Beware these 6 social media traps

Even seasoned communicators can make these slip-ups. Have you committed any?

Some social media mistakes are so common that nearly every digital marketer and business owner has made them at some point.

Check out this list, and discover how you can stop yourself from making these serious social media faux pas:

1. Pretending all social media platforms are the same

All social media platforms may look the same to the novice social media marketer. Most networks enable users to create profiles and post status updates, thoughts, complaints, photos of their food and links to their favorite sites (and videos—always cat videos).

It’s unwise to treat all social media platforms the same, because they aren’t. Each channel targets different demographics and functions differently. YouTube, for example, is for posting videos, and Instagram is the best for posting pictures.

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2. Not having a companywide social media policy

There’s a good chance nearly all your employees are on some social media platform. Whether they blog or post to Facebook, they’re talking—and they might be talking about your company.

Nothing is ever truly private on the Internet—even when you use a private social media account. Some things your employees share may come back to bite you, especially if they’re talking about plans for products or services. Also, if your employees are badmouthing your organization, it makes your organization look bad—even if your employees were the ones at fault. The Internet’s court of public opinion doesn’t care much for details.

Establish a company social media policy, and require everyone to read and sign it. Outline what is and isn’t appropriate to post. When you discuss a product or service launch, make sure employees know that discussing it on social media is a breach of contract.

3. Ignoring messages and complaints

All social media sites have a way to send and receive personal messages, and they allow users and brands to tag one another. Users can also send you a tweet or write on your organization’s Facebook page.

Although most feedback will probably be positive or neutral, you could see complaints. The worst thing you can do is ignore them; that makes you look guilty and cowardly.

You have the opportunity to turn every complaint into a positive experience and show your customers you care. Address the problem directly, and make it clear that you’re sorry and want to rectify the situation. Never engage in an argument or try to “win.” If a customer begins using foul or rude language, tell him you’ll message him privately to discuss the issue further, but you will not continue the discussion in the comments section. This shows you have control of the situation and, though you care, you’re not willing to engage in a verbal argument.

4. Not taking advantage of social media marketing tools

Most big social media platforms—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Pinterest—have their own marketing tools that businesses can use to reach new prospects and retarget lost visitors. To some marketers though, ignorance is bliss, and they’d rather not mess with social media advertising.

With Facebook advertising, for example, you can post advertisement banners along the sides of the newsfeed to promote your website, an offer or even an upcoming webinar or trade show. With Facebook Audience you can search for users by their geographical location, age, gender or even hobby.

5. Focusing on the quantity of “likes” and follows rather than their quality

Take a look at your Facebook or Twitter followers. How many of them are customers? There are a million reasons why someone might “like” your page, but doing so doesn’t mean he wants to buy from you.

Social media is about building relationships with customers so they will buy from you. If you’re sending your message to people who don’t want to be customers, you’re wasting time and effort.

Remember, a “like” doesn’t equal a sale. Focus on building brand loyalty and awareness with people who are connecting with you on social media, and you’ll be more likely to convert them into buyers.

6. Overdoing your posts

Some people get wrapped up with all the cool things you can do on social media. If you’re guilty of a few of these crimes, check yourself before you wreck yourself:

Posting too frequently: There is definitely some merit to the saying, “too much of a good thing.” Even if your followers “like” your posts and engage with them, posting too frequently may result in a few unfollows. Post no more than two or three times a day, and space out your updates.

“Liking” too frequently: In posting for your business, you shouldn’t “like” your followers’ tweets or posts unless they specifically mention you or your product or service.

Relying too much on automation: Automation tools are great for helping you post when you can’t be at a computer (in the middle of the night, for example), but most social media sites will disclose when a post was written. Your followers will know when a robot is talking to them. Sprinkle in real-time posts with automated ones to assure readers you’re a real person.

If you’ve made one or two of these social media mistakes, you’re in good company. Now that you know what not to do, you can focus more on what you should be doing: starting conversations with your followers.

Michael Bird contributes to Social Media Examiner, Social Media Today, Yahoo Business Advisor and the Social Garden blog. A version of this article originally appeared on the Meltwater blog.

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