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Social media mistakes: How to avoid stubbing your corporate toe

🕐 10 min read

Plenty of companies have stubbed their corporate toes using social media. Think of Adidas, which sent out an email to customers who had registered for the 2013 Boston Marathon, the year of the terrorist attack during the race. The email’s subject line read: “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon.” Obviously set up to go out before the race, the email resulted in a negative impression of the shoe company.

That’s obviously an egregious error, but plenty of companies make plenty of social media mistakes either with a poor strategy or simply deliver the wrong message.

We asked some of the Fort Worth area’s top public relations, advertising and marketing companies for some social media advice.

We asked: What are the top five social media mistakes you see companies/people make using social media? How can they avoid them?

Allen Wallach, CEO of PAVLOV Agency

Mistake #1: Spreading yourself too thin.

Nowadays, there are so many social media networks to keep up with: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok … the list goes on. Trying to stay relevant on each of these platforms is near impossible. Fortunately, best practices state that you should focus on using two to three social media networks that are most relevant to your target audience rather than spreading yourself thin across multiple platforms. In doing so, you’ll be able to utilize your time on social media more efficiently in the places that your target audience spends the most amount of time.

Mistake #2: Sharing quantity over quality.

Don’t post just to post. The newsfeed has become cluttered with millions of brands, advertisers and influencers trying to promote their product or service online every day. In order to really stand out, your content needs to either educate, entertain, or inspire your followers. Otherwise, you’re just contributing to an overpopulated newsfeed. Be intentional about what you share and when you share it, and you’ll start to notice an increase in engagement from your social media audiences.

Mistake #3: Posting the same content across multiple platforms.

Different social media platforms favor different types of content, and it’s important to know the difference when posting on behalf of your business. Sharing the same content across multiple networks comes off as redundant and lazy, and making this common social media mistake will not only cost you followers, but also a decrease in engagement (if your audience has already retweeted the post on Twitter, they won’t feel obligated to also share it on Facebook, or like it on Instagram). Be deliberate about where you’re delivering your content, and the results will follow.

Holland Sanders, CEO of HOLLAND collective

Think of social media as an extension of public relations, not advertising. When you think through the lens of PR, it changes the tone, mission and perception of your business for the audience. Organic social media is about celebrating your unique point of view and educating people on your “why” not your bottom line.

It’s not about you – educate and inspire

I know it may seem counterintuitive to allocate precious marketing dollars to a service that isn’t about you, but this is your platform to connect and create a deeper value for your customers. The brands that really win on social media are the companies that use their channels to educate, inspire and connect with a mission to build a lifelong brand ambassador not a one-time sale. Share (and ALWAYS tag) great industry articles, artwork and innovators who inspire you, and big world trends that you value. These elements also become great shareable content to get your name in front of your viewer’s followers.

It’s not about the product, but the process

People LOVE to see behind the curtain. Sure, we all love beautiful products, but in today’s society people love telling others fun tidbits about their newest purchase. They want to know who and how it was made. So don’t be afraid to share fun behind the scenes photos and videos of your vision – both the success and failure of bold new ideas.

Quality Images are worth the investment

The days of lo-res, grainy images are a thing of the past. Savvy shoppers are looking to social media FIRST to determine your value and if they want to take the step to purchase a service or product. That means your social media is your opportunity for a first impression. If you don’t have the budget or time for professional photos, invest in a great digital camera, tripod and decent lighting. That one time investment will take your online brand to the next level and keep you competitive.

Don’t slack on the stories

More and more, Instagram (and even Facebook) stories are the first stop when scrolling through social media. Because there is such a demand for authenticity and fresh content, people are searching their stories first to get to know you on a more meaningful level. This is an opportunity to share fun and playful elements of your business in an organic way! Think about letting your employees post for a day about the #companyculture or sharing your #bigwins in real time for the world to celebrate alongside you.

Social media is designed to be social not sales

If you are working the magic of social media, you should be focusing on building a community instead hitting a sales goal. This means your ROI goals should be about engagement in the way of likes, shares and story views versus a bump in sales. When thinking of social media as an extension of your PR strategy, it is about creating brand buzz and attitudinal change surrounding a product or service. Your social media should be layered in with a media mix that includes strong call-to-action ads or experiential events where you “close the sale,” but your communication channels should be preparing them for that purchase.

John Fletcher, CEO of Fletcher Communications

Social media mistakes

Mistake #1: Trying to sell too much: Want immediate monetization.

Solution: Give without any benefit to yourself 80% of the time, self-promote no more than 20% of the time (Great example: Maytag sends out message, “How to treat common stains” – those tips are good no matter what brand of washer you are using.)

Mistake #2: Make it “all about me.”

Solution: Be unselfish. Post information that benefits others to have read.

Mistake #3: Posting videos and photos exclusively in the landscape format.

Solution: Views rise when using either square or portrait formats.

Mistake #4: Using the same content for all social media.

Solution: Recognize that content needs to be relevant to the channels you are posting to. For example, LinkedIn is business-focused, so nobody needs to know what you ate for breakfast.

Mistake #5: Over-posting: Sending too many posts.

Solution: Reduce your number of posts so your audience does not feel overwhelmed.

Andrew Yanez, managing partner/lead designer at PytchBlack

Quit wasting time and money vying for organic/earned likes and shares, and just pay for placement on the social channels. It is still advertising, only with a fancy new label.

We thought we’d take the approach of looking at social media strictly from a B2B perspective. We see a lot more mistakes from these types of companies than we do from B2C companies.

Jon Cannon, partner + creative. Joey Swindle, partner + operations at Evangalist Agency

1. Asking questions or creating contests to drive engagement before their audience is of a suitable size.

To many businesses and social media managers, the routine process of rolling out organic social posts doesn’t seem interesting enough, especially early on in a social media strategy. Instead of staying the course, they opt to conduct contests or throw out questions that fall on deaf ears.

There is simply nothing that ruins credibility on social media faster than a contest that no one shows interest in or a question that isn’t answered.

To prevent this error, simply wait until you have a medium-size following and double-digit post shares/comments before attempting to directly engage your audience. There is little-to-no benefit to asking a question or starting a contest too early.

2. Ignoring the nuances of different platforms.

While there are sincere reasons to be on all relevant social media platforms, to use the same messaging across all platforms would be a mistake.

Instead of recycling a message, take a few minutes and slightly alter the content. On Facebook, you can ride the line between professional and casual. On Twitter, you inherently have to shorten your message. On LinkedIn, lead with company before culture, and Instagram is the exact opposite. Additionally, while there is no character count, be mindful of the number of characters Instagram will display before hiding a portion of your post is fairly small.

3. Having B2C expectations in a B2B industry.

The brands most well known for using social media to its fullest are international business-to-consumer companies. Unfortunately, local business-to-business brands still use these companies’ strategies as jumping-off points for their own strategy. They believe that unpaid social media can be a driver of new business and that their social following should grow organically. Outside of LinkedIn, this is highly unlikely.

Instead, we encourage B2B brands to consider different expectations for social media. First, it should be viewed as an avenue to showcase company culture and a way to re-engage past customers. Especially in highly technical industries, the population of potential customers is so small and specific that content focused only on them wouldn’t be interesting enough or accessible enough to grow a social media audience.

We would estimate that 90% of our B2B social media engagements are focused specifically on recruiting and industry thought leadership for these reasons.

4. Rolling out a social strategy without establishing brand standards for messaging.

Brands often have strict brand standards/guidelines for visual branding elements, but give no thought to the consistency of messaging. Then they begin a social media rollout and wonder why their audience is getting confused regarding what the character of the brand is and who they’re trying to reach.

To address this, simply establish messaging standards. Define a brand archetype and hone in on a specific articulation of how your brand communicates its differentiators. More than that, really focus on industry jargon and create a list of phrases entitled “We say this, not that” that defines precisely how your use of language positions you within your industry.

Once you’ve taken these steps, you can run all social post concepts through these filters.

5. Pushing website visitors to your social media channels.

This is a topic we broach with the majority of website design/development clients. When building their website, they want us to showcase links to their social media platforms extremely prominently or include a live feed from their Twitter account.

This is a bad idea.

It’s never a good idea to send a website user away from your website. You want people to find your website through social media, not find your social media accounts through the website. Modern customers view a social media presence as table stakes and they’ll look for you there on their own, and taking control of their own journey is a hallmark of website users over the last decade. Social media links should be small, tucked into the footer, and near the least important items showcased in your website hierarchy.

The Balcom Agency team, which houses Social Media under its Digital Strategy division, sees opportunity for social learnings and growth even as social media expands and contracts in popularity.

Principal & Group Director Ashley Freer notes that content planning as an afterthought, and lack of video content, are typical things the agency seeks to address when new social media clients come in the door.

Lauren Kimberlin, director of digital strategy, says that identifying realistic goals specific to social media management and creating a plan that aligns to them is the number one priority and a common mistake companies make. Kimberlin adds, “it’s also easy to miss seeing the value in community management and the importance of being able to have a conversation with fans.”

Daniela Otero, Balcom’s social media manager, has seen one common mistake: companies try to sell a product or service with every post instead of leaving room for authenticity. “It’s also easy to not experiment enough with types of content and big ideas,” Otero says.

Summary of mistakes/concerns

• Not identifying realistic goals specific to social media management and creating a plan that aligns to them

• Not supporting community management and fan engagement

• Lack of content planning

• Not prioritizing video content

• Not experimenting and trying new things

• Staying too sales focused rather than leaving room for authenticity

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