As a business owner or representative, you probably already use social media. You know that building an engaged online community is great for business, whether it generates leads, opens the door for additional opportunities or results in valuable partnerships. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are powerful marketing tools, but even big companies make social media mistakes. Here are four common pitfalls to avoid if you want to get the most out of your social media marketing.
- You have no social media plan.
Perhaps you have a great LinkedIn page like this company, you’ve built a Facebook community of 3,000 followers, and you tweet every day no matter what. Wonderful! But do you have a goal in mind? Social media, like any other business strategy, is a tool. Used wisely, it can bring substantial rewards. Used haphazardly, it becomes a time waster. You could have a million followers, but if none are engaged it doesn’t mean a thing. If you have 1,000 engaged followers, it’s a different story. What you need is a goal and a creative plan to help you get there.
- You fail to engage.
Using social media the right way means you have to engage. If you post something and never come back to comment, take part in discussions or answer a follower’s questions, you’ve lost any hope of building a community.
Your social media marketing plan has to include strategies to respond to follower comments. You answer their questions, you ask for more information, you refer them to resources, you say thank you or “I’m sorry”—whatever you need to do to show followers that you’re really listening.
When a commenter complains, your first reaction may be to ignore the whole thing or shoot off an angry emotional response. Don’t do either. A complaint that sits there with no response looks like you don’t care. Instead, think of the complaint as an opportunity. People want to know how your business deals with a problem. As potential customers, they want to feel sure that if something goes wrong, you’ll make it right. If they like how you handle yourself, they’ll feel better about doing business with you.
- You don’t think before you post.
A well-thought-out strategic social media plan can help you avoid bad posts much of the time, but the danger of posting something insensitive or outright offensive is very real nonetheless. Companies large and small have fallen victim to “insensitive post disease”; in fact, Gawker has a list of some of the most egregious status updates, messages and tweets you’ll ever see. Take a few minutes to think about the wording you want to use, ask yourself if someone might see your post as offensive, and have someone else read the intended tweet or update before you post. Once a post is out there, it’s out there no matter how quickly you delete it. It’s better to avoid the problem completely than to deal with the fallout later.
- You try to sell, sell, sell!
Push those products, sell those services—if that’s what your updates, tweets and messages are all about, go back to the drawing board. Social media networks are not sales avenues, but community-building tools. They are part of your marketing efforts, but the short-term goal is not direct sales. It’s engaging people. Engaged followers are the people who buy your products or services and share their experiences with friends and relatives who may also buy. There are risks, to be sure, but if social media is done correctly, everybody wins.