Social media: the platform we all love to hate. From Pinterest to Twitter, most people are obsessed with at least one preferred social channel, making social an ideal platform for reaching a highly targeted audience.
But for a business, simply having social media accounts isn’t enough. You must build a strategy, establish a presence, post often (but not too often), tailor your content for each platform, create a consistent brand voice, and stay on top of the latest trends. And you must do all that without getting lost in the social sea.
While you’re trying to juggle these aspects, could you be overlooking some of the simpler details?
Let’s look at three common social media mistakes and how you can avoid them.
MISTAKE #1: You’re Trying to Have a Presence on Every Platform
When I first started at my company, we had a Facebook, a Google+, a Twitter, and a LinkedIn. After assessing our presence on each of these platforms, I decided to get rid of the Google+ and the Facebook. This was not a popular move among my coworkers.
How dare I remove us from a potential customer touchpoint, right?!
Well, the reality is, not every social media platform will work for every audience. You must meet your audience where they are, not where you wish them to be.
I removed two of the social accounts because they simply weren’t working – our audience wasn’t engaging with us there, nor did they want us to engage with them. We needed to strategize our social media presence. To build a social strategy, you must start by asking two questions:
- Where is my audience?
- Where is my competition?
Where is my Audience?
The answer to that question helps determine which platforms make the most sense for your consumer base. Sometimes, it’s easy to tell where your audience lives. In our case, I noticed our most popular platform was Twitter. We had the most followers there, saw the most interaction from those followers, and had the best visibility with our audience and industry peers.
However, knowing where your audience lives isn’t always as black and white. If you’re completely in the dark about social preferences, start with the basics. What do the statistics say about social media platform use? The Pew Research Center has a social media fact sheet that details who is using which platform based on age, gender, socioeconomic status, etc.
So, for example, if your customers tend to be millennials, it may interest you to know that 62% of Snapchat users are between the ages of 18 and 29, while only 28% in that age range are active on LinkedIn.
Let’s say three of these social media channels fit your ideal audience. Now the questions become:
Do we have a large following on all three of these channels? – If not, you have too many channels. Get rid of the underperforming channel(s) and focus your energy on the one(s) with the largest, most engaged following.
What’s my bandwidth for managing these channels? Do I feel like I’m spread too thin? – How much time are you spending on each of your social media platforms? If you are unable to respond to comments and messages quickly and effectively, that could be a sign you’re overloaded on social channels.
However, if you are sure all the profiles are important and have no intention of dismissing any of them, you need to take advantage of a software that will help you monitor and manage the social media activities.
The greatest potential of social media is the opportunity to connect directly to customers and prospects. Don’t miss your chance for personalized connections with ineffective management on too many platforms!
Where is my Competition?
The other major consideration when deciding on social channels is knowing where your competition is active. Is that a space where you can compete? If you’re both going after the same demographics and they have a massive (and active) Twitter following, it may be a sign that Twitter is a place you should be, too. Of course, you must also tailor the content you’re sharing for that platform. In general, certain industries tend to gravitate towards certain social channels. Here are a few you might see dominating their channels:
Twitter: Marketing companies, news and other media, SaaS, sports teams, politicians
LinkedIn: Journalists, freelancers, bloggers, entrepreneurs
Instagram: Fashion companies, restaurants, real estate (Notice, these are very image-based!)
Pinterest: Cosmetics, home goods, jewelry companies, fashion companies
MISTAKE #2: You’re Lacking Authenticity
Is there anything worse than having too many social channels? Yes. Lacking authenticity with your audience.
For example, a few years ago, Walmart faced backlash over a bogus social campaign. They hired a PR company to secretly fund a couples’ travels across the country where they visited various Walmart locations, interviewing employees at each stop. Weirdly, all the employees loved their jobs and loved Walmart… No one loves their job THAT much, especially Walmart workers, who have been featured in many op-eds highlighting their low wages and unfair working conditions. It didn’t take long for the internet to figure out that the whole thing was a setup. Walmart had to fire the PR agency and issue an apology as a response.
Another example of an authenticity failure was when Woody Harrelson’s Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit went horribly wrong. Instead of having an honest, candid discussion, users were met with what felt like a slimy sales pitch. Harrelson kept directing the questions towards his upcoming film instead of letting the conversation evolve organically. The users were understandably upset.
Toyota also failed at authenticity when they encouraged Twitter followers to trend the #camryeffect hashtag during the 2012 SuperBowl. Those who tweeted the hashtag received so many spammy messages from Toyota that the company’s Twitter account was suspended.
Fast food chain Chick-fil-A bombed at social authenticity, too. The company once set up a fake Facebook account to push its religious views. This angered an alienated many of Chick-fil-A’s customers. When it comes to your business, follow etiquette advice 101: Stay away from commenting on politics and religion.
The bottom line when it comes to authenticity? Don’t try to trick people, don’t send spammy automated messages, respect the unwritten rules of the channel you’re using, keep your interactions straight-forward and honest, and stay out of political and religious debates whenever possible.
MISTAKE #3: You’re Not Paying Attention to the Details
Social media exists moment to moment, but social fails live on forever. Remember Trump’s “Covfefe” fiasco? The internet is still talking about that. Something as simple as correct spelling can make or break the image of your brand.
When the US Department of Education tried to Tweet a quote from W.E.B. DuBois, they spelled “DuBois” wrong. Kind of negates the message about the importance of education, don’t you think?
Another detail not to be overlooked is the correct use of hashtags. Take, for example, the time Celeb Boutique tried to Tweet about its #Aurora dress. The company didn’t realize the hashtag currently trending was associated with a mass shooting in Colorado. The Tweet faced major backlash and positioned the company as insensitive and out-of-touch.
The right social strategy, executed on the right platforms, can be a powerhouse for sales and marketing. But none of that is possible if you don’t understand your audience. It’s not only critical to engage on the right social platforms, but to do so in ways that are authentic and well-managed.
Use only the social platforms that work for YOUR voice and YOUR audience. Social messages should be consistent across the brand, but also unique to the platform they’re on. Be aware of subtle differences between the platforms so you can use their unique attributes to your advantage.
Once you have your social strategy streamlined, you can use tools to help manage your time and your interactions. There are lots of tools that can help you schedule posts and monitor customer sentiments about your brand.
Remember, once a post is out there, it’s out there FOREVER. So, choose your platforms wisely, keep it real, and monitor the conversations closely to stay on your social A-game.