Social media is a blessing and a curse.
It’s easier than ever for people to directly connect with a brand and submit complaints. Social media also makes it easier than ever for brands to get widespread attention for a seemingly small mistake.
But we don’t want that to happen to you.
Here are eight of the top social media marketing mistakes to avoid, what to do instead, and examples of brands who learned their lesson the hard way. By avoiding these mistakes, you can make social media work as a valuable tool for your brand to grow awareness, build a loyal fan base and most importantly, grow business.
1. No content strategy
To implement a good social media strategy, you need a content strategy. These four factors can help you begin to develop a plan for content creation:
Who are you writing for? Knowing your audience will help you narrow down the kind of content to write. Content Marketing Institute shows a great example of how a paleo foods company did just that. Because they’re targeting an audience who is already knowledgeable about the diet, they scrapped ideas for paleo newbies.
What’s your story? Every blog and social media post is just one frame in your brand’s story arc. Consistency in both quality and voice establishes a firm identity, one that your audience will be glad to get to know (and hopefully love!). Creating a core strategy statement will help your content team maintain this consistency.
What’s your brand’s personality? Determine how you want to communicate with your audience by assigning a voice and tone to your brand—whether you want to be more like the class clown or the straight-A student. Whatever you decide, it should reflect who your brand is, and how you want your audience to perceive you.
Share useful stuff: Rather than spamming your audience with sales pitches and products, teach them something that they can use in their day-to-day life. From a listicle to a thought leadership piece to an interview, produce content that will benefit your reader. Don’t worry about going viral – in fact, that’s a pretty unrealistic goal. Focus on providing value to your audience.
2. Not scheduling
Posting frequency requires a delicate balance.
You don’t want to post too often that your audience gets annoyed, but you also don’t want to post so infrequently that your brand is forgotten.
Use an editorial calendar to help you see the balance of content you post. This way, you can see if you’re posting too many times in one day on Facebook or if you haven’t yet scheduled any posts for the weekend.
So, WHEN should you post content? There are countless studies that show the best times to post, but only you know your unique collection of followers and when they’re most active. Keep track and report the time of your best engagements to know when to schedule your posts.
According to Social Media Examiner,”finding the perfect frequency is crucial because it could mean more engagement for your content or more unlikes and unfollows.” Use your analytics to determine the day of the week, and the time, that most engagement occurs.
However, before you schedule your tweets, make sure they’re completely finished. Otherwise, you’ll post something that looks like this (but kudos for the nice save, McDonald’s!).
3. Posting the same thing across all channels
It may feel right for your brand to be e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. But investing in a strong strategy on just a few platforms will see better results, especially if you’re limited on time and resources.
Go where your intended audience is. If you’re a B2B company, the executives that you’re targeting probably aren’t sitting in their office taking selfies with a flower crown filter to send to clients.
So, what accounts should you be most active on?
Take a peek at where your competitors are. This can be a good indicator of where you should be, too. Check out their engagement levels on each platform. If one competitor posts every day to Facebook and only gets one or two “likes,” but receives multiple retweets and responses on Twitter, then you may want to start refining your Twitter game.
When you start posting consistently across multiple channels, learn and understand the nuances of each. Different segments of your audience will be more active and will engage differently depending on the platform. Consumers will be more likely to post personal photos of their families on Facebook than on LinkedIn, for example.
The same article you post on Facebook should have a different caption and photo compared to what you post on LinkedIn (assuming your team has the time capacity to make these tweaks).
Use each account differently and avoid sending out the same message to every account.
4. Not engaging in conversation
Starting out, your brand might be that quiet kid hanging out by the punch bowl at the homecoming dance. And that’s OK.
But eventually, that kid learns that the dance is more fun when he begins to socialize…and dance.
A common approach when entering an uncomfortable social situation is to prepare a list of questions and talking points. Think of this as your social media marketing strategy.
In addition to planning when and on what platforms you’ll post your content, also be prepared to respond to users’ questions and address comments. You don’t want to miss out on the social part of social media!
Connecting with users humanizes your brand, and it can also put out some fires. Responding publicly to a negative comment can clear the air, and possibly turn the conversation in your favor. Your conversation could even turn into a spontaneous pun banter such as this exchange between a user and a UK food brand.
Sometimes, a social media strategy includes a cheat sheet with scenarios of various comments, and examples of an appropriate response. That way, anger won’t lead you to post something you end up regretting.
And, unless you’ve got a real knack for humor, don’t try to pick a fight. Fast food giant Wendy’s has mastered this and they proved it with a stream of roasts . If this type of humor doesn’t suit your brand’s personality, you can still use social media to provide positive and helpful customer service.
Unfortunately, social media can also be cruel to brands. For example, in 2017 United Airlines overbooked a flight and when a passenger was asked to leave and book a new flight, an ugly dispute broke out, causing security to remove the passenger. Other passengers on the flight recorded the incident and it caught widespread attention. Before social media, this might have just been a story to tell news reporters, but videos and visual proof make these stories more compelling and more likely to go viral. As with all PR crises, have a response plan when social media users complain or publish negative feedback about your brand.
5. Prioritizing the number of followers
You may have heard companies who buy followers or even create fake accounts that will share and retweet a post.
Though the high number of followers helps a brand appear popular, why increase your number of followers if there is no genuine engagement?
When sending posts to the right audience — not the biggest audience — you will maximize the chances that you’ll get an actual interested human to visit your website. And the best-case scenario is that this visit turns into a conversion.
A study by the University of Southern California shows that 9-15 percent of Twitter users are actually bots, capable of liking, retweeting, and replying to content. This means that of Twitter’s 313 million active users, about 48 million aren’t real, engaging humans.
If you’re producing quality content, users will follow you for your useful, interesting posts. And that is much more meaningful than a follower who’s bought or created out of thin air.
6. Not researching
Forgetting to do your research or not having a reliable review system can lead to a mistake that your followers will notice…like mistaking Whoopi Goldberg for Oprah. Oops.
A staffer at DiGiorno Pizza saw the trending hashtag #WhyIStayed. Without researching its meaning, they posted:
“#WhyIStayed You had pizza.”
It’s a good idea to use trending hashtags so your brand gets more exposure in those feeds. But in this case, DiGiorna did not research the meaning behind “#WhyIStayed,” which was to raise awareness about domestic violence. Twitter users quickly expressed horror at DiGorno’s ignorance, causing a bunch of apologetic tweets from the pizza company to follow.
In the “Reply All” episode, “The Art of Making and Fixing Mistakes,” the hosts of the podcast investigated how inappropriate photos were “accidentally” posted by U.S. Airways (if you’re wondering, an airplane was shown to be stuck in a certain body part). They chat with a social media manager who explains that it wouldn’t be difficult to accidentally post something on a brand’s page that was supposed to go on your personal page.
Yikes! Slooooow down.
Whatever you’re posting, whether directly into the social account or into a scheduling platform, should be reviewed by a team member, or at least double checked by its creator.
Try to predict the consequences of your marketing campaigns by thinking of all the possible scenarios. For example, the NYPD asked followers to post photos with an NYPD member, but received mixed responses. Such a campaign could also be considered off-brand, as a police department may want to maintain a more professional rapport with its followers on social media.
7. Not reporting
Just as you record metrics for your blog performance, you’ll want to track your social media marketing progress with a report.
Social media can be a fairly inexpensive marketing tool, but you need to make sure that all the time spent planning, creating and communicating with your followers is worth it.
Determine how you want to measure the ROI and then see if your social media strategy is working. Are you driving people to the website? What channels garner the most clicks? At what time are people engaging?
Reporting will create a roadmap to direct your ever-evolving strategy.
8. Doing everything manually
Healthy and productive collaboration among your content marketing team can result in efficient and successful work.
Adding tools to your arsenal can make that team even stronger.
There are tools (like BuzzSumo) that help you research what’s being shared and who is posting about your industry, and scheduling platforms (like Hootsuite and Sprout Social) to assist with managing and scheduling social content.
The right tools can streamline your social media practice so that you can spend more time creating content, sharing it with your audience and interacting with users.
Though we listed all the mistakes you can make on social, don’t be afraid to have fun with it and show off your brand’s best qualities.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2017 and has been updated for relevancy and clarity.