Have you committed these 8 social media crimes?

Common social media pitfalls can ruin otherwise good campaigns, but pros can avoid digital offenses by following these tips for branding success.

Social media marketing makes it easier than ever to connect to thousands of potential customers, but winning the trust and interest of your audience isn’t always straightforward.

These eight common social media mistakes illustrate that many brands don’t understand the best practices of effective social selling.

1. Starting a Tweet with “@”

When you’re tweeting to a follower or fellow brand on Twitter, your first instinct is probably to tweet something like this:

@icmconsulting – Thanks for the follow!

Unfortunately, your first instinct is wrong. By starting your tweet with the “@” symbol, Twitter thinks that you’re having a private conversation. As a result, your tweet will only be visible to the user you’ve tagged, and your entire audience will be excluded from seeing it.

Thankfully, getting around this is simple. By starting your tweet with a full stop (a period or dash symbol), you can bypass this mechanism, making your latest tweet visible to both your audience and the audience of any other users that you’ve tagged.

.@icmconsulting – Thanks for the follow!

If you’ve ever made this mistake, you’re in good company; even professional marketers have fallen victim to this simple slip-up.

2. Failing to use video content in your social media marketing

Videos can be time-consuming to create, but the rewards of doing so more than justify the effort.

Instead of publishing the same old plain text blog posts every week, experiment with the occasional vlog (video blog), because

  • Potential customers are 85 percent more likely to buy a product after watching a product video.
  • Customers spend 100 percent more when a web page includes a video.
  • Blog posts with videos attract three times as many links as plain-text pages.

3. Spreading your social media marketing efforts too thin

It can be tempting to promote your content across every social media platform available—from StumbleUpon to Pinterest—but doing so can actually limit the efficacy of your efforts.

Effective social media marketing requires a time-consuming mix of hands-on involvement, industry research and content creation. Attempting to manage dozens of networks can lead to poor engagement across each.

It’s far better to focus the entirety of your efforts onto a handful of networks, choosing the sites that most strongly resonate with your target audience.

4. Tagging posts with irrelevant hashtags

Agile marketing is the process of responding to social trends in order to promote your brand. The most common form of agile marketing uses the humble #hashtag; by tagging your posts with a relevant and searchable tag, it becomes possible to massively increase the reach of your content.

Better yet, this extra exposure comes from a targeted and engaged audience – assuming that you’ve chosen a relevant hashtag to include.

A security guard with the Arcadia group accidentally sent a holiday request email to the entire company. It went viral after the neighboring office, Econsultancy, created the hashtag #GiveGregTheHoliday.

Brands like TrekAmerica were quick to capitalize on the action, offering Greg a free holiday and garnering exposure in the process:

Unfortunately, several less relevant brands tried to muscle in, creating an embarrassing and shameful attempt at self-promotion that brands like Cellecta Insulation will probably want to forget:

5. Using hashtags on LinkedIn

While hashtagging is popular across Twitter, Facebook and Google Plus, the practice has yet to take off on LinkedIn.

Despite this fact, many marketers are lazy with their social media marketing and use automation software to share identical posts across multiple networks. In doing so, they include irrelevant hashtags for LinkedIn.

This mistake is far from calamitous, but it does highlight the fact that your marketing is completely automated. This can have a negative effect on engagement, so schedule LinkedIn promotions separate from your other social media networks.

6. Sharing content when no one’s around

With a healthy social media following of several thousand people, it’s easy to assume that your content is being read at all hours of the day. In reality though, a relatively small portion of your audience will be online at any one time.

  • Many social media audiences are comprised of different nationalities, operating in dozens of different time zones.
  • Social media access is often restricted during working hours, and if you’re publishing posts during that time, it’s likely that your audience will be too busy to read your content.
  • Even if your audience is online, there’s no guarantee they’ll engage with your website and content.

To maximize the reach of your content, check out Tweriod, a free service that allows you to analyze your Twitter following and determine the hours your audience is most active. You’ll be able to schedule your content promotion when the majority of your audience is online, boosting traffic and engagement in the process.

7. Too much self-promotion

There’s more to social media than endless self-promotion.

Brands that fail to share third-party content risk appearing arrogant and could alienate their followers. Aim to share helpful content from other relevant brands, and link to beneficial resources regardless of where they originated.

To structure this process, try and stick to the “10:4:1 rule:” Share 10 pieces of third-party content and 4 pieces of your own blog’s content for every sales pitch you promote.

8. Forgetting to respond to people personally

Marketing automation is a powerful tool for streamlining processes and saving valuable time, but there’s still a need for personal interaction across social media.

Whether you’re responding to a direct message or answering a tweet, your audience will appreciate personal responses. In doing so, you’ll be able to build a genuine rapport between business and consumer, and improve the chances of future sales. After all, the old adage is truer than ever: customers buy from people, not brands.

Steven Tulman is vice president of strategy and business development at ICM. A version of this story appeared on LinkedIn.

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