants, customers or seminar attendees.
Yes, you absolutely want to avoid over promoting. But not promoting at all is also going to kill your business. If you want a positive ROI from you social media efforts, you need to occasionally leverage the goodwill you’ve built.
When you do so, make sure even your commercial offerings come from a place of value. You’re offering solutions to problems, though these solutions do cost money.
Mistake #6: The “I Don’t Have 1,000,000 Fans” Syndrome
People who’re starting new fan pages or new Twitter accounts often get discouraged when their rate of growth isn’t astronomical. You hear stories of people “going viral” on the web all the time. Because of these stories, people often have unrealistic expectations of what their Twitter or Facebook campaigns can realistically do.
Going viral is a one in a million occurrence. It’s rare and neigh impossible to plan for. Most people who go viral never expected it to happen, and most people who plan to go viral never actually make it.
The real success stories in social media tend to be the stories you never hear. You never hear about the page with 500,000 followers that took 3 years to build. You never hear about the Twitter account that brings in $25,000 a month but took 3 hours a day every day for the last 18 months to build.
The reality is, building a social media following takes work and dedication. If you get discouraged because you don’t have a million followers right out of the gate, you’ll never reach that tipping point.
Starting small is to be expected. Everyone starts small. Building a social media following doesn’t happen from an explosion of traffic – It happens through consistency.
Mistake #7: Checking Every Media, All the Time
Did you know that social media can actually change your brain chemistry? In Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows,” a 2011 Pulitzer Prize finalist book, he examines the intricacies of how the internet and social media affects the brain.
What he found was that social media is actually addictive. Not as an analogy or as a metaphor, but biologically, physically addictive. Social media users exhibited the same brain chemistry changes in their brain as actual addicts. The brain of a social media addict craves the same dopamine bursts that a cocaine addict’s would crave.
This inherent addictiveness of social media is the reason so many people get sucked in. To run a good social media campaign, you really only need to spend 30 minutes in the morning, 30 minutes in the evening and maybe 30 minutes in the middle of the day.
Yet people regularly spend all day checking Facebook, Twitter and email. Some people check it every 10 minutes. Some people check it every hour. Some people just keep it on all the time.
Not only is this unnecessary, but it actively damages your productivity. Spending hours and hours on social media will suck up your time, distract you from the rest of your business and hurt you in the long run.
Be deliberate about when you check social media and when you post to it. Avoid it when you’re not deliberately using it to move your business forward.
Mistake #8: Not Asking for Interaction
One common mistake social media marketers make is communicating one-way. If you’re only communicating one-way, your social media efforts are only going to go so far. Even if you’re sharing fantastic content, people just won’t be as engaged as if you solicited participation.
When you solicit participation, you get people to actively become a part of your social media experience. Here are a few different ways you can solicit participation:
- Ask a thought provoking question.
- Ask for feedback on an article, product or service.
- Start a controversial discussion.
- Host a contest.
- Ask them a trivia question.
- Ask for stories.
There are many different ways you can do it. The key is to ask people to actively participate.
Mistake #9: Not Responding to Messages
Social media marketers sometimes perceive personal messages as a nuisance. They might perceive it as people asking for free advice. They might also feel like their time is being infringed upon. Or they might simply not value building relationships in a one on one fashion. They’re focused on marketing to thousands, not on answering one person’s question.
That mindset is a mistake.
Strong social media fan pages or Twitter accounts are actually built on just a handful of strong connections. If you look at a Twitter account with 50,000 followers, you might find that the majority of those followers actually came from the retweets of just 20 people.
Those 20 people loved the content being put out so much that they became champions for that Twitter feed. They actively helped build it up to what it is today.
The people who ask you questions today will often become your biggest fans tomorrow. When you reach out and help someone one on one, they don’t forget. You can come back six months or a year later and ask for a favor in return and they’ll almost always say yes.
Social media isn’t built by the thousands. It’s built by one real connection at a time. When you respond to private messages, people know you really care. When you ignore them, they’ll generally leave and never come back.
Mistake #10: Lacking Focus
Your social media feeds should have a purpose. People aren’t following you personally, they’re following your business feeds. They want to improve their lives in some way.
For some, that might be discount codes. For others, it might be entertaining videos. For others, it might be useful content and innovative solutions to problems.
Know what your readers are looking for and give it to them. Your feed should have an overall purpose. Of course, it’s okay to stray a bit from your purpose from time to time. You can share great videos, off the cuff thoughts and tweets from others that you think they’ll like.
But at the core, your social media efforts should have a focus and a purpose. What should people get by following you? What experience do you want people who follow you for 3 months to walk away with?
Figure this out from day one to help you guide your marketing efforts.