Having a well-planned and targeted social media marketing strategy for your business is an important and efficient way to broaden your reach, showcase your brand, capture new customers, and strengthen your position in a competitive marketplace. There is, however, a risk that, if you don’t know what you’re doing at every turn, you may be making some common social media marketing mistakes.

Social media mistakes can impact negatively on your business and your brand identity in a number of ways. When used well, social media channels are primed for delivering marketing success, yet errors in social media judgement can damage your brand image, integrity, and reach; you may lose followers and customers, and consumer goodwill towards your business may be affected.

By understanding what some of the most common social media mistakes are, you are halfway to avoiding making them yourself.

The most common social media marketing mistakes

1. Failure to have a social media marketing strategy

Consumers today expect social to be part of their buyer experience. This can be in the form of having a brand social media profile to follow, sharing purchases and aspirational items, checking in and interacting with your brand socially to build relationships and loyalty.

In this way, social media is the current big thing in marketing a business; it has by far overtaken more traditional advertising channels and while these still have their place, to fail to have a social strategy for your business is, at the risk of sounding cliché, to plan to fail.

That being said, remember that there is a vast array of social media channels out there. Not all of these are going to complement your business and your brand. You don’t need to have a presence on every single one! Consider who you are, your brand identity, and also the identity of your target consumer. Which social platforms are they most likely to use? Which social platforms offer the best fit for your brand? You need to build relationships with the right consumer base – so think carefully about who your target audience is and where to best place your attention on social media marketing efforts.

2. Having a single plan across different social platforms

All social platforms do not have a “one size fits all” style, and to approach your campaigns across different platforms in this way will not work optimally. Your approach to Facebook will need to differ from that on Twitter, and Instagram, LinkedIn, and Google+ will all require targeted content based on each channel and its general audience. This is another reason to be very selective and aim for one or two social channels as opposed to having a wider presence across many.

3. Talking AT rather than WITH your audience

Social media is not a television, a radio, or a newspaper. It is not a place to broadcast at your audience. On the contrary, “social” is the operative word. Social media is about two-way conversations; by encouraging consumer interaction you will build better and more rewarding relationships on all sides.

The best social conversations are created when you are not simply broadcasting your brand and taking a “sales pitch” approach. Keep direct selling posts to no more than 20 to 30 per cent of your total content. Offer valuable, sharable, fun, informative and interesting content the rest of the time – as this is what is most likely to achieve engagement and be shared widely.

4. Being impersonal

By creating a personal connection with your followers via your social profile, you will encourage and achieve stronger customer loyalty and relationships and a greater return on your investment in social media marketing. Loyalty translates to sales.

Converse with your followers on your profile in the first and second person; that is, “I”, “we”, “you”. Offer discounts and access to news and special events so that your followers and customers feel like they are important to you.

5. Believing that quantity is more important than quality

This relates to follower numbers. Acquiring new followers is crucial – but the quality of followers you capture is far more important that the raw number of followers if those followers are unlikely to become active customers for your business. Consider then number of Facebook or Twitter profiles out there that have vast numbers of followers: In many cases, these followers are not organic but instead paid for and in some cases are not even real people. These numbers might look nice on a profile page, but at the end of the day, they mean nothing.

Additionally, too many social media marketers make the mistake of focusing entirely on gathering more followers, as opposed to retaining those followers and customers they already have. A new fan on Facebook, for example, may well become a paying customer, yet a new follower who is an existing customer is far more likely to become a repeat customer. And a follower who, for any reason, chooses to unfollow your social profile is less likely to shop with your business in future.

6. Posting too much or not enough

Too many posts can clog followers’ newsfeeds and this quickly becomes annoying to many social media users. It can result in unliking and unfollowing on a fan’s part. Conversely, not posting often enough suggests apathy on your part and you will not retain followers – social media by its nature promotes a short attention span and people will move on very quickly.

Listen to your target audience. Post content that is relevant to them and their interests, as well as to your brand in some way, ideally triggering a conversation as well as shares. Aim for two or three posts a day at most, but no less than one a day.

7. Poor response to negative commentary

Always respond to your followers in a timely manner. Think of it as customer service. This includes when, inevitably, a negative comment is posted. Sometimes there may be a valid reason for complaint (we are all human); other times, it’s a matter of the fact that some people simply like to complain. Never delete or ignore a negative comment. Apologise quickly, calmly, and politely (remember “the customer is always right” – even when they are not) and offer private means of contact directly to resolve the issue. For most consumers, acknowledgement that they have been heard is all it takes to turn a negative into a positive.

8. Inserting yourself where you don’t belong

Don’t insert yourself into a trending topic unless you offer value and relevance. People and businesses who steal mindshare on news items, natural or human-triggered disasters, or another’s showcase appear ignorant, insensitive and even narcissistic – it’s not a good look for you or your business.

9. Hashtag overuse

It’s simple. Use relevant hashtags to your business, brand, and post content. Use no more than a few hashtags per post. Keep them concise. Hashtags are there to engage with a particular demographic in a particular area of interest. You don’t want to become known for piggybacking on trends that are irrelevant to your post or your brand. You don’t want to be that annoying person who hashtags to enter a conversation with nothing new, relevant, valuable or unique to offer. Also, remember that hashtags belong on Twitter and Instagram – not on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Added tip: 9 reasons people become brand fans 

An important part of avoiding social media mistakes is to understand why people become fans of a brand on social. Based on a survey undertaken by Syncapse, the reasons given for becoming brand fans on Facebook were:

  1. Favoured brand support
  2. Access to discounts
  3. To receive brand updates
  4. Competition participation
  5. Sharing
  6. Research products
  7. Influenced by friends or people admired
  8. Influenced by brand advertisement
  9. Personal recommendation

By positioning yourself in the consumer’s shoes, you can better devise and execute your social media campaign, and better avoid falling prey to the most common social media marketing mistakes.