When training many small to medium-sized businesses to effectively use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, there are five critical mistakes that I come across consistently. There is no concrete answer on how to be successful in social media due because every business offers different products and services to different target audiences. However, there are best practices that companies should be aware of and work diligently to implement. Here are the top five mistakes that businesses make when leveraging social media.
1) There’s no plan or strategy
I have seen many businesses set up Facebook and Twitter accounts, and then let them sit dormant. A stale account will do nothing to help grow your business. In fact, it can harm your business. My suggestion is to create at least a six-month social media plan, and stick to it. Strategize with a local consultant, mentor or friend who specializes in social media, and remember to have fun with it. Social media is a way to show off your company and build lasting relationships with your customers.
2) Content is not prioritized
A business should always try to stick to the 80/20 rule. This rule states that content and messaging should be 80 percent informational and 20 percent promotional. Social media is a pull system, so stop pushing. Your customers do not want you to hound them every day to come into your store or buy your products. They want you to bring valuable information to them and prove you are a resource to them and a thought leader in your industry. You want to feed your fans and followers great content and create conversation on platforms that are relevant to your marketing plan. For example, do not set up an account on Pinterest just because everyone else is doing it. If the platform does not fit your model, excel in the platforms that do. Thanks to the Internet, there is a lot of great content at your disposal. Engagement is everything.
3) Automated posting by linking social media accounts
Linking Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts is a huge social media no-no. While it sounds contradictory because many social sites encourage it, you do not want to push the same message out across all sites simultaneously. Twitter enforces a message length requirement and encourages multiple tweets a day due to sheer volume of tweets. However, Facebook encourages a more in-depth message for less frequent posting. Each platform hosts a different audience in a different atmosphere. Speak with them appropriately.
4) Lack of desire to learn
For some business owners, the idea of taking on one more new task is daunting. The idea of learning a new skillset is even more overwhelming. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I hear, “I don’t have time for this!” If you are going to put your business out there, you should have the desire to put your best foot forward. There are a multitude of free resources available to business owners when it comes to social media marketing and training. Many websites targeted at online marketers provide weekly free webinars with a lot of great information and action items you can implement immediately. For example, try Hubspot.com, Mashable.com, SocialMediaExaminer.com or ArgyleSocial.com.
5) Unrealistic expectations
Some business owners think social media booms with the flick of a wand, and for free. Social media is not a sprint; it is a marathon. Companies with unrealistic expectations of immediate results will be sorely disappointed. There is actually a lot of time and patience that needs to go into each platform. While Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FourSquare, Instagram and Pinterest are free to use, it does not mean you are not going to spend money on your social media marketing efforts. The most successful companies on social media realize the need and importance to post content, answer questions and communicate with their customers. Many hire social media managers or consultants to make sure the job is done correctly. If your business does not have the time or resources to do social media correctly, I suggest hiring someone who does or not engaging in social media at all.
You can learn a lot about your clients by leveraging social media, so do not just broadcast - listen, engage and have fun!
This article was originally published by the Jacksonville Business Journal.