[Posted on January 24th, 2015 by Carly Bevins]
Social media offers countless opportunities for the savvy business, whether they operate primarily online or off, with consumers or other businesses—but there are just as many traps as there are chances to succeed in the world of social networking. To make sure your business doesn’t put itself in a world of PR hurt, be absolutely certain to avoid these nine social media mistakes no business can afford to make:
1. Jumping into a trend blind
Few mistakes can become viral PR disasters quite as damaging as an ill-timed tweet or inappropriate like at a bad time. If you’re operating on Twitter, you don’t want to be jumping onto trending hashtags until you’re certain you know what they’re for—a failure to do a bare minimum of research has landed countless big-name brands in hot water, associating themselves with tragedies, political extremists, and worse. Don’t assume anything from the words in a trend or from a surge in interest that seems related to what your company does—investigate, and see why it’s getting so much attention, and whether you want to be associated.
2. Letting an intern shape your brand
Leaving your social media accounts to amateurs is a serious mistake—whether those amateurs are interns or just marketers uninitiated in social media, the traps remain the same. Social media has a tendency to provoke poorly thought-out, gut-reaction messages from even the savviest of individuals, which your non-experts most certainly are not. You don’t have to look far to see examples of major corporate Facebook and Twitter accounts being hijacked for political, religious, etc. messages not endorsed by the company. Maybe your image includes voicing your opinion on important matters, but it should be a decision by the company, not an intern’s momentary impulse.
3. Blatant shilling
When your social media accounts are blatantly for the purpose of making you money and not much else, no one is going to care. In fact, they might just form a more negative opinion of your company, for invading the social space with even more unwanted, unwarranted noise. No one cares what a company has to say, if all its doing is repeating its marketing messages in social form.
4. Muddying your branding
It’s easy to get too relaxed on social media and accidentally muddy your brand, introducing elements that clash with the image you intend to present. If you’re going for serious and professional, you don’t want to be dropping in funny cat pictures, even if they grab attention. If you’re going for casual and entertaining, you probably don’t want to be linking over to super dry white papers. Think about your brand, as you’ve developed it, and stay on message.
5. Damaging your authority
When you say something really stupid on social media, everyone is going to notice—much more so than if you say something wise and savvy. There’s more for audiences to gnaw on when a company gets something very wrong, so it’s quite easy for authority-damaging misquotes and mistakes to go viral. Control your message, and never say anything you’re not certain to be true and accurate over social media.
6. Engaging without knowing the lingo
Before you get to involved in social media, take the time to learn what terminology people are using, in the social network at large and in the relevant communities within that network. Sometimes specialized language shows up on Twitter or Facebook that you won’t see elsewhere, and acting without a firm knowledge of that language puts a barrier between interested users and your company—a barrier you can’t afford to build.
7. Moving too fast
When you act too quickly in social media, you make more mistakes, you may annoy your audience, and you lose the ‘organic’ appeal most companies prefer to leverage on social networks. Take your time and pace your output, even if you have a huge backlog of content—it’s not going anywhere, and posting it all as fast as you can won’t help you in the long run.
8. Making too much noise
Related to going to fast, you want to avoid saying a bunch of nonsense just to be active. A poor signal-to-noise ratio hurts the value of your social media accounts, as customers and prospects learn to tune out everything you say. When you post to social media, your posts should have something worth reading—all you do by shouting ‘Hey, we’re here!’ once per day is devalue your own social presence.
9. Offering too little value
The ultimate secret of using social media to your company’s advantage lay in displaying the value you can offer customers. When your posts don’t offer anything, people don’t expect your company’s products and services to be valuable either. Make sure to stuff your content full of real value, however, and people will begin to wonder—if they’re giving this much away on Twitter and Facebook, just how valuable are the things they expect us to pay for? That curiosity sells your company better than anything else, without any need for more straightforward sales approaches.
Any one or combination of these mistakes can spell dire results for your company, damaging your image with customers, prospects, and business partners. For this reason, it’s best to either take your time learning the waters of social media before acting, or engaging the services of an experienced social media/social marketing team like ZDS—you’ll get better results with far less risk of your social outings backfiring. Regardless of which route you choose, the most important point is taking social media seriously and putting as much control and effort into it as you would any other marketing channel.