Back to Basics: 6 Social Media Mistakes Everyone Is Making

people holding up their smartphones with social media in a circle
people holding up their smartphones with social media in a circle

Social media is a big opportunity for most organizations, whether they are B2B or B2C, or whether they operate online or from a physical location. And while the theory of social media is simple (i.e. if I write great content, people will be able to engage with it), execution is not quite as straightforward.

Creating and maintaining a social media presence without a clear plan or budget could result in mistakes and a social media fail. Some social media mistakes are so common that nearly every digital marketer and business owner has made them at some point.

What are these mistakes? Here are some common mistakes that are made on social media that you should do your best to avoid:

1. Pretending all social media platforms are the same

To the novice social media marketer, all social media platforms may look the same. Most users have profiles and post status updates, thoughts, complaints, photos of their food and links to their favourite sites. And videos.

But it would be unwise to treat all social media platforms the same because they aren’t. Each channel targets different demographics and some of them also function very differently. YouTube, for example, is for posting videos, and Instagram is the best site for posting pictures.

With this in mind, you don’t want to spread yourself thin by being present on all social media platforms. Rather than creating accounts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube, you should focus your efforts on one network to start with – the one where you are most likely to engage your audience. Also, is your audience interested in your content across all the social networks? Are you sure? All of them?!

Typos and grammar will also happen on social media, but when they do it distracts the user from the message which you are trying to communicate. So avoiding them will help your message resonate.

2. Not having a plan and company-wide social media policy

If you don’t know what you want to achieve with social media, how can you possibly hope to achieve it? Do you want your account to drive traffic, entertain, be a customer service channel, be a PR platform, or something else?

Also, there’s a pretty solid chance that nearly every one of your employees is on some type of social media platform. Whether they’re posting on Facebook or blogging, they’re talking, and they might be talking about your company.

Nothing is ever truly private on the Internet, even on a private social media account. Some things that your employees post or share may end up coming back to bite you, especially if they’re talking about product or service plans. If your employees are bad-mouthing your company, it also makes you look bad, even if your employees were actually at fault. The court of public opinion on the Internet doesn’t care much for fact.

Establish a company social media policy and ensure that everyone reads through it and signs it. Outline what is appropriate to post and what is not appropriate, and when you’re discussing a new product or service launch, make sure your employees know that discussing it on social media will be considered a breach of contract.

3. Always selling, and ignoring messages and complaints

Social media is all about engaging the end user–and nothing disengages people more than selling all the time. That’s not to say that you can never sell, you just need to earn the right by posting other non-sales content. And make sure you pick your moment carefully, unlike these guys.

All social media sites have a way to send and receive personal or direct messages, and they allow other users and brands to tag one another. Users can also write on your business page’s Facebook page or tweet at you on Twitter. While the majority of your feedback will probably be positive or neutral, you may face some problems with complaints from users who are upset with your company.

The worst thing you could possibly do is ignore them. It comes off as cowardly to your followers and it makes you look guilty by default.

For every complaint you receive, you have the opportunity to turn the complaint into a positive experience and show your customers that you do care. Address the problem directly and make it clear that you are sorry and want to rectify the situation. Never engage in an argument or try to win it. If a customer gets out of hand and begins using foul or rude language, simply tell the user that you will message them privately to discuss the issue further, but you will not continue this discussion in the comments section. This shows you have control of the situation, and though you care, you’re not willing to sink down to a verbal argument.

4. Not taking advantage of social media marketing tools

Most of the big social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Pinterest—have their own marketing tools that businesses can use to reach out to new prospects and retarget lost visitors. To some marketers though, ignorance is bliss, and they’d rather not mess with social media advertising and concentrate on Google Adwords.

Analytics packages for the 3 ‘old’ social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are pretty good to help you learn more about the data of your presence on each platform. You should invest time looking at analytics to see where you could improve your social media offerings. And if your social media accounts drive traffic to your website, then it makes sense to continue posting. Checking your web analytics will also give you insight into which social channel converts to page views.

With Facebook advertising, for example, you can post advertisement banners along the sides of the newsfeed and promote your website, an offer or even an upcoming webinar or trade show. You can search for users with Facebook Audience by their geographical location, age, gender or even hobby, which will allow you to put your hand directly into the hands of those who need them the most.

5. Focusing on the quantity of likes and follows rather than the quality

Take a look at the number of Facebook or Twitter followers you have. How many of them are actually customers of yours? There are a million reasons why a person might like your page, but just because they liked your page doesn’t mean they want to buy from you.

At the end of the day, social media is about building customer relationships so that they will want to buy from you, but if you message is going out to people who never wanted to be your customer in the first place, then you’re wasting your time and efforts.

Remember, a “like” doesn’t equal a sale. Focus on building brand loyalty and awareness with the real customers who are connecting with you on social media, and you’ll be more likely to convert followers into buyers.

Also, don’t buy followers. It never works. Ever. And it completely defeats the whole point of social media. You should be focused on your reach rather than your audience size. Just because they are following you, doesn’t mean they are listening. And if you buy followers, they are not listening and most likely, not real people.

6. Overdoing your posts

With all the cool things you can do on social media, there are those who get just a little too wrapped up in it. If you’re guilty of a few of these overdoing-it crimes, check yourself before you wreck yourself.

You should consider your audience when you are posting. Would they be interested in what you are saying? If you are using one platform to talk about your business, your sports team, your family, and your politics, you are getting it wrong. You should focus on posting about one topic and do it brilliantly.

The number of times that you post per day should also differ by social network: the lifespan of a tweet is far smaller than the lifespan of a Facebook post, for example. So, spend some time working out what frequency you can commit to and dig into your analytics to find out when your audience is most likely to be online – this will maximize your reach.

Posting too frequently: There is definitely some merit to the saying, “Too much of a good thing.” Even if your followers like your posts and engage with them, posting too frequently may result in a few unfollows. Post no more than two or three times a day, if necessary, and try to space out your posts.

Liking too frequently: As a business, you shouldn’t really be liking your followers tweets or posts unless they specifically mention you or your product or service.

Posting too much through automation: Automation tools are great for helping you post at times when you can’t be at a computer, such as in the middle of the night, but most social media sites will mention when posts are made. Your followers will know when it’s a robot talking to them. Sprinkle in real-time posts with your automated posts to assure your readers that you’re authentic and a real person.

Also, don’t overuse hashtags.

They are a powerful tool and with great power comes great responsibility. Use hashtags in moderation and don’t overload your post with them. It makes reading the actual message very difficult, especially if it is long #longhashtagssimplydontworksodontdoit.

If you know you’ve made one or two of these social media mistakes before, then you’re in good company. Now that you know what not to do, you can focus more on what you should be doing: starting conversations with your followers.