Social media is telling people on Facebook where you’re planning to go on vacation to get suggestions of what to do, it’s tweeting about something funny you just saw, it’s pinning a delicious looking recipe to try later, it’s watching the latest viral sensation on YouTube and then emailing the link to a coworker, it’s reviewing a local restaurant on Yelp because you want the world to know how awful it was, it’s checking into a concert venue on Foursquare so your friends know you’re there, it’s sharing a picture of your adorable baby on Instagram because words can’t describe how cute trying to eat a popsicle is, and it’s posting a quick video of your dog on Vine because you’re sure no one else’s dog tries to sit at the kitchen table. Social media is all of those things. As individuals that use social media we know that. So why is it that when businesses use social media they that forget that so quickly?
Most businesses these days are involved with some sort of social media, and some do it wonderfully, but some don’t! There are numerous cases of serious social media fails by businesses, but one that I will never forget is from many years ago. A business owner who knew that social media buzz can influence SEO rankings so he wanted to do something to get people talking about his business. Unfortunately, instead of doing something great to wow customers and get them talking, he decided to stalk and threaten customers. People started talking about his site alright… talking to the police! The man was arrested, and when the police asked what he was doing he said it was part of his plan to improve his SEO. Obviously that’s an extreme case, but here are the most common mistakes businesses make with social media:
When engaging in social media as a business, obviously you want to talk about yourself some but if you only ever talk about your business and promote your own content, you’ll turn people off and lose followers. Promote other people’s content too – that’s the quickest way to make new contacts. Remember that social media is a two-way dialogue, not standing on a corner with a megaphone.
2. Selling, Selling, SELLING
Talking about your business all the time is already a mistake, but when it’s all sales copy, that’s even worse. Obviously you think your company is great, but that doesn’t mean every post has to be touting your company’s value propositions. Be authentic! Let your brand voice and persona resonate through your social media and make people want to pick you because of it.
3. Lack of Separation
Sometimes single-member companies or very small companies will end up using the owner’s personal social media accounts for business purposes or the business’s social media accounts to push their personal agendas. These are both huge mistakes! Not separating yourself from your business runs the risk of alienating would-be customers who might not agree with you personally. It can also open you up to legal liability. Keep your business account separate from your personal account.
4. Being Unprofessional
I’m sure every business owner has had a situation with a difficult customer, but social media is not the place to deal with that. There have been instances where business owners took to social media to complain about people they didn’t like, verbally attack people who have given them negative reviews, and even threaten people into paying them. This is completely inappropriate. As a business professional, if you have a bad experience with a client, vendor or partner, resolve it offline. Never take issues to social media because then you’re opening up a window for everyone else in your industry to get in the middle of it too, and discrediting yourself in the process. If a customer says something unfavorable about your business online, publically offer to resolve the issue and tell them to contact you by phone or email so that you don't have strangers seeing it (because once it’s online, it’s out there for good).
5. Forgetting About It
If you start a social media account, you need to keep it up because if you don’t it will just look like you don’t have much resolve or follow-through as a business.
Even if you decide to stop being active on a particular social media platform because no one is using it and it doesn’t seem to benefit your business in any way, don’t just abandon it. Post a message that says something like “A message to our followers: No one seems to be using this site to contact us, so we’re not going to be checking this regularly moving forward. If you want to get in touch with us, drop us a line <insert email address>. Thanks!” If you just don’t have the time to manage it, get someone else to do your social media management for you, or let people know on the site itself with a message like “Our order volume is very high so if you post here we may not get back to you right away. For a faster response call us at <insert number>.”
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Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!
Photo from Flickr (Jason Howie)