Social media allows businesses to reach and engage a huge part of their target audience and make a positive impression on them. But a business can just as easily make a poor impression on their audience which could prevent them from becoming customers.
Let’s look at 14 common social media mistakes and what you can do instead to build a positive brand image and reach and engage with your audience.
Thinking social media is a magic bullet
To be honest, we don’t entirely blame you for this. We have seen too many self-professed marketing and social media gurus lead businesses to believe that all they need to do is set up a Facebook or Twitter page, send out a few tweets, and the customers come flocking in. That’s not how it works at all.
If used correctly, with a marketing plan and strategy, social media can increase your reach, generate leads and customers, and keep your existing customers happy. But it’s not a straight forward or fast process. It takes time, and the main reason for that is that the way people buy has shifted significantly.
Think about your own buying habits 10 years ago. You probably went to a shop knowing what you wanted, and perhaps the specific model depending on what adverts you might have seen, and picked up what was on offer.
Now, the buyer journey looks something like this:
- You have a problem or want
- You do some research, and talk to some friends, and identify the kind of thing you need to resolve this want or problem
- You do a bit more research; you carry out searches and begin looking at products
- You do a bit more research; you look at product reviews, see what customers are saying on social media
- You discover the brand’s social media pages and have a look at that, where you might follow an interesting looking link to a blog post
- You do some more research; you look around websites, maybe look at some more reviews, and begin comparing options
- You settle on what looks best for you in terms of your wants, the price, and reviews
- You buy
- You might choose to follow the brand on social media, keep up with their blog, sign up to their mailing list
- Maybe you become a loyal customer
And that’s a fairly simplified buyer journey. There are so many variables that can affect the length of the journey, or exactly how someone ends up at your website.
The point of you using social media is to help your target audience and existing customers by providing them with useful content, interacting with them, and solving customer service issues.
Using social networks your target audience don’t use
There are so many social networks around, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you need to be on all of the popular ones but that’s not true at all. You should use social networks that your target audience use.
Using Facebook because everyone else uses it and it’s the most popular social network is a waste of time and money if your audience don’t use Facebook.
Carry out research and look at what social networks are most popular with your audience and use those, instead of guessing what networks your potential customers are using.
Not completing your profile
The first thing you should do when setting up social media profiles, is complete your profile.
Include a company bio, your address, phone number, email address, website, opening hours, and anything else your customers need to know.
It’s easy to forget to add your website to your Facebook page, for example, but it can be a huge help to people who discover your brand through Facebook.
Imagine you are an independent book shop (or any kind of business with a physical presence) and someone discovers you through Facebook. They want to pop in tomorrow and want to know your opening hours. They go to your info tab and they can’t see anything about your opening hours, contact details, or your web address. Feeling that if you can’t be bothered, they can’t either, they open up Amazon, or Waterstones, and you miss out on business.
Poor images on your profile
After completing your profile, you should upload high-quality images that are the right size.
All social networks have different sized images, which can be a pain to keep up with, but when the alternative is distorted and poor imagery, it’s worth it.
Visually have an extensive guide to social media image sizes that’s worth bookmarking for reference.
- Make sure your images are clear and the right size
- Use PNGs if you’re uploading images with text to Facebook
- Apply consistent branding and style across all social networks you use
Not having a plan
Approaching social media with a spray and pray attitude won’t work.
Take the time to consider your audience, choose the right social networks to be on, set goals, and carefully think about the kind of content you will be producing for social media.
You can then use social media and monitor your efforts and adjust your efforts to see the best results.
Not tracking your results
As well as not having a plan, one of the biggest mistakes you can make on social media is failing to track your results.
Without looking at your results, your engagement, the number of visits social media is sending to your website, the number of leads and sales it’s creating, you don’t know whether or not what you’re doing is actually working.
If you track your results you can identify what is working and what isn’t working. You can then tweak the things that aren’t working to try and give you the results you’re looking for.
Automatically cross-posting to social networks
We get it, time is money and automatically cross-posting Facebook updates to Twitter will save you time. The only problem is, it looks scruffy and lazy.
Tweets are limited to 140 characters, which means that if you post a 160 character update to Facebook, it will get cut off on Twitter and will display a link to your Facebook page which people will have to follow to read the rest of the update.
Take the time to customise an update for each social network to make sure you’re getting the most out of it.
All you do is self-promote
Remember what we said earlier on about providing your customers with useful content? That’s what you should be doing on social media, not sending out a barrage of self-promotion.
It’s recommended that you stick to the 80 / 20 rule, where 20% of what you send out is self-promotional, while the other 80% isn’t.
“What on earth do I talk about then?” you might be asking:
- Share news stories that relate or resonate with your audience
- Share hints and tips for getting the best out of something that relates to your audience. E.g. if you’re a beauty brand, you might share tips for making lipstick last longer – it’s not a direct self-promotion, and it provides your audience with something useful
- Ask questions – find out more about your audience and their likes
If all you do is self-promote, you’ll turn people off and you won’t be able to grow audience.
Paying for followers / believing it’s all about numbers
You don’t have to search too hard to find a website willing to sell you a few hundred or few thousand likes for not a huge amount.
The number of followers you have is irrelevant if they aren’t engaging with you. It’s pointless having 10,000 followers, if the majority of them are fake accounts or aren’t engaging with you.
It’s better to organically grow your audience by sharing useful content and engaging with them.
Self-promoting in relation to disasters
Newsjacking is when a brand creates content that relates to a popular topic at the time. It can work well and increase their reach as they’re talking about a topic that a lot of people are interested in.
Here are a few examples:
- Cox Blue: What HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ can teach you about marketing your business
- Elite Daily: The 10 lessons ‘Breaking Bad taught us about running a business
- Marketing Profs: Five marketing lessons from Taylor Swift
- Inc: What Katy Perry’s business success can teach you about customers
However, there is a time and a place.
During Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, brands came under fire for offering money off beauty products and clothing.
It is never going to go down well if you try to profit from a disaster.
While we’re talking about butting in, trying to create a tenuous link between a popular hashtag and your brand / products / services won’t make you very popular either.
Hashtags are useful for helping people discover other individuals and brands talking about a topic they’re interested in. They are not for stuffing your products under the nose of people talking about something popular but completely unrelated to your product.
Furniture brand Habitat offered up the perfect example of hashtag hijacking in 2009.
Habitat sent out a series of tweets using hashtags that were trending at the time to increase the reach of their tweets. The problem was they decided to use completely unrelated, and distasteful, hashtags such as: #iPhone, #Apple, #TrueBlood, and even decided to get in on the Iranian election hashtag #MOUSAVI.
Needless to say, they were quickly called out for their behaviour, and offered an apology a few days later.
Poor customer service
For many people, social media is as another customer service avenue; users often feel they will get a faster response if they complain on social media rather than if they called or emailed the company.
Customers expect a fast response, and to do this you need to set out some rules:
- How fast will you aim to get back to people?
- Who will be responsible for replying?
- Have you got a customer complaints procedure in place?
- How often will you monitor social media for comments?
If you have a plan in place, you will be well prepared in the event that someone makes a complaint or has a query.
Customer service doesn’t have to be negative. As it’s another opportunity to prove to your customer that they made the right decision in spending their money with you. When it happens publicly on social media, it can improve your brand reputation by showing your care about your customers. If you fail to respond, or offer poor customer service, it can have the opposite effect as people viewing your social media profiles will assume you don’t care about keeping customers happy.
If you’re a business that carries out a lot of customer service on social media, it can be tempting to use blanket responses.
Customers don’t want to see a huge list of copy and pasted responses. It doesn’t make them feel like their concerns are being taken seriously at all.
Yes, it is faster to copy and paste a response. Especially if you’re a huge business that might even have a separate Twitter account for dealing with customer service. However, your customer service channels are an opportunity for you to delight your customers.
If a complaint, no matter how big or small, is dealt with well, you can actually make your customer feel happy about having chosen to spend their money with you. In turn, that can lead to recommendations because they recognise that you care about customers and making them happy even after they have purchased.
Review each tweet and try to personalise it in some way:
- Include the user’s name
- Acknowledge their problem
- Tell them who to contact, or ask further questions
The British Gas Help (@BritishGasHelp) Twitter team do a great job of responding to customers by personalising each response.
They use the person’s name, they acknowledge the problem, their responses are helpful. They create a sense of accountability by signing off each tweet with the name of the person responding.
Their responses come across as friendly, helpful, and positive. If you wanted to contact British Gas via Twitter and saw their feed, it would probably give you hope that your issue would be dealt with quickly and efficiently.
Ignoring negative comments entirely
It might seem easier to bury your head in the sand and ignore a negative comment. Especially if the problem is due to a mistake your business has made. While it might be easier for you, all it will do is frustrate the person who is complaining further and could damage your brand as they may tell people not to use you because of your poor customer service.
If you haven’t got a social media strategy in place yet, take a look at our blog post on creating a social media strategy that works.
Or if you need a helping hand with you social media, why not take a look at our social media services?