Steer clear of these 15 social media mistakes

Not resizing your images, linking directly to products or using hashtags properly will irritate customers and negatively affect your organization’s sales.

Social media is the most popular online activity, so it makes perfect sense for businesses to want to tap into it to increase sales. More than 90 percent of businesses use social media.

But simply opening an account or sending out some tweets is not enough to make social media platforms a viable and profitable part of your marketing strategy. By avoiding some missteps, businesses have the ability to increase their return on investment (ROI) and create more opportunities from social media accounts.

Avoid these mistakes:

1. Not having a strategy.

Less than 20 percent of businesses say their social media strategy is mature. Social media users are constantly inundated with information and messages. Businesses that don’t have a social media marketing strategy won’t ever cut through the clutter and deliver an effective message to their target audiences.

Creating a strategy includes having distinct and measurable goals, developing a clear social media policy, thinking through a brand’s social media voice and planning out a content calendar with end goals in mind. Without a clear strategy, businesses could create the best content on the Web but receive little to no engagement.

2. Not integrating with other digital assets.

Social media works best when you integrate it with other digital marketing efforts. One mistake many businesses make is to leave their social media accounts on islands. Not only should you link the accounts together, but tie them directly to websites, emails and paid search advertising campaigns.

Twitter

3. Not using images.

Images on Twitter cause tweets to take up more space on the feed and help drive engagement. Tweets that include images have 200 percent more engagement than tweets without.

While an image may not be appropriate for every tweet, businesses should include one whenever possible to help draw attention to their messages.

4. Not taking advantage of hashtags.

Hashtags are a great way for businesses to insert themselves into conversations and trending topics while also doubling engagement.

For example, businesses can use the hashtag #ThrowbackThursday, or #TBT, to cash in on one of social media’s longest-lasting conversations. For this hashtag, post an old image or ad. A new ad or product image would seem promotional.

Using strategic hashtags can help businesses find their target audiences, reach non-followers in large numbers and grow a brand’s influence.

5. Not using a consistent voice.

Use a business’s Twitter account for business, not personal anecdotes. While unique, funny and chatty messages can make a Twitter account seem more human, getting into arguments, insulting other brands or advancing executives’ unrelated interests pushes the platform off-message and can create backlash.

But brands shouldn’t sound like robots, either. Repeatedly sending out the same messages can create ill will from consumers. The key is to find a happy middle ground where the brand’s voice is consistent, caring and human.

Facebook

6. Not using images, or using the wrong size image.

Visual stimulation helps drive engagement on social networks. In fact, according to Zabisco, 40 percent of people respond better to visuals than plain text. On average, photos get 50 percent more impressions than any other post type on Facebook, as well as more likes and comments, a study by Roost says.

To optimize images on Facebook, businesses should make sure to use the correct image size, which varies depending on where you’ll use the image. For a typical post, upload a 1200 x 1200 pixel image. However, Facebook ads have different guidelines.

7. Not removing the URL from a post.

When you put a link in a Facebook update, Facebook automatically creates a clickable image that also works as a link. Because of this, businesses don’t need to include the URL in the post. The extra link doesn’t hurt anything, but it does show users you don’t understand the capabilities and features of Facebook. It’s best to delete the extra URL.

8. Not interacting with followers.

Social media is meant to be interactive, and consumers expect a certain amount of responsiveness from businesses on Facebook. Responding to posts, thanking consumers for commenting, and addressing complaints helps consumers feel more connected to your brand.

Businesses should have a strategy in place to respond to both positive and negative commenters. Businesses should also have a plan for using Facebook as part of a crisis management strategy. Not every comment needs a response, but responding to followers helps build camaraderie and trust between brands and consumers, which can affect future sales and word of mouth marketing.

Google+

9. Not using the platform at all.

Google+ may be the most underutilized social media platform. It is directly integrated with Google search results, making profiles an integral part of any digital marketing or search engine optimization strategy.

10. Not using circles or communities.

Circles on Google+ allow businesses to segment followers into groups and address each segment separately with unique content. If you don’t use circles, each piece of content goes to every follower.

To increase conversion rates and engagement, businesses should create content that appeals to specific audiences, and then post that content to the applicable circles and communities.

Pinterest

11. Not including descriptions or prices.

Pinning images to Pinterest is simply not enough if businesses want to use the platform to drive traffic and increase sales. Despite easy access, many businesses forgo rich pins, which include the price and a thorough description of the item.

Descriptions should be as descriptive as possible, and include terms people search for. Also, including the price entices pinners to click the link. In fact, a study from Shopify found that rich pins with prices get 36 percent more likes and repins than regular pins.

12. Not using active images.

Pinterest is all about visual stimulation, but many businesses use static and uninspiring images to portray products. Instead, businesses should use colorful images that show the products in action. For example, instead of a picture of a sweater on a table, use an image of someone wearing the sweater doing something fun.

Curalate looked at half a million Pinterest images and found that factors like color, white space and even faces make a difference in engagement.

13. Not linking to a product page.

Businesses should strive to make it as easy as possible for shoppers to go from browsing Pinterest to buying a product. To do that, businesses should link directly to product pages instead of home pages or other unrelated content. The more links a consumer has to follow before buying a product, the less likely she is to make a final purchase.

Instagram

14. Not using hashtags effectively.

There is no limit to the number of hashtags a business can attach to a post, and for some that freedom has led to an overuse of this effective outreach tool.

Hashtags allow people to filter through millions of posts, and it’s very tempting for businesses to use hashtags to wedge their way into conversations where they don’t organically belong.

But just like traditional marketing outlets such as email, traditional mail and phone calls, spam can turn off consumers. Instead, businesses should only use hashtags that directly apply to the post or company.

15. Not providing content that users demand.

Many businesses decide to use Instagram as another way to push static ads that could be posted on any other platform. However, Instagram is best used when businesses give consumers a behind-the-scenes look and give insight into the personality of the brand.

Instead of posting a touched-up photo destined for a magazine, businesses should use Instagram to send out a picture of the photo shoot, models laughing, chefs cooking or the crew eating pizza. Businesses can stay on message and keep a consistent digital voice while still allowing followers to feel personally connected. This fosters more sharing and increased followers.

Brands should strive to create their own social media voices and optimize their social media efforts by avoiding the common pitfalls listed above. Social media has the ability to be an effective, cost-controlled method for reaching out to potential consumers, engaging with current fans and increasing sales.

Just like you would any other marketing strategy, continually monitor and update social media efforts for full effect.

Heather Smith is the director of social media for ZOG Digital, an independent digital marketing company based out of Scottsdale, Ariz. You can visit them at www.zogdigital.com or follow them on Twitter @ZOGDigital. A version of this article originally appeared on JeffBullas.com.

COMMENT

Ragan.com Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive the latest articles from Ragan.com directly in your inbox.