The No. 1 mistake that social media rookies make

You want to use online networking to boost your brand and sell your products or services. So, start selling, right? Not so fast…

More and more people are turning to social media to spread the word about their burgeoning businesses.

Although that’s a great thing, there’s a rookie mistake I see businesspeople make over and over again that kills their credibility and stymies their brand’s growth. It may not seem disastrous at first blush, but I guarantee you that this approach will hurt the ability of your business to build relationships and drive sales through social media.

Want to know what it is?


Although this might seem counterintuitive, sending out a steady stream of discounts, deals, and offers does nothing but hurt you (unless you’re Groupon).

Now, I’m not going to say you should never promote your business. What I am saying is that promotion shouldn’t be the only thing you say through social channels.


People don’t like to be sold to.

Think about it. It’s why we fast-forward through TV ads with our DVR and unsubscribe from businesses that send us too many sales emails.

Although we buy from people and businesses every day, we want to do it on our terms. We want to buy from people and businesses that we know, like, and trust.

So, how do you become someone that people want to do business with?

Here are a few suggestions on how to get started:

Talk like a human being. Believe it or not, human beings like to talk to other human beings. So, quit sending out robotic sales messages. Be real. Be yourself. It’s amazing what a difference that makes.

Start a conversation. The whole point of social media is to be social, but for some reason that seems to get lost in all the hoopla. Ask questions, and strike up a conversation with someone you want to get to know. Don’t be afraid to jump into the conversations of others. If everyone’s talking about their favorite sports team, let them know you bleed black and gold (Mizzou Tigers, baby!). This helps people get to know you as a person and can even lead to wonderful business relationships down the line.

Add value. People are busy, so find ways to make their life easier or better. Provide helpful information that your target audience will find useful. For instance, if you’re at a local business, talk about road closings for the upcoming festival or let people know about that new burger joint in town. Doing this makes you a go-to source of information that people won’t want to miss.

Educate people. Instead of bombarding fans and followers with offers, share information about industry trends, best practices, and relevant news articles This is a great way to educate potential about your customers about your line of work without overselling.

Go behind the scenes. People love getting the inside scoop on things. So, give them a sneak peek into how you make your famous ice cream (speaking of scoops), or share pictures of what your office looks like during brainstorming sessions. Doing these things makes you instantly relatable.

Promote others. As surprising as it sounds, promoting others and sharing their content is a great way to build relationships and get attention online. When you talk about others, they often take the time to thank you and perhaps even check out your profile and promote you right back. Whatever you do, don’t promote others just for the quid pro quo. Do it because you truly believe in that person or business.

Share your stuff. Even though you shouldn’t spend all of your time focused on yourself, you definitely should share your own stuff. That means, if you have a blog, be sure to post it on social media sites. If you don’t have one, share links to coverage you’ve received or talk about exciting changes at your company.

Have fun! Sometimes the items that get the most comments, “likes,” and retweets are just fun, silly, or entertaining. People reward creativity online, so don’t be afraid to let your hair down and share the video of your accounting department doing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” or a satire case study video about pink ponies. Doing something fun and out of the ordinary is sure to get you noticed.

Laura Click is founder & CEO of Blue Kite Marketing, a Nashville-based marketing and social media strategy firm. A version of this article first appeared on the Blue Kite Marketing blog.

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